The 25 best songs of 1974

18 January 2024, 10:42 | Updated: 25 January 2024, 10:28

The best songs of 1974
The best songs of 1974. Picture: Getty/Queen

By Tom Eames

The year 1974 was a remarkable one for music, as it witnessed the emergence and popularity of various genres and styles, such as disco, soul, rock, pop, and country.

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Some of the most influential and successful artists of the decade released their hit songs in 1974, such as Elton John, David Bowie, ABBA, Queen, and John Denver.

Whether it was the catchy melodies, the powerful vocals, the meaningful lyrics, or the innovative production, the songs of 1974 captured the hearts and ears of millions of listeners around the world.

Join us as we take a trip down memory lane and revisit the best songs of 1974.

  1. Carl Douglas - 'Kung Fu Fighting'

    Carl Douglas Kung Fu Fighting (Original Music Video)

    'Kung Fu Fighting' is a disco-fueled anthem that became a global sensation. Written by Douglas and Biddu Appaiah, the song's catchy melody and upbeat rhythm made it an instant hit.

    It was initially a B-side to another single but gained popularity when DJs began playing it. It quickly soared to the top of the charts, reaching No. 1 in the US and the UK.

    It is still one of the best-selling singles of all time and remains a disco classic, capturing the era's vibrant energy and pop culture fascination with martial arts.

  2. Charles Aznavour - 'She'

    Charles Aznavour - She (1975)

    This is a timeless chanson song that showcases French singer Charles Aznavour's emotive vocals and poetic lyrics.

    The song, originally in French as 'Tous les visages de l'amour' (All the Faces of Love), became a global sensation with Aznavour's English version. The English lyrics were written by Herbert Kretzmer.

    'She' reached No. 1 on the UK Singles Chart, solidifying Aznavour's international acclaim. The song's romantic and melancholic tone resonated with audiences, making it a classic.

  3. Steely Dan - 'Rikki Don't Lose That Number'

    RIKKI DON'T LOSE THAT NUMBER (1974) by Steely Dan

    American rock band Steely Dan released this track in 1974 as the opening song of their third album, Pretzel Logic.

    It is the most successful single of the group’s career, reaching number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The song is a soft rock ballad with a catchy piano riff that was inspired by ‘Song for My Father’ by jazz musician Horace Silver.

    The lyrics are ambiguous, but they seem to be about a man giving his phone number to a woman named Rikki, hoping that she will call him back. Some fans have speculated that Rikki was a real person that the band members met at Bard College, but the band has never confirmed this.

  4. Mud - 'Tiger Feet'

    Mud - Tiger Feet (Live TOTP 1974)

    'Tiger Feet' is a glam rock anthem that propelled the British band Mud to stardom.

    The song's infectious beat, stomping rhythm, and catchy chorus made it an instant hit. Written by the songwriting duo Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn, 'Tiger Feet' topped the UK Singles Chart, spending four weeks at No. 1.

    It became one of the best-selling singles of the 1970s in the UK. The success of 'Tiger Feet' contributed to Mud's popularity during the glam rock era, and the song remains a nostalgic favourite, synonymous with the energetic and flamboyant spirit of the time.

  5. David Essex - 'Gonna Make You a Star'

    TOPPOP: David Essex - Gonna Make You A Star

    This is a pop/glam rock anthem that catapulted David Essex to fame. The song's upbeat tempo, catchy melody, and Essex's charismatic performance made it a chart-topping hit.

    The lyrics tell a cautionary tale about the fleeting nature of fame, despite the song's celebratory feel. 'Gonna Make You a Star' became one of Essex's signature songs and earned him a devoted fanbase.

    The track's success marked a significant moment in Essex's career and remains a nostalgic reminder of the glam rock era's influence on popular music in the 1970s.

  6. Eric Clapton - 'I Shot the Sheriff'

    I Shot The Sheriff

    'I Shot the Sheriff' is a song written by Bob Marley and popularized by Eric Clapton in his 1974 album 461 Ocean Boulevard.

    The song tells the story of a man who kills a corrupt sheriff in self-defense, but is accused of murdering his deputy. The song has been interpreted as a protest against oppression and injustice, as well as a reflection of Marley's Rastafarian beliefs.

    Clapton's version of the song reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, making it his only solo number-one hit in the US. The song is considered one of the classics of rock and reggae music, and has been covered by many artists over the years.

  7. Terry Jacks - 'Seasons in the Sun'

    Terry Jacks - Seasons In The Sun (Original Video HD)

    'Seasons in the Sun' is a melancholic ballad that gained global success for Terry Jacks. Originally a French song titled 'Le Moribond' by Jacques Brel, Jacks' English adaptation became a chart-topping hit.

    The song tells a poignant story of farewell and reflection. Surprisingly, it became one of the best-selling singles of all time.

    It topped charts in multiple countries, including the US and the UK. His version remains an enduring classic that captures the essence of 1970s soft rock.

  8. Elton John - 'The Bitch is Back'

    The Bitch Is Back (Remastered 1995)

    Elton John's song, 'The Bitch is Back', exudes unapologetic energy and flamboyance, characteristic of his bold style. Released in 1974 as part of the Caribou album, the track showcases Elton's dynamic piano skills and Bernie Taupin's sharp lyrics.

    With a rock-infused sound and catchy chorus, the song became an anthem of self-assertion. Its rebellious spirit and infectious rhythm captivate listeners, making it a timeless classic in Elton John's repertoire.

  9. Suzi Quatro - 'Devil Gate Drive'

    Suzi Quatro: "Devil Gate Drive" (UK, 1974)

    'Devil Gate Drive' is a rock anthem that brought out Suzi Quatro's rebellious persona and musical prowess. With its energetic beat and Quatro's distinctive vocals, the song became one of her biggest hits.

    It reached No. 1 on the UK Singles Chart, making Quatro the first female artist to achieve this in the 1970s.

    The track's success further solidified her status as a trailblazing female rock icon.

  10. Average White Band - 'Pick Up the Pieces'

    Average White Band - Pick Up The Pieces (1977)

    'Pick Up the Pieces' by Average White Band is a funky instrumental hit that emerged in 1974.

    The Scottish band's groovy masterpiece blends soulful horns, tight rhythms, and infectious guitar riffs. Notably, this track became a global sensation, reaching the top of the charts in the United States.

    Surprisingly, the band members were relatively young, with some still in their early 20s, when they crafted this iconic tune. The song's success catapulted Average White Band to international fame and earned them a Grammy nomination. It remains a quintessential example of the funk and soul fusion that defined the '70s music scene.

  11. Pilot - 'Magic'

    Pilot - It's Magic • TopPop

    'Magic' is a catchy pop-rock hit that soared to international success. The Scottish band's debut single showcases a melodic blend of keyboards and vocals, with a memorable chorus that became its signature.

    Written by band members David Paton and Billy Lyall, the song's upbeat and whimsical feel captivated audiences. The track has endured over the years, earning a place in pop music history as a one-hit wonder that continues to charm listeners with its infectious melody and nostalgic charm.

  12. Dolly Parton - 'I Will Always Love You'

    Dolly Parton - I Will Always Love You (Live)

    'I Will Always Love You', originally penned and performed by Dolly Parton, is a timeless country ballad released in 1974.

    The emotionally charged song found widespread recognition when Whitney Houston's rendition, featured in the film The Bodyguard in 1992, became a global phenomenon.

    Parton's heartfelt lyrics and soulful delivery convey a bittersweet farewell, making the song universally resonant. Impressively, both versions achieved immense success, with Houston's cover becoming one of the best-selling singles of all time.

  13. Barry White - 'You're the First, the Last, My Everything'

    Barry White - My First My Last My Everything

    This soulful love anthem was one of Barry White's signature hits. The song's lush orchestration, combined with White's deep baritone, exudes romance and passion.

    White co-wrote the song with Peter Radcliffe and Tony Sepe, and it marked a pivotal moment in his career, earning him his first Grammy nomination.

    The track topped the charts, becoming a disco and soul classic. Its timeless appeal has made it a popular choice for weddings and romantic occasions, solidifying Barry White's status as the 'Walrus of Love'.

  14. Bad Company - 'Can't Get Enough'

    Bad Company - Can't Get Enough (Official Music Video)

    'Can't Get Enough' is a rock anthem that defined the band's self-titled debut album.

    The song's infectious riff and Paul Rodgers' soulful vocals contributed to its widespread acclaim. Notably, the album became a massive commercial success, reaching multi-platinum status in the United States.

    'Can't Get Enough' itself soared to the top of the charts, solidifying Bad Company's presence in the rock music landscape. The band, formed by former members of Free and Mott the Hoople, established a signature sound with this track, characterized by blues-infused rock and memorable hooks.

  15. John Denver - 'Annie's Song'

    John Denver - Annie's Song (Official Audio)

    'Annie's Song' is a tender ballad and a heartfelt declaration of love. Written for John Denver's wife, Annie Martell, the song's lyrics express the singer-songwriter's deep affection and appreciation for the natural world.

    Denver composed the song in just 10 and a half minutes while on a ski lift in Aspen, Colorado.

    Despite being one of his most celebrated and enduring hits, Denver considered 'Annie's Song' a personal expression rather than a commercial venture. The track's sincerity and simplicity contributed to its universal appeal, making it a timeless classic in the realm of love ballads.

  16. Bachman-Turner Overdrive - 'You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet'

    Bachman Turner Overdrive - You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet 1974 Video Sound HQ

    'You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet' is a classic rock anthem known for its infectious guitar riff and distinctive stuttering vocals.

    Written by Randy Bachman, the song was initially intended as a placeholder for his brother Gary, who had a stutter. However, the band found the unique vocal style so entertaining that they kept it in the final recording.

    It became a massive hit, reaching No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1974. Its success helped propel BTO to international fame and remains a staple in classic rock playlists.

  17. George McCrae - 'Rock Your Baby'

    George McCrae - Rock Your Baby • TopPop

    'Rock Your Baby' is a disco and soul classic that played a pivotal role in the genre's emergence. Produced by Harry Wayne Casey and Richard Finch of KC and the Sunshine Band, the track's infectious rhythm and McCrae's soulful vocals made it an international hit.

    It was the first disco song to top the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and it marked a significant moment in the disco era, setting the stage for the genre's dominance in the late '70s.

  18. David Bowie - 'Rebel Rebel'

    David Bowie - Rebel Rebel • TopPop

    'Rebel Rebel' is a glam rock anthem that captures Bowie's androgynous alter ego. The song's distinctive riff and rebellious lyrics made it a classic in the glam rock era.

    Bowie himself played the iconic guitar riff, showcasing his versatility as a musician. The track's androgynous theme, coupled with its energetic sound, resonated with audiences and became a staple in Bowie's live performances.

    'Rebel Rebel' stands out as a timeless expression of individuality and nonconformity, reflecting Bowie's ever-evolving persona. It remains a celebrated track in the extensive and influential catalog of the legendary artist.

  19. Labelle - 'Lady Marmalade'

    (Patti) LaBelle - Lady Marmalade (1975) HD 0815007

    'Lady Marmalade' is a sultry funk and soul anthem that became a cultural phenomenon. The song, with its catchy chorus and empowering lyrics, showcases the vocal prowess of Patti LaBelle and her group.

    The track's spicy and suggestive lyrics created a sensation, and its iconic chorus was later covered by Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Mýa, and Pink for the Moulin Rouge soundtrack in 2001, achieving massive success.

    'Lady Marmalade' earned Labelle a Grammy Award and cemented its status as a timeless celebration of feminine allure, making it an enduring part of music history.

  20. Sparks - 'This Town Ain't Big Enough for Both of Us'

    Sparks - This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both Of Us (Official Video)

    This is an avant-garde glam rock anthem that propelled the American band Sparks to international recognition.

    The song, characterized by Russell Mael's distinctive falsetto vocals and Ron Mael's innovative keyboard work, showcases their eccentric and theatrical style.

    The track's success in the UK marked the beginning of Sparks' influential career. Its offbeat lyrics and dynamic sound set it apart in the glam rock era. Their eclectic approach to music has since earned them a devoted fanbase, and 'This Town...' remains a groundbreaking piece in their repertoire.

  21. The Hollies - 'The Air That I Breathe'

    The Air That I Breath - The Hollies

    'The Air That I Breathe' is a timeless ballad that shows the band's harmonious sound. The song, written by Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood, is characterized by its lush orchestration and poignant lyrics.

    It became a hit for The Hollies, reaching the top of the charts in the UK in the 1980s.

    Radiohead later faced a copyright infringement claim for their song 'Creep' due to similarities with the song. The Hollies' rendition remains a classic in the soft rock genre.

  22. Bob Marley - 'No Woman, No Cry'

    Bob Marley - No Woman, No Cry (Official Video)

    'No Woman, No Cry' by Bob Marley is a reggae masterpiece that embodies Marley's message of hope and resilience.

    Recorded live, the song's emotive lyrics recount Marley's experiences in the Trench Town ghetto of Kingston, Jamaica. The refrain, "No woman, no cry," is often misunderstood, as it was meant to console a woman, not suggest living without one.

    The track became one of Marley's signature songs and a global anthem for overcoming adversity. The live version from the "Natty Dread" album captured the essence of Marley's live performances, making it an enduring classic in reggae history.

  23. Lynyrd Skynyrd - 'Sweet Home Alabama'

    Lynyrd Skynyrd - Sweet Home Alabama (Lyric Video)

    'Sweet Home Alabama' by Lynyrd Skynyrd, released in 1974, is a Southern rock anthem that has become a symbol of the American South.

    The song, written as a response to Neil Young's criticisms in 'Southern Man' and 'Alabama', celebrates the band's roots in Alabama and expresses pride in Southern heritage.

    The iconic guitar riff, courtesy of Ed King, and Ronnie Van Zant's vocals contribute to its enduring popularity. Despite its success, the band often faced controversy due to the misinterpretation of the lyrics. 'Sweet Home Alabama' remains a classic, transcending its original context to become a cultural touchstone.

  24. ABBA - 'Waterloo'

    Abba - Waterloo (Official Music Video)

    'Waterloo' won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974, catapulting ABBA to international fame. The song's upbeat tempo, catchy melody, and infectious chorus contributed to its success.

    The victory at Eurovision marked a turning point in ABBA's career, launching them into global stardom. 'Waterloo' not only topped charts worldwide but also became ABBA's first No. 1 hit in the UK.

    The success of this Eurovision winner set the stage for ABBA's dominance in the pop music scene throughout the 1970s and beyond, solidifying their status as one of the greatest pop acts in history.

  25. Queen - 'Killer Queen'

    Queen - Killer Queen (Top Of The Pops, 1974)

    'Killer Queen' is a glam rock gem and a testament to Freddie Mercury's songwriting brilliance.

    The song's intricate lyrics, punctuated by Brian May's iconic guitar riffs and Mercury's charismatic vocals, reflect the band's musical sophistication.

    The distinctive sound of the song was achieved by layering multiple piano tracks played by Mercury. 'Killer Queen' became Queen's breakthrough hit in the United States, reaching No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100.