I grew up in the "classic rock" era, but I love music of every genre. I love sharing my old favorites while still discovering new artists.
Most people know what it feels like to be in love. A special few have the ability to lay bare their own emotions and expose them to the world through words and music.
Even if an intense and transformative love is unrequited (or it does not last a lifetime), once it has been immortalized in song, it can become a symbol for all love.
How magical it is to find a melody that plays your heart strings with lyrics that touch your soul. These are the songs that say what you would say, if you only knew how.
These songs are listed in chronological order.
Best Love Songs From the '70s
- "Moondance," Van Morrison (1970)
- "Your Song," Elton John (1970)
- "Layla," Eric Clapton, Derek and the Dominos (1970)
- "Let's Stay Together," Al Green (1971)
- "You Are the Sunshine of My Life," Stevie Wonder (1971)
- "Tupelo Honey," Van Morrison (1972)
- "You Are So Beautiful," Joe Cocker (1974)
- "Fooled Around and Fell in Love," Elvin Bishop (1975)
- "Love Will Keep Us Together," Captain and Tennille (1975)
- "Wonderful Tonight," Eric Clapton (1977)
- "Just the Way You Are," Billy Joel (1977)
1. "Moondance," Van Morrison (1970)
"Moondance" is the title song on Van Morrison's third studio album. It was released in February of 1970. The album was Morrison's first big commercial success, and it is still my favorite of his many albums.
"Moondance" is one of Morrison's most popular songs. His soulful voice gives it a romantic, old-school jazz and lounge vibe, and it includes a moving saxophone solo. The song was not released as a single until 1977.
2. "Your Song," Elton John (1970)
How I loved this song when I first heard it. It was on Elton John's self-titled album, released in April of 1970. He composed the music and his longtime collaborator, Bernie Taupin, wrote the lyrics.
It was his second album, but it was the first I'd heard of him. What an album it was too. I listened to it straight through every day for a month.
"Your Song" had already been released by Three Dog Night in March 1970. It was on their album, It Ain't Easy. Elton John was an opening act for Three Dog Night at the time, and he'd allowed them to record the song.
3. "Layla," Derek and the Dominos (1970)
The song "Layla" first appeared on the album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. by Derek and the Dominos. That band consisted of Eric Clapton, Bobby Whitlock, Carl Radle, Jim Gordon. and occasionally, Duane Allman. Writing credits for the song go to Clapton and Gordon.
Clapton had originally conceived the song as a ballad; it was Duane Allman who provided the song's signature guitar riff. That's what turned "Layla" into the rock power ballad that it became.
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The lyrics, of course, were inspired by Clapton's frustration over the infamous love triangle involving George Harrison’s then-wife, Pattie Boyd.
Released in November 1970, the album didn't make much of a splash at that time, and neither did the song. Part of the reason could be that Eric Clapton's name and image were not prominently displayed on the album cover.
It wasn't until the song was re-released in 1972 as a single, and then on Clapton's compilation, The History of Eric Clapton and Duane Allman's, An Anthology, that it finally became a hit.
4. "Let's Stay Together," Al Green (1971)
The iconic song "Let's Stay Together" is classic piece of Memphis soul. It was featured on the 1972 album of the same name. Released as a single in 1971, it became Green's signature song, and his only number-one pop hit single.
A fine example of Al Green's unique sound, it is equal parts sad song and love song.
5. "Tupelo Honey," Van Morrison (1971)
"Tupelo Honey" is the title track of the fifth studio album by Van Morrison. It was released in October 1971.
The album features various musical genres, country, R&B, soul, folk-rock and blue-eyed soul.
The lyrics reflect domestic bliss, celebrating his rural life with his then-wife Janet "Planet" Rigsbee. Most of the songs on the album were written in Woodstock, NY, but the couple moved to Marin County, CA before recording it.
Recording began at the Wally Heider Studios, San Francisco. Morrison finished the album Columbia Studios.
6. "You Are the Sunshine of My Life," Stevie Wonder (1972)
"You Are the Sunshine of My Life," was the second single from Stevie Wonder's 1972 album, Talking Book. It was his third number-one single. It won him a Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.
The first two lines of the song are sung, not by Wonder, but by Jim Gilstrap. Lani Groves sings the next two lines. The two of them, along with Gloria Barley, provide backing vocals for the rest of the song.
The single version of the song is a little different from the one on the album. Horns were added to the mix.
The song was inspired by Syreeta Wright, who was Stevie Wonder's wife at the time. He expresses his undying devotion, and remembers why he loves her and always will.
It didn't work out that way. The couple soon divorced, but love shined brightly while it lasted, and we still have this beautiful song.
7. "You Are So Beautiful," Joe Cocker (1974)
"You Are So Beautiful" was written by Billy Preston and Bruce Fisher. It was first released in 1974 on Preston's ninth studio album, The Kids & Me.
Later the same year, Joe Cocker released his own version of the song on his album, I Can Stand a Little Rain. It became one of his Joe Cocker's biggest hits.
8. "Fooled Around and Fell in Love," Elvin Bishop (1975)
Elvin Bishop wrote and played guitar on "Fooled Around and Fell in Love." It made its debut on his 1975 album Struttin' My Stuff and was released as a single the following year.
Bishop had a background singer in his band, Mickey Thomas, sing the song on the album. He felt that his own voice could not do the song justice.
Maybe he made the right call because the song went to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in May 1976.
Thomas later became the lead singer with Jefferson Starship.
9. "Love Will Keep Us Together," Captain and Tennille (1975)
The first hit single for kitschy '70s duo, Captain and Tennille was a cover of Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield's "Love Will Keep Us Together."
The song went to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart nine weeks after its debut in 1975, and it went on to win the Grammy Award for Record of the Year.
This is not normally my kind of music, but it was so popular, it was hard to avoid back in its day. It does evoke strong memories of that time period, and it's a pretty catchy tune.
10. "Wonderful Tonight," Eric Clapton (1977)
"Wonderful Tonight" is a sweet ballad written by Eric Clapton. It was included on Clapton's 1977 album, Slowhand.
This is the second song by him to be inspired by Pattie Boyd. This time though, she was his wife, and he was happily in love. It is said that Clapton composed the song while he was waiting for her to get ready to go out.
11. "Just the Way You Are," Billy Joel (1977)
In 1977, Billy Joel released his album, The Stranger. "Just the Way You Are" was the lead single. It was his first critical and commercial success.
Billy Joel has said he dislikes the song, which he describes as a "chick song." He even refuses to play it in concert anymore. Apparently he associates it with his first marriage, which ended very badly. I hope he doesn't stop playing "Uptown Girl" because of Christie Brinkley.
Since I'm a "chick," I guess it's natural that I should like the song. Since half of the population, and many of Joel's fans are too, it doesn't seem like such a bad thing.
I especially love the lyric:
"I don't want clever conversation
I never want to work that hard
I just want someone that I can talk to
I want you just the way you are"
© 2019 Sherry Hewins
Christopher Nowak on December 17, 2019:
ALISON,KILLING ME SOFTLY, ANNIE'S SONG, HOW SWEET IT IS and YOU LIGHT UP MY LIFE?!
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on August 22, 2019:
"You are the sunshine of my life," "You are so beautiful," and "Just the way you are" are my favorites on this list. Thanks again for the look back.
Pat Mills from East Chicago, Indiana on August 20, 2019:
I'm not fond of the times where Captain & Tennille played it cute. I prefer The Way I Want To Touch You and Do That To Me One More Time to Love Will Keep Us Together. Precious And Few by Climax is a nice ballad, as well as a popular prom theme of the decade. Always And Forever by Heatwave was a great ballad that will always remind me of my senior year of high school. My Love by Paul McCartney & Wings is one of the very best post-Beatles releases. All the songs you listed are pretty decent, too.