As a Baby Boomer, I grew up in the '60s and '70s, finishing up college in the '80s. Occasionally, I like to share some nostalgia.
Happy Songs From the '80s: Music That Moves You
While there is plenty of feel-good music available, some tunes go beyond and inspire us. This is true even of older music from the 1970s. There are, of course, pop tunes like "Dancing Queen" by Abba that can get you moving. There is also plenty of rock that can energize and encourage you to persevere and follow your passions; "We Are the Champions" by Queen and Aerosmith's "Dream On" are examples. However, some of '70s music touches on other positive sentiments.
I've made up a list of some of the uplifting songs from the 1970s that reflect the overall optimism and growing awareness of an expanding world that represents the decade. The ideas of world peace, love, harmony, kinship, emerging recognition of diversity, and the idea of finding inner peace are reflected in many of these songs although a celebration of romantic love and meaningful friendship is also included.
15 Uplifting Songs From the 1970s
- "Morning Has Broken" by Cat Stevens
- "Imagine" by John Lennon
- "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing" by The Hillside Singers and The New Seekers
- "Dancing in the Moonlight" by King Harvest
- "Let It Be" by Paul McCartney
- "My Sweet Lord" by George Harrison
- "Spirit in the Sky" by Norman Greenbaum
- "Bridge Over Troubled Water" by Simon & Garfunkel
- "Happy Christmas (War Is Over)" by John Lennon & Yoko Ono
- "Let Your Love Flow" by The Bellamy Brothers
- "Mr. Blue Sky" by Electric Light Orchestra (ELO)
- "I Can See Clearly Now" by Johnny Nash
- "Saturday in the Park" by Chicago
- "Rocky Mountain High" by John Denver
- "Top of the World" by The Carpenters
1. "Morning Has Broken" by Cat Stevens
Morning Has Broken has a peaceful, joyous feel to it. It is a Christian hymn first written in the 1930's. Cat Stevens worked with Rick Wakeman to record and release his version of it in 1971. Of course, it's been recorded by a number of other popular artists over the years, but Stevens' version brought it to the attention of a wider audience first when it achieved rank on top 40 charts.
For me, this song is an expression of the gratitude we should have for the wonder of the world we have before us each day.
Cat Stevens had other songs which also provided positive messages. One example would be If you Want to Sing Out, Sing Out.
You can enjoy the Morning Has Broken and see the lyrics below.
2. "Imagine" by John Lennon
Imagine is a song recognized by generations of listeners. It was written, recorded, and released by John Lennon in 1971 after the demise of the Beatles. It offers the vision of a world that is joined as one, without war, poverty, hate, etc. It's somewhat restrained but hopeful, not rousing the listener to euphoria but a lasting sense of good.
The audio and the song's lyrics are below.
3. "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing" by The Hillside Singers and The New Seekers
While television commercials are sometimes more popular than their products, sometimes the music written for them also exceeds the original aim of the composition. One example is I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing. Originally made for a Coca-Cola commercial it was altered to eliminate the marketing elements and recorded by other artists. In 1971-72 both the Hillside Singers and The New Seekers released their versions with great success.
The song (and cola commercial) promoted the idea of a united, equal, multiracial society living in harmony. It had a light, joyous feel that a wide audience found attractive.
You can hear the New Seekers version of the song below.
4. "Dancing in the Moonlight" by King Harvest
Other uplifting songs of the 1970s weren't really about the larger issues of world, peace, utopia, or anything of that nature. Some were simple messages about living a joyful life, experiencing kinship, and enjoying the magic of the simple things in life such as a warm night and a full moon.
When these uplifting messages were combined with a cheerful melody, hits were made. The tune Dancing in the Moonlight was written in 1968 but was recorded and released by King Harvest in 1972.
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You can hear it below.
5. "Let It Be" by Paul McCartney
The song Let It Be is not one that will get you dancing in the aisles, but it is one that offers a message about dealing with difficult times. It offers wisdom about finding strength by letting things go, allowing things to happen, and recognizing the need to simply move forward with the confidence that things will turn out right.
Paul McCartney wrote the song in 1969 and it was released as a single in 1970 as the Beatles were breaking up. You can hear it below.
6. "My Sweet Lord" by George Harrison
In my list of uplifting songs from the 70s, I've included former Beatles bandmates Paul McCartney and John Lennon, now I have to add George Harrison. George is what I would call the more spiritual of the group. He had a number of songs in his solo career that might make this list but My Sweet Lord would be my number one pick.
The song appears to be about the spiritual striving to better know God and the tempo gives it an uplifting feel. It was released as a single in 1971. It's posted below for you to listen.
7. "Spirit in the Sky" by Norman Greenbaum
An interesting blend of gospel and rock, Spirit in the Sky, was written in 1969 but on the charts in 1970. It's creator, Norman Greenbaum enjoyed this early success but in the end was basically a one-hit wonder. Clearly, the song is about Jesus and reaching heaven after death so for those who are believers, this can be a rather uplifting song.
You can hear it below.
8. "Bridge Over Troubled Water" by Simon & Garfunkel
I also consider Bridge Over Troubled Water to be an uplifting song. While the tempo and melody may not have listeners thinking of a celebration it does offer an inspiring message of supportive friendship. Through troubling times, through thick and thin, we all treasure the thought of someone who will always be there, who will have our back.
Paul Simon primarily wrote the song and musical partner Art Garfunkel sang it. It was released in 1970 just before the duo broke up. You can listen to it below.
If you prefer a more light-hearted song about friendship you might try Queen's You're My Best Friend from 1975.
9. "Happy Christmas (War Is Over)" by John Lennon and Yoko Ono
Of course, Christmas songs are uplifting in general, but John Lennon and Yoko Ono recorded and released Happy Christmas (War Is Over) in 1971 adding an element of war protest to the mix. At the time, they were heavily involved in efforts to end US involvement in the Vietnam war.
The song has its cheerful melody and its "make love, not war" type lyrics going for it which has allowed it to continue to be a standard Christmas favorite even today. You can hear it below.
10. "Let Your Love Flow" by The Bellamy Brothers
In 1975-76, Let Your Love Flow was a very popular song in the US and in other countries as well. It was recorded by the Bellamy Brothers and basically sang the praises of love and the joyfulness of allowing it to flourish. Simple and uplifting.
You can hear it below.
11. "Mr. Blue Sky" by Electric Light Orchestra (ELO)
A song celebrating the return of a better day whether it's just blue skies or happier times is certainly one to lift the spirits. We've all endured cloudy days, literally or figuratively, and Mr. Blue Sky expresses the feelings well. Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) released the song in 1978 with Jeff Lynne being the lead vocalist (and writer).
You can listen to it performed below.
12. "I Can See Clearly Now" by Johnny Nash
American singer, songwriter, sometimes actor, and record label owner, Johnny Nash wrote and recorded I Can See Clearly Now in 1972. It is a reggae-influenced pop tune which also speaks of emerging from hardship to a better day. A simple, positive message with a cheerful melody sure to lift spirits. The song has, of course, been re-recorded by other artists since.
You can hear Nash's version below.
13. "Saturday in the Park" by Chicago
Another uplifting 1970's song was Saturday in the Park by Chicago. It's another song that appears to celebrate a beautiful day where people are happy and loving. But perhaps there is more. Maybe every day can be a "Saturday in the park"? The song asks if we can see it, if we really want it, and tells us that every day can be the 4th of July.
You can hear a live performance of the 1972 song below.
14. "Rocky Mountain High" by John Denver
John Denver penned and sang a number of odes to home, the beauty of nature, and the joy to be found in the simple things of life. Welcome Home (Country Roads), Thank God I'm a Country Boy, and Rocky Mountain High are examples.
Rocky Mountain High was written and released in 1972. Despite what some censors believed, the song is not about marijuana use. Instead, it captures Denver's love and exhilaration for the Rocky Mountains. For those who share this reverence for the earth we've been given, this 70's song is inspirational.
You can listen to the song below.
15. "Top of the World" by The Carpenters
It's time on my list to include a nod to romantic love. Brother and sister duo, Richard and Karen Carpenter had a number of singles that brought them success in the 1970's. Their music was often about love, either finding it or losing it. Close to You, We've Only Just Begun, and Top of the World were a few of the popular love songs.
Top of the World was a tune about the abundant feeling of being in love. It was written by Richard Carpenter and John Bettis, then subsequently recorded and released by both Lynn Anderson on the country charts and The Carpenters on the pop charts in 1973. Even the Carpenters version of the song had a country music vibe to it. You can hear it below.
© 2018 Christine Mulberry
What 1970's Songs Do You Find Uplifting?
Ed bay on June 06, 2020:
Rippling Waters , Nitty Gritty Dirt Band is an excellent feel good song.
zubby on November 26, 2019:
i love inspirational
Sparkym on July 10, 2019:
Good list but #1 would have to be Three Dog Night's - Road to Shamballa. If there's a more rockin positive 70s tune than that I've yet to hear it. Whenever I'm feeling blue or anxious I put that on and I'm instantly calm and happy.
RedElf from Canada on May 14, 2018:
Big fan of John Denver. He wrote some wonderful lyrics. ELO is awesome, too, as always. Thanks for the trek down memory lane :)
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on May 13, 2018:
I know and enjoy many of the songs in your list. Thank you for reminding me of them and for showing me some new songs.
agusfanani from Indonesia on May 13, 2018:
Wow great songs. I didn't realize there were many inspiring songs in my generation and the one I love most Dancing in the moon light.