• Maggie Beal

Music Through the Years: 70s Sensations

Welcome back to Music Through the Years, where we compare music and pop culture from past decades to now! Today we will be looking at music from the groovy 1970s, how it shaped and changed the way we hear music, its impact on culture, and how different it is from today’s music. Music evolved to a completely different genre in less than a decade between the 60s and 70s. Disco, soft rock, soul, and R&B were taking over the charts and changing the way people dressed and lived. However, rock remained consistent. Many of the already existing rock bands from the 60s were still around producing music in the 70s, but their sound might have changed a little to fit in with the times. You could say that their music had become classified as “easy-listening” to those who were used to the hard rock sounds of the 60s.


Queen quickly became one of the most popular rock bands to flourish in the 1970s. Originating from the UK, they gained recognition for their catchy tunes, and especially Freddie Mercury’s on stage presence and unique style! They were very influential in changing how bands performed at shows and concerts. David Bowie on the other hand began his career in the 60s, but ultimately got the most popular in the 70s. Some of his songs that gained recognition in the 70s were, “Changes”, “Starman”, “Rebel Rebel”, and many more. Elton John, much like Bowie was a breakout star in the year 1970, releasing songs like “Rocket Man” and “Tiny Dancer” in the following years. His albums helped him become one of the most popular artists of his time. All three artists and bands I’ve mentioned have something in common: their stage presence! Freddie Mercury is obviously known for his flamboyant personality and over the top performances on stage, while David Bowie has also featured many extravagant stage costumes, hairstyles and colors, and even makeup. Finally, Elton John was another one of the many artists who exaggerated their look. He became known for playing the piano while singing and jumping up and down. Oversized sunglasses, large head dresses, and colorful outfits were some of his signatures which helped him stick out.


These English artists popularized what wasn’t really prominent in the 60s: self expression. Generally, musicians in the 60s presented themselves on stage quite uniform and clean, reflecting in the way people dressed. Usually women sported dresses with a high neckline that ended at the knee, or slightly above. There were exceptions of course like hippies in the late 60s, but generally people were “modest” in the way they dressed, and this could have been learned from their idols on stage. In the following decade, people followed along with the stars. Bright colors, bell bottomed pants, funky patterns, low cut necklines, platform shoes, and much more were all the rave then. Many more experiments were made with fashion, and stars of all different music genres seemed to have their own outstanding and nonconforming style.


Hard rock slowly died down in America in the early to mid 70s, though still wildly popular with old fans of classic 60s rock, people were starting to be drawn towards Disco, Soft Rock, Soul, Funk, and later on, Punk. Disco artists like Diana Ross, Earth, Wind and Fire, and Blondie, originating in the US, took the charts by storm and gained huge popularity with Americans of all ages. 1972 saw the national emergence of “soul music.” Soul music was described by The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as "music that arose out of the black experience in America through the transmutation of gospel and rhythm & blues into a form of funky, secular testifying." At one point, the five top-selling records in the US were by African American artists. In 1977 a new music genre was emerging and first became most popular in Britain. Rooting out of economical and political problems in the country, punk was a new wave of loud, noisy music. Late 70s punk provided a segway into the 80s, where ultimately it was the most popular. The Sex Pistols for example, were one of the biggest punk bands of this time. But that’s a discussion for another time.

The seventies, in all its glory, was a time for new stylistic approaches, new genres of music, and approaches to sexual fluidity. Sexuality outside of traditional marriage became widely practiced and accepted, especially amongst the younger generations, pushing a rebellion on traditions and “norms”. Compared to the 60’s, people tended to accept each other more during the 70’s, reflecting more emerging ideas amongst communities. The 1970s were a time for new ideas to emerge and shape the world into what it is now.