The 10 Best Hit Songs of 1976

Paul Simon

The world is always in motion. For instance, 1976 was the year in which the Cultural Revolution ended in China because of the death of Mao Zedong plus the arrests of the Gang of Four. Similarly, changes were happening in the music industry.

After all, 1976 was the year in which U2 came into existence, though the band wouldn’t release its debut studio album until 1980. Meanwhile, the charts for that year were dominated by an older set of artists, who are no less enjoyable for that fact.

10. “A Fifth of Beethoven” – Walter Murphy & The Big Apple Band

Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 is one of the most famous works of western music. “A Fifth of Beethoven” is Walter Murphy & The Big Apple Band’s disco-style adaptation of its first movement.

It is no match for its source of inspiration. Even so, “A Fifth of Beethoven” is quite interesting in its own right. It is a great reminder of just how different something can sound while staying the same in the most fundamental sense.

9. “Love Is Alive” – Gary Wright

Gary Wright tends to be known for a couple of songs. One is “Dream Weaver,” while the other is “Love Is Alive.” Both of these songs came out in 1976, which makes sense because both are singles from his breakthrough studio album The Dream Weaver.

Neither song reached the number one position on the Billboard Hot 100. Instead, both peaked at the number two position, with “Love Is Alive” winning out over its predecessor because it lasted longer on the charts. In any case, its success contributed to synthesizers entering the mainstream for rock and pop. A process that was still very much in progress at the time.

8. “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” – Paul Simon

Simon & Garfunkel remain a legendary duo. However, it is essential to remember that the two went on to have successful careers as solo artists. For instance, Paul Simon released his fourth studio album Still Crazy After All These Years in 1975. As a result, the second single “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” did quite well in 1976.

Specifically, it is Simon’s only song as a solo artist to reach the number one position on the Billboard Hot 100. As a result, it is no exaggeration to say that it holds a special place in his huge body of work.

7. “Love Machine” – The Miracles

Likewise, “Love Machine” was a notable peak for The Miracles. It didn’t popularize the term, but it is understandable for people to make that mistake. After all, “Love Machine” is one of The Miracles’ two songs to reach the top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 with Billy Griffin as the lead singer.

It is even more impressive because it is the group’s single best-selling song at more than 4.5 million copies sold, which speaks volumes considering their success over more than four decades.

6. “Kiss and Say Goodbye” – The Manhattans

“Kiss and Say Goodbye” was the lead single on The Manhattans’ self-titled studio album. Interested individuals might be tempted to guess that said studio album was also their debut studio album.

Unfortunately, they would be wrong because said studio album was their seventh studio album, meaning they were already extremely experienced by that point in time.

The Manhattans had run into serious difficulties in the early 1970s. Luckily, “There’s No Me Without You” in 1973 and then “Kiss and Say Goodbye” in 1976 brought about a total reversal in their situation.

5. “Play That Funky Music” – Wild Cherry

Unsurprisingly, “Play That Funky Music” is another well-known song on this list. It sold more than 2.5 million copies in just the United States, so there can be no doubt about its popularity in its time. Furthermore, several well-known acts have covered “Play That Funky Music.”

Vanilla Ice did an interpretation in 1990, which is better known because of its B-side “Ice Ice Baby.” Similarly, Roxanne released a cover in 1988, while Thunder released another cover in 1998.

4. “December, 1963” – The Four Seasons

Frankie Valli is famous for his powerful falsetto. He put that to excellent use in this song. Indeed, interested individuals might be familiar with the line, “Oh, what a night,” which served as the opener for everything else.

Supposedly, the song started as a celebration of the end of Prohibition. Valli and the co-songwriter Judy Parker convinced songwriter Bob Gaudio to change it to a song about a man’s recollection of his first love affair. It took considerable inspiration from Gaudio’s relationship with his future wife, Parker.

3. “Disco Lady” – Johnnie Taylor

“Disco Lady” was Johnnie Taylor’s first single with Columbia Records. It was the most successful single in his career. Furthermore, “Disco Lady” made history because it was the first single to receive platinum certification from the RIAA.

2. “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” – Elton John & Kiki Dee

Elton John and Bernie Taupin wrote “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” as a homage to Motown music. As a result, the choice of Kiki Dee for the duet was no coincidence because she was the first female singer from the United Kingdom to sign with Motown’s Tamla Records. Reportedly, John’s original choice was Dusty Springfield.

That didn’t work out because she was too sick at the time. It is worth mentioning that Springfield was also living a reclusive life at the time to avoid U.K. tabloids digging into her personal life. Regardless, the duet between John and Dee worked out quite well in the end.

1. “Silly Love Songs” – Wings

People tend to be most familiar with Wings because of its two most famous members – Paul McCartney and his wife, Linda McCartney. The third core member was guitarist Denny Laine, who stuck around throughout the group’s lifespan.

By 1976, Wings had already released four studio albums. Somehow, the band managed to release a fifth studio album in the middle of a world tour, which proceeded to skyrocket through the charts.

Both the single “Silly Love Songs” and the single “Let ‘Em In” were hits. Still, “Silly Love Songs” was undoubtedly the more successful of the two.

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