Time marches ever onwards. As a result, every year is eventful in its way. For example, 1979 was the year in which the United States and China established full diplomatic relations. Similarly, 1979 was the year in which the Iranian Revolution overthrew the Pahlavi dynasty.
On top of this, 1979 was also a year of considerable technological change. In particular, the World Health Organization announced that the smallpox virus had been driven into extinction other than lab samples in the United States and the Soviet Union. Of course, 1979 also saw its fair share of hit songs. Some of these remain well-known in modern times. Others have faded from prominence to some extent.
Here is Billboard’s list of the 20 top songs of 1979:
20. “Good Times” – Chic
Chic is an R&B band. It is still around. However, it is best known for its hits in the late 1970s. “Good Times” is a single from Chic’s third studio album, Risque. The song was popular, as shown by how it managed to make it to the top of the Billboard Hot 100. Alas, the release’s timing wasn’t the best because it was dislodged by the Knack’s “My Sharona” the following week. Still, “Good Times” established itself as one of the most popular songs of 1979.
19. “What a Fool Believes” – The Doobie Brothers
The Doobie Brothers are another band best known because of releases from the 1970s. However, they started much earlier than Chic. Thanks to that, “What a Fool Believes” is a single from an eighth studio album rather than a third studio album. It met with an enthusiastic response. For proof, look no further than the fact that it claimed two major Grammys. One was the award for the Song of the Year, while the other was the award for the Record of the Year.
18. “Heart of Glass” – Blondie
“Heart of Glass” is a song with staying power. Miley Cyrus released a cover in 2020. Similarly, Gisele Bundchen released a cover in 2014. On top of this, “Heart of Glass” was used in a mashup for The Handmaid’s Tale in 2016. As such, it is no wonder that Blondie singer Debbie Harris has said that this is one of the songs she is proudest of having worked on. Indeed, “Heart of Glass” was the song that propelled the band into the mainstream.
17. “A Little More Love” – Olivia Newton-John
Oliva Newton-John had phenomenal success with Grease in 1978. Even so, she didn’t slow down one bit because she proceeded to release the studio album Totally Hot in 1979. “A Little More Love” was its lead single. It never managed to reach the top of the charts. Still, it proved popular enough to become one of the year’s biggest hits.
16. “Tragedy” – Bee Gees
Disco peaked in the late 1970s. As such, the Bee Gees were seeing another surge in popularity in that period. They released their 15th studio album in 1979. Remarkably, every single one of its three singles managed to reach the top of the Billboard Hot 100. Something that played a critical role in the band’s managing to release six number-one hits in the United States within 12 months. “Tragedy” was the second single from the studio album and the fifth single in that six-single streak.
15. “Fire” – The Pointer Sisters
The Pointer Sisters are named thus because the original lineup consisted of sisters. By 1979, Bonnie Pointer had left the group for a solo career. As a result, the remaining lineup consisted of June, Anita, and Ruth Pointer. Despite this, the group could still release successful music.
“Fire” was the first release from the new lineup. It came out in November 1978 before peaking at the number two position in February 1979. Reportedly, the songwriter Bruce Springsteen was a bit upset to see that happen because his most successful song at that point had peaked at the number 25 position.
14. “Makin’ It” – David Naughton
Generally speaking, David Naughton isn’t known for his music. After all, he is an actor more than anything else. Still, Naughton managed to make it onto this list because he recorded the theme song for a sitcom called Makin’ It. The sitcom was a disco-themed show that ran headlong into the disco backlash. As such, it was a disaster that survived two months before being canceled. The funny thing is that Naughton’s “Makin’ It” became a Top 5 hit.
13. “When You’re In Love With a Beautiful Woman” – Dr. Hook
Dr. Hook isn’t an individual. Instead, it is the name of an American band that saw considerable success throughout the 1970s. “When You’re In Love With a Beautiful Woman” first came out on the band’s studio album in 1978. It wasn’t released as a single until April 1979. At that point, the disco-style song rode to success because disco was both loved and loathed in those times.
12. “MacArthur Park” – Donna Summer
“MacArthur Park” was first recorded by Richard Harris in 1968. Subsequently, a couple of other notable versions were released. One was Waylon Jennings’s version in 1969, which managed to win a Grammy. The other was Donna Summer’s version in 1978, which reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100.
If people are wondering whether disco had anything to do with that, they would be right to do so because “MacArthur Park” was a disco arrangement. Regardless, the song saw remarkable success considering it had been rejected by the original group it was meant for.
11. “Too Much Heaven” – Bee Gees
As mentioned earlier, the Bee Gees released six number-one hits in the United States within 12 months. “Too Much Heaven” was the single before “Tragedy.” Besides that, it was notable for being the Bee Gees’ contribution to the Music For UNICEF concert in January 1979. Subsequently, it made it onto the same studio album as “Tragedy” before becoming that studio album’s first single.
10. “Sad Eyes” – Robert John
“Sad Eyes” remains somewhat well-known in modern times. It stood out in the late 1970s for several reasons. First, it wasn’t a disco song. Instead, “Sad Eyes” sounded more like something out of the 1950s than anything else, meaning it stood out from the general trend of its times. Second, “Sad Eyes” was the song that dislodged “My Sharona” from the top of the charts.
9. “Ring My Bell” – Anita Ward
The record producer Frederick Knight wrote “Ring My Bell” in the late 1970s. Initially, it was aimed at teenagers. However, that plan fell through when the original performer signed with a different record label. As a result, Knight convinced Anita Ward to include a revised version of the song aimed at adults on her debut studio album.
She was less than enthused by the idea, but she was talked into it because of the need for something that appealed to the disco craze. It turned out to have been a good move in hindsight. “Ring My Bell” became Ward’s only major hit.
8. “Y.M.C.A.” – Village People
“Y.M.C.A.” is a song that needs no introduction. It remains extremely popular, so much so that its continuing play has sometimes been cited as evidence for the enduring longevity of disco as a whole. Whatever the case, “Y.M.C.A.” remains one of the Village People’s most iconic songs. As such, its presence in the popular imagination has been further cemented by the group’s memorable presentation.
7. “Hot Stuff” – Donna Summer
It is no exaggeration to say that 1979 was a good year for Donna Summer. After all, she had not one, not two, but three singles that managed to make it onto the year’s Top 20 hits, which is an impressive feat by any standard of measurement. “Hot Stuff” was also notable in that it showcased something of Summer’s versatility. It took a fair amount of inspiration from rock music, thus enabling it to stand out somewhat.
6. “I Will Survive” – Gloria Gaynor
“I Will Survive” is another song that remains well-known. Simply put, it is a song of resilience in the aftermath of heartbreak. Thanks to that, it isn’t hard to see why “I Will Survive” continues to resonate with interested individuals decade after decade. For that matter, many people read feminist themes in its lyrics, which serve as one more cause for its lasting popularity.
5. “Reunited” – Peaches & Herb
Peaches & Herb are a duo. The latter has remained constant. In contrast, a succession of individuals has filled the role of Peaches. The duo started performing in 1966. Due to that, it is perhaps unsurprising to learn that “Reunited” was performed by the third individual to fill the role of Peaches – Linda Green Tavani.
She is one of the best-known of those individuals. The success of “Reunited” is one of the biggest reasons for that. With that said, Tavani was also the one who performed “Shake Your Groove Thing” earlier in 1978.
4. “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy” – Rod Stewart
Rod Stewart is one of those artists who have moved from style to style throughout a long career. As such, it makes sense that he had a disco phase during the genre’s heyday. “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy” was extremely successful, as shown by how it reached the top of the charts in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia. Besides that, it is interesting to note that it was Stewart’s contribution to the Music For UNICEF concert.
3. “Le Freak” – Chic
“Good Times” wasn’t Chic’s only hit in 1979. After all, there was also “Le Freak,” a single from the band’s second studio album rather than their third studio album. Amusingly, Chic was inspired to write it because of their experiences with the legendary nightclub called Studio 54. The latter saw incredible success in the late 1970s.
Even so, it was riddled with issues, one of which was its less-than-polite attitude toward most people who wanted to get in. Tellingly, “Good Times” was about two Chic band members’ experiences of being stuck outside because their invitee had forgotten to mention them to the nightclub’s staff. The famous “Freak out!” used to be something much less polite.
2. “Bad Girls” – Donna Summer
“Bad Girls” was the title track of Donna Summer’s seventh studio album. It peaked at the top of the charts in the United States and six other countries, which was reflected by the fact that it managed to sell more than two million copies. The combination of “Bad Girls” and “Hot Stuff” made the studio album go multi-platinum, thus making it a true highlight of Summer’s career.
1. “My Sharona” – The Knack
The Knack was an American band that saw initial success in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Strictly speaking, the band wasn’t a one-hit-wonder. However, many people remember them that way because their debut single, “My Sharona,” was such an overwhelming success that it overshadowed everything that came afterward. It has sold more than 10 million copies as of 2010, which is particularly impressive because it is such an old song.
You can also read:
- The 10 Best Hit Songs of 1989
- The 10 Best Hit Songs of 1982
- The 10 Best Hit Songs from 1986
- The 10 Best Hit Songs of 1976
- The 10 Best Hit Songs of 1975