A lot happened in 1974; in the United States, President Richard Nixon was forced to step down due to the Watergate scandal that would have resulted in his impeachment. Still, life had to go on; music had to be made, and careers had to be forged. Bands like Bad Company were formed in 1974 while others continued churning out great hits. Here are some of the best songs from 1974 you need to have on your playlist.
20. Dancing Machine by The Jackson 5
Watching the video will have you know that Michael Jackson learned his moves early in his career. Of course, as with all the Jackson 5 songs, he is the lead vocalist though Jermaine also gets a few minutes in the spotlight. The song is about a woman who loves to dance and its inspiration came from such a woman. Hal Davis, the group’s producer, noticed one woman on the Motown Records staff would start dancing whenever she visited his office and found music playing. Davis told Don Fletcher that the woman was a dancing machine, and the two collaborated to bring forth “Dancing Machine.”
19. Can’t Get Enough by Bad Company
1974 was a great year for the English rock band, Bad Company. They had just founded the band and created this song that has been their biggest to date. Perhaps they owe the success of “Can’t Get Enough” to the fact that they were the first band to sign to Swan Song, a record label formed by Led Zeppelin members. As the pioneers, it was in the best interest of the label to release a quality song hence the pressure was on Bad Company. Thankfully, they delivered and their debut album was a hit in the UK charts.
18. Dark Lady by Cher
John Durrill is the creative mind behind the lyrics of “Dark Lady.” He was a keyboardist for The Ventures, the rock band behind “Hawaii Five-O” theme song. Durrill penned the song during a songwriting session that lasted a week. However, when he sent it to producer Snuff Garrett, the latter told Durrill to change the ending, ensuring that the narrator in the song kills the dark lady. Durrill did as instructed, and Cher found the perfect title track for her eleventh studio album.
17. You’re Having My Baby by Paul Anka
If you have ever watched “Glee’ then you will remember that when Finn wanted to tell Quinn’s parents about her pregnancy for which he thought he was responsible, he sang “You’re Having My Baby.” Anka also used the song to pay tribute to his wife who was the mother of his children. Unfortunately, only a few people appreciated the song, some even regarding it as one of the worst songs. Pro-Life activists believed he thought abortion was an option, so they ended up bashing him for the lyrics in which he tells the woman she did not have to keep the baby. Still, that did not stop it from topping the charts.
16. The Loco-Motion by Grand Funk Railroad
This song was first released in 1962, but artists know its potential and have continually covered it and every time, it becomes a hit. It was originally done by Eva Boyd although when Carole King and Gerry Goffin wrote it, they had Dee Dee Sharp in mind. However, they had Boyd record the demo and the producer preferred it as it was; hence, Boyd got to be known as the first to ever perform the song. Grand Funk Railroad recorded the song only as an afterthought but it became among their most successful singles.
15. The Way We Were by Barbra Streisand
For over 50 years, Marilyn and Alan Bergman partnered up in writing lyrics for various artists, one of whom is Barbra Streisand. The song portrays the nostalgic memories that couples who have drifted apart share. Streisand recorded the song in 1973, and it peaked at #1 on Groundhog Day in 1974. The song was impactful on the musician’s career, and she even starred in a movie with the same title. When Marvin Hamlisch, the song’s music composer died in 2012, Streisand performed the song as a tribute.
14. #9 Dream by John Lennon
Inspiration can come from different places, dreams included, as was the case in this song by Lennon. He was asleep and some strange syllables came to him and the singer immediately decided they would be part of the lyrics for his next song. He combined the fragments from the dream with a song he had already started writing and that is how “#9 Dream” came to be. His then-girlfriend, May Pang, backed him up vocally and she disclosed that the track was one of Lennon’s favorites because it was gifted to him through a dream.
13. Waterloo by ABBA
On April 6, 1974, ABBA decided to perform “Waterloo” in front of millions of television viewers and the song helped the band achieve worldwide recognition. They had initially proposed to enter the Eurovision Song Contest with “Hasta Manana,” but decided against it, reasoning that “Waterloo” would project them as a rocky band, which was their intention. The song peaked at #1 in the UK, a position it retained for two weeks.
12. Forever Young by Bob Dylan
Some rank “Forever Young” as one of Dylan’s worst songs yet it went on to peak at #2 in Scotland. He was a father who only wanted the best for his son and the song is a true indication of how much he loved his son. It is a dedication to Jesse and Dylan drew inspiration for the song’s first line from the book of Numbers. Still, he avoided sounding too sentimental so besides this lullaby version, the rock star recorded another rock version.
11. Come and Get Your Love by Redbone
Redbone is comprised of Native Americans and Mexican Americans so back in the day when they founded the band, they aimed at being recognized through music. Patrick Vegas disclosed that using music and culture was the only way they knew how to fight the good fight. The song ended up on Billboard Hot 100 hits and the band released an official music video in 2020 telling the story of a Native American who travels from reservation to outer space.
10. Seasons in the Sun by Terry Jacks
Anyone who has reviewed this song by Jacks remarks that the man was not talented a singer, and listening to the song will have you concluding as much. Still, he managed to push the song to become a hit even if it was not his original composition. The song was originally composed in French, but Jacks made a few changes removing bits about a cheating wife and her lover. Most people believe that the changes he made are the reason why the song eventually became a hit. It is such an impactful song that even Westlife covered it in 1999, and it was UK’s Christmas #1 single.
9. Lady Marmalade by Patti LaBelle
In 2001, four female artists collaborated on a song that would later bag the Grammy Award for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals. Unknown to many, it was a cover of a 1974 track that had also been inspired by a 1940 French song. It is a flirtatious song about a French prostitute who seduces men, asking them if they want to sleep with her. However, some believe it also emphasizes women being independent.
8. Cats in the Cradle by Harry Chapin
This song has brought tears to children and parents alike as it tells the story of a father-and-son relationship. Chapin was inspired to write the song after his son was born. However, Chapin has to thank his wife, Sandy, because, without her, there probably would have never been this hit song. Sandy had written a poem inspired by the relationship between her first husband, James, and his father. She was also an ardent listener to country music, and one particular song got her writing some lyrics that Chapin would later rework for the song “Cats in the Cradle.”
7. Until You Come Back to Me by Aretha Franklin
Incredibly, Stevie Wonder even at fifteen years old was talented enough to compose a hit. Wonder wrote the lyrics in 1965 and recorded them in 1967 but did not release the track until 1977. However, Franklin somehow saw the potential in the song and released it in 1973. In 1974, the song was on Billboard Hot 100 and peaked at #1 on the R&B chart. This track enabled Franklin to go down in history as the first artist to have a song hold every position from one to ten on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
6. The Streak by Ray Stevens
Stevens made a hit song out of a popular fad of streaking and the track helped him break a record. He became the first singer since 1967 to have a song topping the Country and Billboard Hit 100 Charts at the same time. Stevens’ inspiration came from an article he read about college kids running naked in public. He felt lucky that his song was a massive hit since other musicians had released songs about streaking, but none came close to “The Streak” in terms of success.
5. Summer Madness by Kool & The Gang
Anyone who loves instrumentals will fall in love with this one by Kool & The Gang. It may have lacked the appreciation it deserved back in the day, but it has not gone unnoticed. The instrumental has become one of the most sampled R&B compositions, with musicians like Mary J Blige, Aaliyah, Ice Cube, and Tinashe using it in their songs. Even the film “Rocky” found a place for the instrumental. The realization that their composition had been used in the film was such an exciting moment for the band.
4. Annie’s Song by John Denver
Some songs take hours and weeks to write songs, but Denver took only ten minutes to write the beautiful lyrics to “Annie’s Song.” He and his wife Annie had decided to separate after hitting a rough patch in their marriage. However, while on a ski lift in Colorado, he realized how much he loved Annie and would do anything to be with her. He revealed that he felt hypersensitive and the song was an embodiment of his feelings for Annie at that particular moment.
3. Kung Fu Fighting by Carl Douglas
When Carl Douglas walked past a group of children shadow-boxing to a pinball machine’s music, he exclaimed that they appeared to be kung Fu fighting. In an instant, the lyrics to this song flooded his mind, and he noted them down. The singer recorded the video in a few takes, unaware the song would be his biggest hit to date. It has been used in various TV shows, such as “Kung Fu Panda” with a few tweaks to avoid derogatory words used in the original song.
2. Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd
Contrary to popular opinion, this song was not inspired by a feud between the rock band and Neil Young. Lynyrd Skynyrd wanted to bring out the other side of Alabama after Young released “Southern Man.” The band had toured the place and experienced the hospitality of the people thus the only way they could pay it back was through a song “Sweet Home Alabama.”
1. Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me by Elton John
This song is a composition by Elton John and Beau Taplin. Taplin disclosed that the two songwriters aimed to pen a song that would be powerful without being pompous. The lyrics are about the feeling of despair when you lose someone, so John hopes that the person will stay. It is such a beautiful song, and it is no wonder that he dedicated it as a tribute to the late Queen Elizabeth II upon her demise.
You can also read:
- The 10 Best Cher Songs of All-Time
- Ranking All The Lynyrd Skynyrd Studio Albums
- The 10 Best Patti LaBelle Songs of All-Time
- Ranking All The George Michael Studio Albums
- The 20 Best Elton John Songs of All-Time