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1970s in music: Map


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Music of the 1970s saw the rise of experimental classical music and minimalist music by classical composers. Funk, disco, Art rock, progressive rock, hard rock, glam rock, and punk music were also popular. Emerging genres included jazz-rock fusion, chamber jazz, reggae, Heavy Metal and hip hop.

The U.S. and North America


The seventies were a time when a new generation of youthful people were exposed to new media and hence newer ideas in almost every field. TV and motion picture brought to varied audiences images, lifestyles and music from diverse regions and peoples. This led to the emergence of a new vocabulary and experimentation in music. After the war the second generation of German musicians began experimenting with music, these included experimental classical music and the tradition of Krautrock or Kraut music, rooted in the experimental classical music. This later influenced both art rock and progressive rock as well as the punk rock and New Wave genres. The main exponents of progressive rock include Genesis, Yes, Gentle Giant, King Crimson, Rush, Jethro Tull, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Supertramp, Pink Floyd and Premiata Forneria Marconi. The experimental nature of progressive rock is exemplified in compositions such as "Close to the Edge" by Yes, or "Supper's Ready" by Genesis. Also the start of Hard rock in many forms began with the British bands Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath.

One of the first events of the '70s was the break up of the Beatles in the spring of 1970. The early seventies also marked the deaths of rock legends Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix. Three members of Lynyrd Skynyrd were killed in a tragic plane crash in 1977.

The mid '70s saw the rise of punk music from its protopunk/garage band roots in the 1960s and early 1970s. The Ramones, Blondie, Patti Smith, the Sex Pistols, and The Clash were some of the earliest acts to make it big in both the United Kingdom and the United States. Groups like the Clash were noted for the experimentation of style, especially that of having strong reggae influences in their music. Punk music has also been heavily associated with a certain punk fashion and absurdist humor which exemplified a genuine suspicion of mainstream culture and values. Blondie quickly lost their punk roots going on to become a pop/ska/reggae band.

In the second half of the decade, a 1950s nostalgia movement prompted the Rockabilly Revival fad. The Stray Cats led the revival into the early 1980s. Queen participated through their hit Crazy Little Thing Called Love. Billy Joel provided Piano Man and Only The Good Die Young. Also symbolizing this trend was the hit move Grease in 1977, starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.

New Wave music began late in the decade with The Cars, Talking Heads, and The Fixx seeing popularity.

Carole King started a new trend, the rise of the female singer-songwriter.

Steely Dan spawn an interest in jazz fusion.

Country rock peaks in popularity as bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Eagles, and The Allman Brothers Band become widely successful.

Arena rock begins to popularize through progressive bands like Styx and hard rock bands like Boston.

Metal music begins in the seventies, led by AC/DC, Aerosmith, and Def Leppard. This would ultimately evolve into glam metal in the eighties.

Psychedelic Rock declines in popularity after the deaths of Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morisson, and the breakup of the Beatles.

Folk Rock sees a decline as Lite Rock enters popularity, with bands like Elton John and James Taylor being the most successful.


For many people, disco is the genre of music most readily associated with the '70s. First appearing in dance clubs by the middle of the decade, (with such hits as "The Hustle" by Van McCoy), songstresses like Donna Summer, Gloria Gaynor, Dalida and Anita Ward popularized the genre and were described in subsequent decades as the "disco divas." The movie Saturday Night Fever was released in December 1977, starring John Travolta and featuring the music of the Bee Gees and several other artists. It had the effect of setting off disco mania in the United States.

The Bee Gees following the disco backlash.
Almost as quickly as disco's popularity came, however, it soon fell out of favor. The genre started to become increasingly commercialized, and the large number of disco songs flooding the radio airwaves in 1978-1979 resulted in a growing backlash against it, as epitomized by the "Disco Demolition Nights" stunt by a Chicago DJ at a baseball game in Comiskey Park in July 1979. Disco clubs also gained a reputation as decadent places where people engaged in drug use and promiscuous sex. The popularity of the genre waned, and 1980's "Funkytown" by Lipps Inc. was one of the last disco hits. Along with the demise of disco came the end of the orchestrations and musical instruments (such as strings) which had become associated with disco, in part because of the high cost of producing such music. Electronic and synthesized music quickly replaced the lush orchestral sounds of the 1970s and rock music resurged in popularity with New Wave bands such as Blondie and Devo, who both formed their respective bands in the '70s. Many artists such as the Bee Gees who came to be associated with disco found it difficult to sell records or concert tickets in the '80s.


Along with disco, funk was one of the most popular genres of music in the '70s. Primarily an African-American genre, it was characterized by the heavy use of bass and "wah-wah" peddles. Rhythm was emphasized over melody. Artists such as James Brown, The Meters, Parliament-Funkadelic and Sly And The Family Stone pionered the genre. It then spawned artists such as Stevie Wonder, The Brothers Johnson, Earth, Wind & Fire, Bootsy's Rubber Band, King Floyd, Tower of Power, Ohio Players, The Commodores, War, Kool & the Gang, Confunkshun, Slave, Cameo, the Bar-Kays, Zapp, and many more.

1979 saw the birth of hip-hop music with the song Rapper's Delight by Sugarhill Gang.


Country music remained very popular in the U.S. In 1977 it became more mainstream after Kenny Rogers and Thomas Knoops became a duo and scored many hits on both the country and pop charts. He achieved the biggest crossover success ever for the genre (although he would later be replaced by Garth Brooks). Waylon Jennings was very big and Willie Nelson released Red Headed Stranger. The 1970s was also a period for country legend Emmylou Harris, who was one of the most succesful country artists, scoring eight straight Gold albums.

Jamaica and reggae

Towards the end of the decade, Jamaicanmarker reggae music, already popular in the Caribbeanmarker and Africa since the early 1970s, became very popular in the U.S. and in Europe, mostly because of reggae superstar and legend Bob Marley as well as his band, The Wailers, his former bandmate Peter Tosh and other artists like Burning Spear and Jimmy Cliff; though the 1972 film The Harder They Come saw the introduction of the form to the West.


One of the most successful European groups of the decade was the quartet ABBA. The Swedish group, who are still the most successful group from their country, first found fame when they won the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest. They became one of the most widely known European groups ever, and were the decade's biggest sellers. "Take a Chance on Me" and "Dancing Queen" are two of ABBA's most popular songs.

Queen was another band which enjoyed success in the UK and international success.

Australia/New Zealand

Top music acts in Australia/New Zealand included Sherbet, Skyhooks, Dragon, Hush and the Ted Mulry Gang.

Other Trends

The first half of the 1970s saw many jazz musicians from the Miles Davis school achieve cross-over success through jazz-rock fusion. The exponential groups of the genre were Mahavishnu Orchestra, Soft Machine, Return to Forever, created by Chick Corea, and Weather Report, built upon the keyboards and saxophone of Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter, respectively. In Germany, Manfred Eicher started the ECM label, which quickly made a name for 'chamber jazz' through the likes of Jan Garbarek, Keith Jarrett and Terje Rypdal. These two movements attracted many fans of progressive rock after its destruction by punk in 1976–77.

Another experimentation in European classical music was brought about by composers such as Philip Glass, Steve Reich and Michael Nyman, with what was to be called Minimalist music. This was a break from the intellectual serial music of the tradition of Schoenberg which lasted from the early 1900s to 1960s. Minimalist music sought to appreciate simple music with systematic patterns repeated in complex variations.

These experimentations were also used in several movies made in the early 1970s. In world music the musical collaboration of violinists Yehudi Menuhin and L. Subramaniam was appreciated by a large audience.

The commercial cinemas around the world tended to imitate nuances of disco beats in their movies to present their movies as western and upbeat. These included the increasingly popular Kung-fu movies in far East Asia and Bollywood movies from India.

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