Hard rock, arena rock and heavy metal
The 1970s saw the emergence of hard rock as one of the most prominent sub-genres of rock music. Bands such as Alice Cooper, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Nazareth, AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Blue Oyster Cult, and Kiss were highly popular by the mid 1970’s. By the second half of the decade, several bands had achieved stardom, namely, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Aerosmith, Rush, Journey, and Boston.
Arena rock grew in popularity through progressive bands like Styx (“Come Sail Away”), and hard rock bands like Boston (“More Than a Feeling”).
Psychedelic rock declined in popularity after the deaths of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison and the break-up of The Beatles.
Country rock and Southern rock
Country rock, formed from the fusion of rock music with Country music, gained its greatest commercial success in the 1970s, beginning with non-country artists such as Bob Dylan, Gram Parsons, and The Byrds. By the mid-1970s, Linda Ronstadt, along with other newer artists such as Emmylou Harris and The Eagles, were enjoying mainstream success and popularity that continues to this day. The Eagles themselves emerged as one of the most successful rock acts of all time, producing albums that included Hotel California (1976).
During the 1970s, a similar style of country rock called southern rock (fusing rock, country, and blues music, and focusing on electric guitars and vocals) was enjoying popularity with country audiences, thanks to such non-country acts as Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Allman Brothers Band, and The Marshall Tucker Band.
The American brand of prog rock varied from the eclectic and innovative Steel Heart, Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart, and Blood, Sweat and Tears, to more pop rock oriented bands like Boston, Foreigner, Kansas, Journey and Styx. These, beside British bands Supertramp and ELO, all demonstrated a prog rock influence and while ranking among the most commercially successful acts of the 1970s, issuing in the era of pomp or arena rock, which would last until the costs of complex shows (often with theatrical staging and special effects), would be replaced by more economical rock festivals as major live venues in the 1990s.
Many American bands in the late seventies began experimenting with synthesizers, forming the new wave style. The original American bands included Talking Heads, The Cars, and Devo. In the eighties, Britain would respond with the synthpop style, which broadened the definition of “new wave”.
Combining elements of punk rock and pop music, bands such as The Romantics, The Knack, and Cheap Trick created the “power pop” sound. Also seeing mild success is Loverboy.
Ramones’s lead guitarist Johnny Ramone performing in Toronto, 1977
The mid ’70s saw the rise of punk music from its protopunk-garage band roots in the 1960s and early 1970s. The Ramones and Blondie were some of the earliest American Punk rock acts to make it big in both the United Kingdom and the United States Punk music has also been heavily associated with a certain punk fashion and absurdist humour 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.
Blues rock remains popular, with Eric Clapton, ZZ Top, and George Thorogood seeing the greatest success.
Soft rock and singer-songwriter
Some of the more notable pop/soft rock groups during the 1970s were the Carpenters, the Jackson 5, Bay City Rollers, The Guess Who, the Osmonds, and Queen.
Male soloists who characterized the pop music of the era included Barry Manilow, Tom Jones, Johnny Mathis, Engelbert Humperdinck, Eric Carmen, Leo Sayer, Shaun Cassidy, and Rod Stewart. Female soloists who epitomized the ’70s included Cher, Carly Simon, Dionne Warwick, Barbra Streisand, Rita Coolidge, and Helen Reddy.
Soft rock was prominently featured on many Top 40 and contemporary hit radio stations throughout the 1970s. Soft rock often used acoustic instruments and placed emphasis on melody and harmonies. Major soft rock artists of the 1970s included Carole King, James Taylor, Billy Joel, Chicago, America, and Fleetwood Mac, whose Rumours (1977) was the best-selling album of the decade.(See the country music section of this article for more about country music that crossed over onto the pop charts.) Bob Dylan’s 1975-1976 Rolling Thunder Revue reunited him with a number of folk-rock acts from his early days of performing, most notably Joan Baez.
A large number of country-pop and booom lar fit into the singer-songwriter classification — that is, songs written and recorded by the same person. Some of the most successful singer-songwriter artists were Jackson Browne, Eric Carmen, Jim Croce, John Denver, Steve Goodman, Arlo Guthrie, Joel, Dave Mason, Don McLean, Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, Kris Kristofferson, and Gordon Lightfoot — had previously been primarily songwriters but began releasing albums and songs of their own. King’s album Tapestry became one of the top-selling albums of the decade, and the song “It’s Too Late” became one of the 1970s biggest songs. McLean’s 1971 song “American Pie,” inspired by the death of Buddy Holly, became one of popular music’s most-recognized songs of the 20th century, thanks to its abstract and vivid storytelling, which center around “The Day the Music Died” and popular music of the rock era.
The early 1970s marked the departure of Diana Ross from The Supremes and the break-up of Simon & Garfunkel. Ross, Simon and Art Garfunkel all continued hugely successful recording careers throughout the decade and beyond. Several of their songs are listed among the biggest hits of the 1970s: Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, Simon’s solo hit “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover”, and Ross’ “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”.
R&B and urban
Stevie Wonder became one of the most popular R&B artists during the 1970s.
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” pedals. 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, Rufus (band), The Brothers Johnson, Kool & The Gang, Earth, Wind & Fire, Bootsy’s Rubber Band, King Floyd, Tower of Power, Ohio Players, The Commodores, War, Confunkshun, Gap Band, Slave, Cameo, the Bar-Kays, Zapp, and many more.
The Jackson 5 became one of the biggest pop-music phenomena of the 1970s, playing from a repertoire of rhythm and blues, soul, pop and later disco. The Jacksons — brothers Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon and Michael — the first act in recording history to have their first four major label singles: “I Want You Back”, “ABC”, “The Love You Save”, and “I’ll Be There” reach the top of the Billboard Hot 100. The band served as the launching pad for the solo careers of their lead singers Jermaine and Michael, and while Jermaine had some success, it was Michael who would transform his early fame into greater success as an adult artist, with songs such as “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” and “Rock with You”.
The Commodores were another group that played from a diverse repertoire, including R&B, funk, and pop. Lionel Richie, who went on to even greater success as a solo artist in the 1980s, fronted the group’s biggest 1970s hits, including “Easy”, “Three Times a Lady”, and “Still”.