7 Iconic Rock Songs from the 1970s

The decade of the 1970s was the time when rock music became the dominant cultural force. From the early years in the 1950s to the formative years in the 1960s, rock music became something as powerful as a piston in the 1970s.

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The ’60s had Hendrix, the Beatles, and the early years of the Rolling Stones. But the 1970s—that’s when the mixture that was rock cemented—Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Who, Carlos Santana and more.

[RELATED: 7 Iconic Psychedelic Rock Albums of the 1970s]

Below, we dive into seven of the most iconic rock songs from the decade.

1. “Stairway to Heaven,” Led Zeppelin (1971)

Perhaps the most iconic rock song of all time, this song was released in 1971 on the Led Zeppelin album, Led Zeppelin IV. It’s been covered countless times and has become so ubiquitous, there are even movie skits about how it’s cliche to play on guitar. It’s most deserving of this top spot.

2. “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Queen (1975)

Another classic song (also referenced in Wayne’s World), this Queen track from the middle of the decade in 1975 is the definition of operatic rock. Lead singer Freddie Mercury soars over the music from the British-born rock band. Released on the band’s 1975 album, A Night at the Opera, this track has become synonymous with Queen and with rock, in general.

3. “The Great Gig in the Sky,” Pink Floyd (1973)

This 1973 song from Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon album, “The Great Gig in the Sky” might just feature the greatest guest vocal appearance. Session vocalist, London-born Clare Torry, soars like an eagle on the song. In truth, any song from this album is worthy on this list, from “Money” to “Time” to “Us and Them.” Pink Floyd’s psychedelic rock is still impacting the culture today.

4. “Highway to Hell,” AC/DC (1979)

“Highway to Hell,” released at the end of the decade, comes from Australian band AC/DC and their high-voltage rock and roll. This song kicks off the album of the same name and includes the delightful shrieking vocals from lead singer Bon Scott, who died only months after this song came out. While AC/DC has many hits, this might be their most indelible thanks to Scott’s banshee voice.

5. “Baba O’Riley,” The Who (1971)

From The Who’s 1971 album, Who’s Next, “Baba O’Riley” has the familiar refrain of “Teenage Wasteland,” even though the song is titled “Baba O’Riley.” Those names came from two of songwriter Pete Townshend’s spiritual influences at the time, Meher Baba and Terry Riley. Comedian Joe Pera calls it a perfect song.

6. “Runnin’ With the Devil,” Van Halen (1978)

Released on Van Halen’s 1978 self-titled LP, “Runnin’ With the Devil” talks about living the rockstar life. While it is not a satanic devil-worshiping track, per se, it does acknowledge the debauchery of being a rock star in the middle of the 20th century. One utterance of the title and a myriad of music fans can hear the refrain in their mind. Running with the devil… Van Halen was one of the decade’s guitar masters. So, it’s only fitting he and his namesake group appear on this list.

7. “One Way or Another,” Blondie (1978)

Blondie. What can’t Debbie Harry do? She’s a Disco queen, early rap proponent, and rock frontwoman on the iconic song “One Way or Another,” from her band’s 1978 album, Parallel Lines. The song, while popular and catchy, was born out of an experience Harry had with an ex, who became a stalker.

Photo: Shig Ikeda / Shore Fire Media

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