The Summer of Love went up in smoke with Altamont, but where did peace and love go in the aftermath? As the 1960s faded into a new decade, the world began to come down from years of war and social movement after social movement.
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At the start, the ’70s faced an identity crisis as the doors burst open to personal liberation and newfound individualism after a decade of free love and communal mindsets proved more disillusioning than unifying. The rest of culture tried to find its footing in the interim, resulting in a cosmic slop of musical styles in which the leftover love from the previous decade found its home.
Here are the 7 best love songs of the ’70s, all melting in a lava lamp of disco decadence, occult rock, funkadelia, and blue-eyed soul.
7. “All My Love”—Led Zeppelin
In Fast Times at Ridgemont High, ’70s-era high school sleaze Mike Damone reveals his “five-point plan” for picking up girls. The fifth and most important of all the steps? “When it comes down to making out, whenever possible, put on side one of Led Zeppelin IV,” he imparts.
While Led Zeppelin IV rocks, it’s an album that leaves a lot to be desired in the way of romance. Rather a softer side of Zeppelin can be found on their 1979 and final release, In Through the Out Door, with the mild-tempoed, yet still impassioned, rock ballad, “All My Love.”
Written as a tribute to frontman Robert Plant’s son, Karac, who passed away suddenly at age five, the message is a simple, but universally profound, one promising All of my love / All of my love / All of my love to you.
6. “You’re The First, The Last, My Everything”—Barry White
The most distinctive voice of the decade, Barry White knew how to inject a love song with blush-inducing sensuality, yet subtle eroticism, to create not just a tune, but a moment. His voluptuous timbre, as rich as Howard Hughes, could make time stand still. He could make you feel his words to your core. He could make you believe that you’re the first and the last and his everything.
Opening in his signature smooth pillow talking way, White laid it all bare with the 1974 classic “You’re The First, The Last, My Everything.” Singing what everyone in and out of love wants to hear, his bass reached new depths with lyrics like You’re my sun, my moon, my guiding star / My kind of wonderful, that’s what you are.
5. “I Will Always Love You” – Dolly Parton
The ’70s marked a new era for country icon Dolly Parton. Her 1973 song “I Will Always Love You” put a nail in the coffin of her career with musical partner and mentor Porter Wagoner, setting the singer on a trajectory to superstardom.
The song’s forlorn lyrics and far-away arrangement are unmistakable as a quintessential ’70s country classic.
4. “How Deep Is Your Love” – Bee Gees
Their three-part harmonies have become synonymous with the 1970s so the Bee Gees could never go unmentioned on this list.
A 1977 track, sandwiched between disco bops like “Stayin’ Alive” and “Night Fever,” “How Deep Is Your Love” touches on the soft rock side of the three Gibb brothers. A warm, tender ballad, the tune epitomizes the ’70s love song, sounding a lot like how a white leisure suit looks—cheesy.
3. “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours” – Stevie Wonder
Rich with early ’70s soul, the iconic Stevie Wonder track, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours” is recognizable from the first twanging sitar note. That’s right, sitar. George Harrison may have made it cool, but Wonder used the instrument to create the groove-inducing instant earworm with the 1970 hit.
A song about recognizing the mistakes you’ve made in love, the lyrics send the ultimate commitment priority mail. Signed, sealed, delivered.
2. “Love Will Keep Us Together” – Captain & Tennille
While love did not keep the real-life couple together, it helped them create one of the most enduring love songs of the ’70s. The 1975 classic “Love Will Keep Us Together” by musical and life partners Captain & Tennille became the song on which yacht rock was built.
The soft rock instrumentation with guttural bass and jangling keys bobs along like a buoy as the song promises I said it before and I’ll say it again while others pretend / I need you now and I’ll need you then, just stop (stop) / ‘Cause I really love you, stop (stop) / I’ll be thinking of you / Look in my heart and let love keep us together.
1. “Let’s Stay Together”—Al Green
I-I-I’m, I’m so in love with you, stammers the opening lines of Al Green’s dreamy 1972 classic about unconditional love and sticking it out through thick or thin. Let’s stay together / Lovin’ you whether / Times are good or bad, happy or sad sings the chorus against pleading horns and galloping drums.
“Let’s Stay Together” lives on past the ’70s, having blessed many a romcom soundtrack and graced more than a few first dances.
Photo: Capitol Records