The 1970s stood out as a fantastic era for country music. During this time, icons like Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers, and Glen Campbell reached the peaks of their careers. As a result, many songs from that decade have stood strong over time and continue to be among the most frequently played in the country genre.
So, today, we will explore the top songs from this decade. It can be a delightful way to remember the past and recognize which tunes still resonate in today’s media. Dive in to discover ten of the greatest country songs from that era.
1. I Will Always Love You
From: Dolly Parton’s Jolene (1974)
Dolly Parton originally wrote and performed “I Will Always Love You” to say goodbye to her then-singing partner, Porter Wagoner. The song became one of the most iconic hits in her illustrious career. In fact, it ranked No. 1 on the charts twice. First when she initially released it and then again when she recorded it for the 1982 musical comedy film, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.
Truly, its simple yet deeply moving lyrics resonated with countless listeners.
2. The Gambler
From: Kenny Rogers’ The Gambler (1978)
Renowned Nashville songwriter Don Schlitz wrote “The Gambler” in 1976. It was recorded by several artists, including Bobby Bare, Johnny Cash, and even Schlitz himself.
However, it was Kenny Rogers who propelled the song to mainstream success.
Rogers’ version reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart. It even reached the top of the pop charts during a period when country music didn’t usually cross over outside its own genre. It also won Best Male Country Vocal Performance during the 1980 Grammy Award.
3. Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys
From: Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson’s Waylon & Willie (1978)
The song, which warns mothers not to let their children pursue a cowboy’s life due to its challenging and unstable nature, was first recorded by country singer Ed Bruce. Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson later covered “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” as a duet.
This version reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart, spending four weeks atop. In 1979, it won Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal at the Grammy Awards.
4. Rhinestone Cowboy
From: Glen Campbell’s Rhinestone Cowboy (1975)
In 1974, songwriter and musician Larry Weiss wrote and recorded “Rhinestone Cowboy.” However, it wasn’t commercially successful.
Later that year, Glen Campbell caught wind of the song on the radio during his tour in Australia. Upon returning to the US, Campbell recorded his own version, which quickly gained immense popularity among both country and pop music fans – ranking No. 1 both on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart and Billboard Hot 100.
5. Thank God I’m a Country Boy
From: John Denver’s Back Home Again (1974)
John Martin Sommers wrote “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” for John Denver and was included in Denver’s 1974 album Back Home Again.
However, it wasn’t until a live performance was featured on Denver’s 1975 concert album, An Evening With John Denver, that the song gained widespread acclaim, reaching the top spot on both the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and Billboard Hot 100. Its immense success led Denver to host a TV variety show with the same name in 1977.
6. Take This Job and Shove It
From: Johnny Paycheck’s Take This Job and Shove It (1977)
Johnny Paycheck paid tribute to the working men in “Take This Job and Shove It,” which tells the story of a man working hard at a job for a long time without little to no recognition. The song became instantly relatable for every working person. Its title even became a popular phrase.
7. The Devil Went Down to Georgia
From: Charlie Daniels Band’s Million Mile Reflections (1979)
There’s a little fiddle tune that’s as irresistible as “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” – it’s no surprise it became Charlie Daniels Band’s most identifiable and most career-defining hit.
The uptempo song puts a country spin on an old theme of a musician meeting a Devil at a crossroads. “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” tells the story of the Devil, who failed to take a young man’s soul via a fiddle-playing contest.
8. Coal Miner’s Daughter
From: Loretta Lynn’s Coal Miner’s Daughter (1970)
Considered Loretta Lynn’s signature song, “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” finds the singer-songwriter reminiscing about her day-to-day life (including childhood experiences and hardships) while growing up in rural poverty in Butcher Hollow, Kentucky. Lynn recounted how her father worked as a farmer growing corn while her mother worked tirelessly doing household chores.
Since then, the autobiographical song has been covered several times. In 2001, it was named one of RIAA’s Songs of the Century.
9. Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue
From: Crystal Gayle’s We Must Believe in Magic (1977)
This song was the sequel to “I’ve Cried the Blue Right Out Of My Eyes,” which was penned by Crystal Gayle’s elder sister, Loretta Lynn. The song quickly became a worldwide hit single, and a massive crossover hit for Gayle, making her famous outside the world of country music. It also opened many doors for Gayle, such as several TV appearances.
10. Rocky Mountain High
From: John Denver’s Rocky Mountain High (1972)
This song is an immensely popular country song that has enchanted music fans for many years. In fact, it became an unofficial anthem for Colorado. In 2007, the Colorado General Assembly named it one of its two official state songs.
Denver wrote the song with his move to Aspen, Colorado, being its inspiration. Interestingly, Denver revealed during a concert that it took him an unusually long nine months to finish the song.
There you have it – the top 10 country songs of the 1970s! So, which of these amazing tracks stood out to you the most?
Charlie Daniels Band, crystal gayle, Dolly Parton, glen campbell, John Denver, Johnny Paycheck, kenny rogers, Loretta Lynn, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson