The 1970s was a decade that saw the rise of many iconic music genres, including disco, punk rock, and of course, rhythm and blues (RB). RB music has always been known for its soulful vocals, infectious grooves, and heartfelt lyrics, and the 70’s was no exception. In fact, this decade gave birth to some of the most influential and timeless RB songs that are still enjoyed today.
From Motown classics to funk-infused jams, the 70’s had something for every RB lover. So, without further ado, let’s dive into the top 10 must-listen 70’s rhythm and blues songs.
Top 10 70’s Rhythm and Blues Songs
- “Let’s Get It On” by Marvin Gaye
- “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers
- “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye
- “Killing Me Softly with His Song” by Roberta Flack
- “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor
- “Lovely Day” by Bill Withers
- “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder
- “If You Don’t Know Me by Now” by Harold Melvin The Blue Notes
- “September” by Earth, Wind Fire
- “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” by The Temptations
With such a strong lineup of songs, it’s hard to choose just 10, but these tracks have stood the test of time and continue to be beloved by RB fans worldwide. Now, let’s take a closer look at why these songs made the cut.
The Best RB Songs of the 1970s
Motown Magic: “Let’s Get It On” by Marvin Gaye
It’s impossible to talk about RB music without mentioning Motown, the iconic record label that produced some of the biggest hits in the genre. And when it comes to Motown, no one does it better than Marvin Gaye. “Let’s Get It On” was released in 1973 as the lead single from Gaye’s album of the same name. This seductive jam is the epitome of 70’s RB, with its smooth vocals and sensual lyrics.
It became an instant hit, reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and solidifying Gaye’s status as a sex symbol. The song has been covered numerous times and remains a beloved classic among RB fans.
Soulful Ballad: “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers
Another timeless track from the 70’s, “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers is a soulful ballad that showcases his powerful and unique voice. Released in 1971, this song became Withers’ first hit and established him as a rising star in the RB scene. Its simple yet impactful lyrics, along with Withers’ emotive delivery, make this song a must-listen for any RB lover. “Ain’t No Sunshine” has been covered by countless artists, including Michael Jackson and John Legend, further solidifying its place in RB history.
70’s RB Classics You Need to Hear
Social Commentary: “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye
Marvin Gaye makes another appearance on our list with his iconic song, “What’s Going On.” Released in 1971, the song was inspired by social issues such as police brutality, war, and poverty. Gaye’s smooth vocals and thought-provoking lyrics make this song a poignant commentary on the state of the world at that time. It was a departure from his previous hits and marked a shift towards more socially conscious music in the RB genre. “What’s Going On” is still relevant today, making it not only a classic but a timeless masterpiece.
Heartfelt Ballad: “Killing Me Softly with His Song” by Roberta Flack
Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly with His Song” is a beautiful and emotional ballad that captured the hearts of listeners in the 70’s and continues to do so today. The song tells the story of a woman who is moved to tears by a musician’s performance, and its heartfelt lyrics and Flack’s soulful voice make it an unforgettable RB tune. Released in 1973, it became an instant hit and earned Flack two Grammy Awards. Since then, it has been covered by many artists, but none can match the pure emotion and soulfulness of Flack’s original version.
Soulful Sounds: Top Rhythm and Blues Hits of the 70’s
Empowering Anthem: “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor
“I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor is a timeless RB anthem that has been played at countless parties and gatherings. Released in 1978, this song quickly became an international hit, topping charts all over the world. Its powerful lyrics about resilience and overcoming heartbreak struck a chord with listeners, especially women, making it an empowering anthem for generations to come. With its catchy beat and Gaynor’s powerhouse vocals, “I Will Survive” is one of the ultimate feel-good RB songs of the 70’s.
Feel-Good Groove: “Lovely Day” by Bill Withers
Bill Withers makes another appearance on our list, this time with his upbeat and feel-good track, “Lovely Day.” Released in 1977, this song is a prime example of the funk-infused RB sound that dominated the 70’s. Withers’ smooth vocals and the infectious groove of the song make it impossible not to dance along. “Lovely Day” has been featured in numerous films and TV shows, cementing its status as a classic feel-good jam.
Iconic RB Songs from the 1970s
Funky Classic: “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder
No list of 70’s RB songs would be complete without mentioning the legendary Stevie Wonder. “Superstition,” released in 1972, is one of his most iconic and recognizable songs. Its infectious beat, funky bassline, and Wonder’s soulful voice make it an irresistible jam that still gets people on their feet today. The song was a commercial success, reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and earning Wonder his first Grammy Award.
Soulful Ballad: “If You Don’t Know Me by Now” by Harold Melvin The Blue Notes
This emotional ballad by Harold Melvin The Blue Notes is a soulful masterpiece that showcases the group’s incredible vocal talents. Released in 1972, the song became a hit on both the RB and pop charts, thanks to its heartfelt lyrics and captivating melody. It has been covered by many artists over the years, but the original version remains a fan favorite and a staple in any 70’s RB playlist.
Throwback Jams: 70’s Rhythm and Blues Edition
Infectious Groove: “September” by Earth, Wind Fire
Earth, Wind Fire’s “September” is a quintessential feel-good jam that never fails to get people on their feet. Released in 1978, this funk-infused track is a perfect representation of the sound and vibe of 70’s RB. With its catchy chorus, energetic horn section, and soulful vocals, “September” is a timeless party anthem that continues to be loved by people of all ages.
Smooth and Sexy: “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” by The Temptations
The Temptations are known for their smooth harmonies and soulful sound, and “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” is a prime example of their talent. Released in 1972, this song tells the story of a father who was never there for his family, and its hauntingly beautiful melody and powerful lyrics make it an emotional journey. The song became a hit, reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and earning The Temptations two Grammy Awards.
The Ultimate Playlist of 70’s RB Songs
Now that we’ve gone through the top 10 must-listen 70’s RB songs, it’s time to create the ultimate playlist. Here are some other gems from this decade that you should definitely add to your playlist:
- “Move On Up” by Curtis Mayfield
- “Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)” by The Temptations
- “What You Won’t Do for Love” by Bobby Caldwell
- “Midnight Train to Georgia” by Gladys Knight The Pips
- “Rock Your Baby” by George McCrae
- “Family Affair” by Sly the Family Stone
- “Sexual Healing” by Marvin Gaye
With these songs added to your playlist, you’ll have the perfect mix of soulful ballads, funky jams, and feel-good grooves that define 70’s RB.
Rediscovering the Best Rhythm and Blues Songs of the 70’s
The 70’s was a decade of innovation and experimentation in music, and RB was no exception. Artists pushed boundaries and blended different styles to create the iconic sound that defined this era. As we listen to these songs today, we can appreciate the impact they had on the music scene and how they continue to inspire artists of all genres.
70’s RB Gems that Still Sound Great Today
Smooth and Groovy: “Lovin’ You” by Minnie Riperton
Minnie Riperton’s “Lovin’ You” is a sweet and romantic song that showcases her incredible vocal range. Released in 1974, this ballad became a hit and earned Riperton a Grammy nomination. Its calming melody and heartfelt lyrics make it a timeless love song that still sounds great today.
Funky Anthem: “Play That Funky Music” by Wild Cherry
Wild Cherry’s “Play That Funky Music” is a must-play at any party or wedding with its upbeat groove and catchy chorus. Released in 1976, this song was a commercial success, topping charts all over the world. Its simple yet effective lyrics and infectious beat make it an irresistible jam that never goes out of style.
From Motown to Funk: Essential 70’s Rhythm and Blues Tracks
Soulful Ballad: “Me and Mrs. Jones” by Billy Paul
“Me and Mrs. Jones” by Billy Paul is a soulful and sensual ballad that captures the complexities of a secret affair. Released in 1972, this song became a hit and earned Paul a Grammy Award. Its smooth vocals and emotional lyrics make it a standout track in 70’s RB and a must-listen for any fan of this genre.
Disco Fever: “I Want You Back” by The Jackson 5
The Jackson 5 were one of the most successful groups of the 70’s, and “I Want You Back” is just one of their many hits. Released in 1970, this song is a perfect blend of RB and disco, with its funky beat and catchy chorus. Its infectious energy and the young Michael Jackson’s vocals make it a timeless dance anthem that still gets people on their feet.
The 1970s was a decade of incredible music, and RB played a significant role in shaping the musical landscape. From Motown classics to funk-infused jams, the 70’s gave us some of the most iconic and timeless RB songs that continue to be loved by generations.
Whether you’re a die-hard fan or just discovering this genre, the top 10 must-listen 70’s rhythm and blues songs are the perfect starting point to dive into this soulful and groovy era of music. So turn up the volume, hit play on our ultimate playlist, and let the smooth sounds of 70’s RB transport you back in time.