Some claim the 70s is the greatest decade when it comes to rock-n-roll music and everyone will certainly have their own picks for the best rock stars of the 70s. It certainly was a transitional decade as musicians who had grown up listening to music from the 50s and 60s were influenced by those artists. Rock-n-roll Pioneers of the 50s and 60s such as Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan and more fueled the evolution of the genre as artists from the 70s expanded on what had preceded them to ignite an era packed with great music.
With so much great music from the 70s, it is difficult to say which artists should be in a list of the best rock stars of the 70s. Music, like everything else, is subjective regarding what people like and dislike and that shapes how they view artists, their songs, the presentation of their music and more. Great songwriters and musicians like Stevie Wonder, whose enduring library of work that spans several decades, may not be classified by some as rock. Stevie Wonder though, is still one of the greatest artists of all time.
So, who are the best rock stars of the 70s? There are so many that deserve to be on the following list and you’ll inevitably have your own picks regarding the top 10. However, based on the influence, popularity and enduring quality of their work, here are our picks for the best rock stars of the 70s.
Honorable mention goes to Billy Joel, Black Sabbath, Neil Young, Fleetwood Mac, Bob Marley, AC/DC, Deep Purple, Creedence Clearwater Revival and more,
Often referred to as the “bad boys from Boston,” Aerosmith first broke onto the music scene in 1971, signed with Columbia Records in 1972 and released their debut album in 1973, which was simply called Aerosmith. Their unique style of hard rock, combined with pop and rhythm and blues as well as the flamboyance of lead singer Steven Tyler and the musical chops of guitarist Joe Perry and Brad Whitford, bassist Tom Hamilton, and drummer Joey Kramer resonated with audiences and critics alike.
Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001, Aerosmith has sold over 150 million records worldwide, scoring 12 multi-platinum, 18 platinum and 25 gold albums. The band has accumulated twenty-one Top 40 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, nine number-one hits, four Grammy Awards, six American Music Awards, and ten MTV Video Music Awards. In 2013, the band’s principal songwriters, Tyler and Perry, were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and in 2019, the band will receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Aerosmith is still actively touring today and selling out venues. Their latest engagement is a Las Vegas residency at the Park MGM theater.
Billboard Top 10 hits
I Don’t Want to Miss A Thing
Janie’s Got A Gun
Love In An Elevator
What It Takes
Walk This Way
You know you are special when your nickname is “the Boss” and it is synonymous with your given name, Bruce Springsteen. No doubt, Bruce Springsteen is a special artist. Springsteen first splashed onto the scene in the early seventies with the release of Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. Although the album received critical acclaim for its lyrics and blend of folk and rock, it wasn’t until 1975 with the release of Born to Run that the Jersey Shores native hit the big time. With hits like the title song, “Born to Run,” “Thunder Road,” “Jungleland,” and “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” on the album, the Boss not only broke through but cemented his place in rock-and-roll history as he followed up Born to Run with Darkness on the Edge of Town and The River.
Springsteen’s combination of working-class lyrics and high-energy, often biting, music has made him one of the most prolific and enduring songwriter/composers in the music industry. Aside from his songwriting prowess, the thing that separates Springsteen from other artists are his performances. Like his work, he throws his heart and soul into each show. The Boss can energize a crowd like no one else.
Springsteen is indeed a special artist, selling more than 135 million records worldwide, with Born to Run and Born in the USA leading the charge. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He has won 20 Grammys, two Golden Globes, an Academy Award and a Tony Award. The iconic rock star also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Billboard Top 10 hits
Dancing in The Dark
I’m On Fire
Born In The U.S.A.
Tunnel Of Love
I’m Goin Down
Streets of Philadelphia
One of the giants of the seventies, Elton John was a constant figure on the Billboard charts with songs like “Rocket Man,” “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” “Tiny Dancer,” “Crocodile Rock”and more, much more. Elton John’s music has endured throughout the decades and he is still extremely popular today.
Born Reginald Dwight, the musician changed his name to Elton John in the late sixties, formed a songwriting partnership with Bernie Taupin and released his first album, Empty Sky, in 1969. But it wasn’t until his second album in 1970, Elton John, that the composer started to make a splash with his first hit single, “Your Song.” That marked the beginning of one of the most prolific hit-making rock-and-roll artists of our time.
The flamboyant rocker, known for his colorful stage costumes and stunning live shows, has sold more than 300 million records, has racked up more than 50 top 40 hits and seven consecutive number one albums, has received five Grammys, an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, a Tony, five Brit Awards and much more. Billboard named him the he most successful male solo artist on the Billboard Hot 100 Top All-Time Artists. He is a fellow of the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors and in 1998 was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.
Billboard Top 10 hits
Bennie And The Jets
Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
I Don’t Wanna Go On With You Like That
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me
Can You Feel The Love Tonight
I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues
The Bitch Is Back
Someone Saved My Life Tonight
Candle In The Wind
Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word
Mama Can’t Buy You Love
That’s What Friends Are For
Don’t Go Breaking My Heart
The Eagles – 10 of the Best Rock Stars of the 70s
The Eagles were America’s band of the seventies. In fact, Hotel California is still the third best-selling album in the United States. Number one would be he Their Greatest Hits (1971 – 1975). Some of the greatest songs of the seventies came from this band with hits like “Take It Easy,” “Witchy Woman,” “One of These Nights,” “Take It To The Limit,” “Hotel California,” and much more.
Formed in Los Angeles in 1971, The Eagles brought a unique blend of country and rock combined with lyrical storytelling that made their music so compelling. The original band consisted of Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner. Don Felder would later join the band for On the Border and when Leadon and Meisner left the band, they were replaced by Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmidt.
The Eagles were a constant hit-making machine in the seventies, earning five number-one singles, six number-one albums, six Grammy Awards, and five American Music Awards. They have sold more than 100 million albums worldwide, making them one of the best-selling bands of all time.
The Eagles broke up in 1980 but reunited again in 1994. Despite the death of Glenn Frey in 2016, The Eagles still sell-out concert venues today.
Billboard Top 10 hits
Best of My Love
One Of These Nights
New Kid In Town
Take It To The Limit
I Can’t Tell You Why
The Long Run
Queen – 10 of the Best Rock Stars of the 70s
With the release of the movie, Bohemian Rhapsody, the story of Queen is well documented. To say the band was willing to take chances within their songwriting would be an understatement. Queen brought a new sound to the music scene that blended progressive rock with heavy metal, pop and arena rock. The result was one of the world’s best-selling music artists with over 170 million albums sold, four Brit Awards, 4 Ivor Novello Awards, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and more. Queen has received an Outstanding Contribution to British Music Award from the British Phonographic Industry, were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001, and all four members, Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon, were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2003.
Queen’s reign over the seventy’s music charts began in London in 1970. That is when the band was formed and in 1973, they released their first album, Queen and followed up with Queen II in 1974. But it wasn’t until the release Sheer Heart Attack and A Night at The Opera that Queen hit it big. Sheer Heart Attack featured “Killer Queen” and A Night at The Opera had their keystone hit, “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Those two albums set the stage for a remarkable run for Queen with hit-after-hit with songs like “Another One Bites The Dust,” “We Are The Champions,” “We Will Rock You,” “Under Pressure,” “Somebody To Love” and many more.
Although Freddie Mercury did in 1991, Queen’s music lives on as it is as popular as ever today. And for those of us who were lucky enough to see the late Freddie Mercury in concert – I did at Winterland in San Francisco in 1977 – realize what a special talent he was.
Billboard Top 10 hits
Another One Bites the Dust
Crazy Little Thing Called Love
We Are The Champions
David Bowie – 10 of the Best Rock Stars of the 70s
When David Bowie first broke onto the music scene in 1972 with the release of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars that featured the single “Starman,” nobody really knew what to think of the artist. Most labeled him a glam rocker, but his music and stage presentation went so much deeper and if you looked at “Space Oddity,” a single he released in 1969, you knew there was something fresh and exciting with this new artist. Bowie followed up Ziggy with the albums Young Americans, which featured the single “Fame,” Station to Station, Low, Heroes and Lodger. All of these were critical successes.
Bowie, born David Jones, never stopped experimenting and expanding his horizons. To say he had wide-ranging talent would be an understatement by a large degree. Bowie collaborated with Queen on the song “Under Pressure,” joined Bing Crosby on one of the best renditions of “Little Drummer Boy” you’ll ever hear, and branched out into acting with critical acclaim, appearing in The Man Who Fell to Earth, Labyrinth, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, The Last Temptation of Christ, and The Prestige. Bowie was productive in music up until his death in 2016.
During his career, Bowie racked up over 140 million in worldwide album sales, 10 platinum albums, 11 gold and eight silver. He had 11 number one albums and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.
Billboard Top 10 hits
Dancing in The Streets
The Rolling Stones – 10 of the Best Rock Stars of the 70s
You could say that The Rolling Stones were not only one of the top 10 rock artists of the seventies but the sixties and the eighties as well. Very few groups have experienced the longevity of The Rolling Stones. They are truly magnificent in the scope of time they have influenced rock-and-roll as well as their music and performances. If you’ve never seen The Rolling Stones in concert, catch them. They are tremendous.
Formed in 1962 in London, the original band consisted of Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Brian Jones, Bill Wyman and Ian Stewart. With the unfortunate passing of Brian Jones in 1969, Mick Taylor joined the band until his death in 1974. Taylor was replaced by Ronnie Wood. Wyman left the band in 1993 and was replaced by Darryl Jones.
With record sales of over 250 million from their 30 studio and 23 live albums, The Rolling Stones are one of the best-selling musical artists ever. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the UK Music Hall of Fame. They have won Grammys, were ranked number four on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time” and 10th on Billboard Hot 100 All-Time Artists.
While their music is rooted in blues and rock-and-roll, the band has experimented with different styles of the years. It doesn’t seem to matter what style they work in though. Everything they produce is gold. With so many hits and number one albums, it is hard to list them all, but the band hit their stride in the seventies with the release of the albums Sticky Fingers, Exile on Main St., and Some Girls. Those albums produced hits like “Brown Sugar,” “Wild Horses,” “Beast of Burden,” “Shattered,” “Miss You,” “Respectable,” and much more. This, to go along with their hits from the sixtieslike “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” and “Paint It Black” would have marked them as one of the greatest bands of all time but they followed up with more success in the eighties with the release of Tattoo You and Steel Wheels.” It would be hard to imagine a musical world without The Rolling Stones.
Billboard Top 10 hits
Honky Tonk Women
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
Get Off Of My Cloud
Paint It Black
Start Me Up
19th Nervous Breakdown
Jumpin’ Jack Flash
Time Is On My Side
As Tears Go By
Beast Of Burden
Mothers Little Helper
Undercover Of The Night
The Last Time
Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing In The Shadow
Fool To Cry
Pink Floyd – 10 of the Best Rock Stars of the 70s
The first time I heard Pink Floyd, I was on my way to Santa Cruz. It was 1979 and The Wall had just been released. It was a sunny day and the top was down on the Mustang when “Another Brick in The Wall” started playing on the radio. After that, I was hooked and went out and got Dark Side of The Moon, Wish You Were Here and Animals. I think I wore out the vinyl on the The Wall as I listened to that album over-and-over again. The Wall and The Dark Side of The Moon went on to become two of the best-selling albums of all time. The Wall inspired a movie with Bob Geldof playing the role of Pink.
Formed in 1965 in London, Pink Floyd was comprised of Syd Barrett, Roger Waters, Nick Mason and Richard Wright. Their first album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn was released in 1967. It was a precursor to what would become the progressive rock style of Pink Floyd. Barret left the band shortly after the release of album and was replaced by David Gilmour. That lineup stayed in place until 1979 when Wright left the group.
Pink Floyd had a monumental run during the seventies. While they experienced great commercial success, they were always at the forefront of experimentation with new concepts and sounds. Pink Floyd was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996 and the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005. One of the best-selling artists of all time, Pink Floyd has accumulated more than 250 million record sales.
Billboard Top 10 hits
Another Brick In The Wall
Like Pink Floyd, The Who actually started the late Sixties, producing a series of singles that put them on the map, “I Can’t Explain,” “My Generation,” “Substitute,” “Happy Jack” and “I Can See for Miles.” The group featured Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, John Entwistle and Keith Moon. That quartet would form the basis The Who’s rise to super stardom in the seventies, which began in 1969 with the release of the album, Tommy.
Tommy was unique. Billed as a rock opera, nobody had really heard of that at the time. Critics loved it. Fans loved it even more, especially the single from Tommy, “The Pinball Wizard.” The Who didn’t stop there though and released a string of monster albums in the seventies, Who’s Next, Quadrophenia and Who Are You, that firmly entrenched them into the annals of rock-and-roll history as one of its greatest bands. Shortly after the release of Who Are You in 1978, Keith Moon unfortunately passed away. He was replaced by Kenney Jones.
In between albums and tours, The Who collaborated with Ken Russell in 1975 to bring the rock opera, Tommy, to the big screen. The cast of Tommy was a virtual who’s who of music and screen. Roger Daltrey played Tommy, Keith Moon as Uncle Ernie and the rest of the band as themselves; however, Ann-Margret was Nora Walker, Tommy’s mother, Elton John was the Pinball Wizard, Tina Turner the Acid Queen, Eric Clapton as The Preacher, Oliver Reed as Uncle Hobbs, Jack Nicholson as The Specialist and many more. The film was a critical and box office success.
With over 100 million in record sales , The Who are one of the best-selling rock-and-roll bands of all time. They received a Lifetime Achievement award from the Grammys and the British Phonographic Industry. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990 and the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005.
The band’s music was so influential that the single “My Generation” has been included in the Grammy Hall of Fame and selected for preservation in the United States National Recording Registry. The albums, Tommy and Who’s Next have also been included in the Grammy Hall of Fame. Kennedy Center Honors were given to Roger Daltry and Pete Townshend in 2008.
Billboard Top 10 hits
I Can See For Miles
Led Zeppelin – 10 of the Best Rock Stars of the 70s
Some call Led Zeppelin the father of heavy metal. Others call them the “world’s greatest rock-and-roll bank of all time.” No matter what you call them, they are number one on our list of the top 10 rock stars of the seventies. And with good reason. From 1969 through 1979, the band produced eight defining albums, featuring some of the greatest rock-and-roll songs of all time – Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin II, Led Zeppelin III, untitled (Led Zeppelin IV), Houses of the Holy, Physical Graffiti, Presence, and In Through the Out Door. Led Zeppelin broke up in 1980 after the death of John Bonham.
Okay, so they didn’t have compelling titles for their first four albums but, the lack of creativity on the album titles was more than made up for in the songs such as “Good Times Bad Times,” “Dazed and Confused,” “Whole Lotta Love,” “Ramble on,” “Immigrant Song,” “Stairway to Heaven,” “Black Dog,” “Misty Mountain Hop,” “The Song Remains the Same,” “Kashmir,” “All My Love” and many more.
The band was originally formed in 1968 in London as the New Yardbirds and consisted of Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and John Bonham. The group changed their name to Led Zeppelin in 1969, initiating their rise to rock-and-roll royalty.
Although not fans of the critics to begin with, that changed as the anthology of music made its undeniable case. They are now considered one of the most innovative and influential rock bans in history. That is matched by their record sales of over 200 million worldwide. Each of their nine studio albums placed in the top 10 of the Billboard album chart and six reached the number-one spot. They have five Diamond albums, 14 Multi-Platinum, four Platinum and one Gold.
Led Zeppelin was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2006 and the Grammy Hall of Fame. They have received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, an Ivor Novello Lifetime Achievement Award as well as an Ivor Novello Award for “Outstanding Contribution for British Music, an American Music Award, a Polar Music Prize and were recipients of Kennedy Center Honors in 2012.
Billboard Top 10 hits
Whole Lotta Love