1975 – New Inventions, A Disappearance
Bill Gates and Peter Allen made this a banner year by creating and registering the Microsoft trademark. Motorola obtained a patent for the first portable mobile phone. Ex-Teamsters Union Boss Jimmy Hoffa disappears never to be seen again. President Gerald R. Ford declares the 9.2% unemployment rate to be a recession. Our 1975-79 music and mood rocked on together
Pop duo The Captain and Tennille showed us how “Love Will Keep Us Together,” making it to the top of the ladder with the song, which mostly just made us feel good without a lot of message except that of loving and being loved.
Glen Campbell had a crossover hit with “Rhinestone Cowboy” He recorded it because he identified with its message of survival when the going gets tough. Lyrics included “There’ll be a load of compromising on the road to my horizon, but I’m going to see the lights shining on me….like a Rhinestone Cowboy,” and so he did. The song made it to #1 on the charts for a week, was knocked out of its lofty spot, then returned to claim #1 on both the country and pop charts at the same time.
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Fame can sometimes be a fleeting thing, but not when you’re David Bowie and you record a song called “Fame.” The song was given that name in conversations about the downside of celebrity with John Lennon of The Beatles. Both Bowie and Lennon are credited, along with Carlos Alomar (the guitarist) with the writing, and on the recording Lennon’s voice is also heard singing “Fame, fame, fame!”
How could you not be enchanted with a group with the name “Earth, Wind and Fire?” There are lots of us who feel that way and this group has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame. Their big break was “Shining Star,” which Rolling Stone Magazine said “changed the sound of black pop.” The song was an inspiration for many rising artists of the time, not only because of the group’s triumph, but because the lyrics encouraged, “Shining Star for you to see what you’re life can truly be.” Shining Star registered #1 on both the pop and R&B charts at the same time.
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Frankie Valli without the Four Seasons? Who would have thought that he would record a song without his backup group that would hit #1 in the country? Evidently someone did and it DID! His recording of “My Eyes Adored You,” eventually made its way into the group repertoire, but made it to the top on its own.
1976 – Independence, Disco and Controversy
Showing off our freedom, we celebrated 200 years of freedom from England and in being the United States of America. In political news Republican Gerald R. Ford was defeated in the run for President by Democrat Jimmy Carter. At the same time, not only was disco coming on strong, but so were the controversial lyrics in them. We were getting more independent all the time. Still, we were happily on the dance floor.
Johnnie Taylor and the Muscle Shoals Band recorded the first song to include the word “disco” in its title; “Disco Lady.” It also gathered claim to another first; it became the first platinum single for a disco song. It stayed on the top spot in the charts for four weeks, and stayed on the R&B charts for six.
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“Don’t Go Breaking My Heart,” by Elton John and Kiki Dee, did “double duty” hitting #1 on the U.S. charts for four straight weeks, then #1 in the United Kingdom for six weeks. It was John’s sixth #1 hit.
“Play That Funky Music,” drew lots of conversation as well as buyers of the recording for the group Wild Cherry, becoming their only hit. It sold over two million copies and was certified platinum by Recording Industry Association of America. It became popular both for its catchy sound, but also for the controversial entreaty, ..”play that funky music white boy!”
Rod Stewart sang out the controversial lyrics in “Tonight’s The Night,” suggesting a seduction with “Loosen off that pretty French gown, let me pour you a good long drink, oooh baby, don’t you hesitate,” and “You’d be a fool to stop this tide, spread your wings and let me come inside.” His girlfriend of the time, Britt Ekland sang the sexy French words at the end of the song.
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“Kiss and Say Goodbye,” was a big hit for a group known as The Manhattans and spent two weeks at the #1 spot on both pop and R&B charts. There was also controversy in the lyrics since they were spoken to a lover with whom the singer was ending their relationship, because “I won’t be able to see you anymore, because of my obligations and the ties that you have.” As strong as his feelings for her are, he wants her to “turn and walk away, don’t look back. I wanna remember you just like this. Let’s just kiss and say goodbye.” The lyrics intimate that they’re both married or committed to another but have had an affair.
1977 – Population Growth, Awards and Gas Rationing
This year the United States population figures rose to 216 million and the Trans-Atlantic Oil Pipeline opened. Martin Luther King Jr., the great civil rights activist, was awarded the Medal of Freedom posthumously. We were cautioned by President Jimmy Carter to conserve gas as supplies were limited. It was not uncommon to see long lines at gasoline stations and their pumps sometimes closed from lack of gas. But our music went on, as a refuge and distraction from the cares of everyday life.
Perhaps we were looking for someone to give us the sense of everything is bright and sunny, but whatever it was, “You Light Up My Life,” by Debby Boone (daughter of recording star Pat Boone) topped the charts for a record busting 10 weeks. The chorus rang out “You light up my life, you give me hope to carry on,” and although it was written as a love song Boone proclaimed that it was God who lit up her life. The song was also a cross over since it was simultaneously #1 on both pop and country charts.
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“I Just Want To Be Your Everything,” written by Barry Gibb of the BeeGees and his youngest brother Andy Gibb quickly went to the top of the charts and stayed there for four weeks. It remained in the Top 40 for a full 23 weeks, one of the longest runs at that time. “If you give a little more than you’re asking for, your love will turn the key,” was part of the sing-along chorus.
Barbra Streisand starred in a movie re-make of “A Star Is Born,” in which her #1 selling song “Evergreen” was the theme music. The song earned an Academy Award for Best Original Song. Opening lines were, “Love, soft as an easy chair, love fresh as the morning air,” comforted and transported us away from the everyday drudgery. Three weeks at the top of the pop chart, it went on to kick around on the adult contemporary chart for six weeks.
A group that entranced and entertained us in the last few years of the 70s was Abba. Their rendition of a #1 song caused every woman to put herself into the special shoes of the “Dancing Queen.” What’s more, the song was in the #1 spot in 13 countries simultaneously, a rare occurrence. Even those of us who didn’t qualify chronologically felt the energy and sweetness of our young lives when we heard “You are the dancing queen, young and sweet, only seventeen.”
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A young singer named Mary McGregor had a #1 hit in this year with her recording of a song that portrayed something many of us have experienced; “Torn Between Two Lovers.” It was originally meant to be sung by a man, as it was inspired by the move Dr. Zhivago, and was about a man in love with two women. Of course, we women made it our anthem in many instances, as the lyrics began “There are times when a woman has to say what’s on her mind, even though she knows how much it’s gonna hurt,” and the singer goes on to confess that although she loves the man she’s singing to, she also loves another. The popular chorus ran, “Torn between two lovers, feelin’ like a fool, lovin’ both of you is breaking all the rules.” But we loved feeling that bit of danger and ambivalence in our love lives, at least vicariously.
1978 – Cellular Phones, Computer Games, Goodbye Volkswagen Beetle
In 1978 the first cellular mobile phone is introduced, and Space Invaders, the arcade game, forever changed our world with a craze for computer games. The movies “Grease,” “Saturday Night Fever,” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” are shown in theaters around the world. The Volkswagen Beetle halted production of the beloved bug after the manufacture of 20 million of them. Pope John Paul II, nicknamed “The Polish Pope,” succeeds John Paul I, who died suddenly after 33 days of of occupying the papacy. Disco music was still going strong and our world kept on turning.
“Night Fever” written and performed by the BeeGees was incorporated into the movie “Saturday Night Fever.” For over two months the song remained #1 on the charts. “Listen to the ground, there is movement all around, there is something going down, and I can feel it!” It replaced younger brother Andy Gibb’s #1, and was in turn replaced by another song, also written by the BeeGees. 1978 was a great year for these brothers.
Andy Gibb’s recording of “Shadow Dancing” stayed at the top of the charts for seven weeks. The lyrics, sang by the handsome young star, melted womanly hearts with its beginning “You got me looking at that heaven in your eyes, I was chasing your direction, I was telling you no lies, and I was loving you…” He was the first male solo artist to chart three consecutive number one singles.
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Another BeeGees hit “Stayin’ Alive,” from the soundtrack of “Saturday Night Fever,” hit the top of the charts and stayed there for four weeks. We probably all remember the opening lines, “Well you can tell by the way I use my walk, I’m a woman’s man, no time to talk, music loud and women warm, I’ve been kicked around since I was born,” and it became the BeeGees signature song.
Surprise, surprise!! NOT! Because “If I Can’t Have You,” was another hit, written and performed by the BeeGees. But it1979 was first released by Yvonne Elliman while the BeeGees were involved in the production of “Saturday Night Fever.” It became a smash hit, topping the charts for her. Later it was released by the BeeGees on the B-side of “Stayin’ Alive.”
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The Commodores made it over the top with “Three Times A Lady,” with their romantic love song written by Lionel Richie. A passionate declaration of love, “now that we’ve come to the end of our rainbow, there’s something I must say out loud, you’re once, twice, three times a lady and I love you.” On many dance floors women responded to the sentiments in these words. It was the only MoTown song to reach the top 10 this year.
1979 – The Year of the Woman, and Hoarding of Gasoline
Women made great strides in careers in this year, as indicated by the very first female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Margaret Thatcher. Women were responsible for much of our top music too, as evidenced by the top hits. The price of a gallon of gasoline kept rising steadily, and outrageously and hoarding gasoline became a hobby. Many of us solved the dilemma by just plugging our Walkman by Sony earpieces in and singing along as we walked. We still and forever, had our music.
The group we’d come to expect to see in the top spot on the charts did it again! The BeeGees “Too Much Heaven,” hit gold, with all the proceeds of the recording going to UNICEF to celebrate the International Year of the Child. As the chorus proclaimed, “Nobody gets too much heaven no more, it’s much harder to come by. I’m waiting in line, nobody gets too much love anymore, it’s as high as a mountain, and harder to climb.” Barry Gibb in speaking of the departure from disco for this recording said, “the group wanted to move in a Rhythm and Blues direction.” The move didn’t seem to hurt their popularity at all.
Gloria Gaynor sang her heart out with probably what is one of womanhood’s strongest anthems, “I Will Survive,” as she called on her inner strength following a devastating relationship breakup. Lyrics made it plain, “Go on now, go, walk out the door, just turn around now, ’cause you’re not welcome anymore. Weren’t you the one who tried to hurt me with goodbye? You think I’d crumble, you think I’d lay down and die? Oh no, not I, I will survive.” The song’s empowerment extended not only to femininity, but also to gay civil rights and HIV/AIDS survivors. It won the first and only Grammy Award for Best Disco Recording in 1980.
Donna Summer did her part for women in a somewhat different way. Her earlier recording of the sexy “Love to Love You Baby,” made her uncomfortable, because it wasn’t in keeping with her beliefs. Then she recorded “Bad Girls,” and found herself with a huge hit, but no control over her own life. In early 1979 she collapsed from exhaustion only regaining control after becoming a born-again Christian. Part of the lyrics of “Bad Girls,” was “Bad Girls, talking ’bout the sad girls, sad girls, talking about bad girls. See them out on the street at night, walkin’, pickin’ up all kinds of strangers, if the price is right.” Disco was fading and Summer signed with a new record company that gave her more artistic control, but “Bad Girls” became her best selling album of all time.
And then along came the duo Peaches and Herb with a Rhythm and Blues song, “Reunited.” In private life they were Francine Hurd Barker and Herb Fame. The song became a crossover hit topping both pop and soul charts for four weeks as #1. The chorus of the song was one everyone could and did sing “Reunited and it feels so good, reunited ’cause we understood, there’s one perfect fit and sugar, this one is it, we both are so excited, ’cause we’re reunited, hey, hey!” The original Peaches was replaced several times by other females, with Herb Fame continuing on with their act.
Finally, in 1979 there was a recording that everyone knows when they see the arm gestures referring to it, even without the music. I’m speaking of course, of the song “YMCA”, by The Village People which is played, sung and performed at almost every musical gathering…at least once! The tune is often used in parodies to fit other occasions. The recording hit #1 throughout the world after it played on American Bandstand. Dick Clark, longtime guru of the Bandstand, noticed the crowd doing these arm gestures and showed it to Victor Willis, the writer of the lyrics. Willis realized it was a “natural” for the song and incorporated it into their act. And to this day, that’s the way it’s performed.
I hope you enjoyed this little jaunt through the last half of the 1970s with me. If you are interested in purchasing the spotlighted recordings now’s your chance. They’re available to purchase below from Amazon.