The 1970s marked a period of significant change in American music, as the decade that birthed disco, funk, and such rock ‘n roll subgenres as punk and new wave, spawning multiple hits across the genres along the way.
One interesting development was that, in the wake of the Stonewall riots in New York City in the summer of 1969, popular artists embracing their gay identity began to emerge. The results produced songs that were then or later became considered mainstream LGBTQ anthems like Queen’s “We Are the Champions” in 1977, the Village People’s “Y.M.C.A.” in 1978.
Those two songs are among the most successful popular music singles of the 1970s based on how high and how long they lingered on Billboard’s Top 100 chart, an industry standard that measured the popularity of songs based on sales and amounts of radio play. (Today the chart also gauges internet streams.)
To determine the 25 biggest pop hits of the 1970s, including those two, 24/7 Tempo reviewed performance data on the Billboard Hot 100 song charts. Songs were ranked based on an inverse score wherein a week at No. 1 is worth 100 points, a week at No. 2 worth 99 points, and so on, up to a week at No. 100 worth one point. Chart data is current through the week of August 20, 2022. (These are the artists with the most dominant reigns in Billboard history.)
Five of these 25 most played-and-purchased songs of that decade were produced by four brothers. Three were Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb of the Bee Gees, whose “Stayin’ Alive” and “How Deep Is Your Love” will forever be tethered to the dance moves of Tony Manero (played by John Travolta) from 1977 blockbuster film “Saturday Night Fever.” The fourth was the youngest Gibb sibling, Andy, who had a separate solo career that produced three songs on this list: “(Love Is) Thicker Than Water,” “I Just Want to be Your Everything,” and “Shadow Dancing.” (These are the 50 greatest songs from American movies.)
Twenty of the decade’s 25 best-selling singles were released from 1976 to 1978, marking the peak years of that decade in American music. Ten of these songs came out in 1977, including the soft-rock love song “Baby Come Back” by Player and “Don’t Make My Brown Eyes Blue,” by country pop singer Crystal Gayle.
Fifteen of these songs made it to No. 1 on the Billboard Top 100 chart. “You Light Up My Life” by Christian country singer Debby Boone, daughter of singer-actor Pat Boone, spent ten weeks at No. 1 while the funk-disco song “Le Freak” by R&B band Chic was No. 1 for six weeks.
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