17 January 2009

No Music Like '70s Music

People (a lot of them, I hardly know) keep asking me why the ‘70s was such a great time for music… and why the era’s tunes are far superior to the music of other decades.

I have no answers myself but I suspect that the blossoming of our very own original Pinoy music must have been the result of so much stress during that period: martial law, curfew, a ban on long hair, arrogant soldiers, peer pressure to do dope, the agony of not being able to watch a movie showing an exposed nipple (for 3 seconds) if you don't have a cedula, etc.

‘Stressors’ appear to be the same factor that unleashed a musical renaissance in the Western world. I stumbled upon this article by Megan LeMasurier which appears to validate my theory…

American music of the 1970's relaxed a culture that was recovering from the tumultuous and trying 1960's. The Vietnam War, two Kennedy assassinations as well as the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. were just a few of the tragedies the American public suffered during the previous decade.

Music as a whole responded to the stressors and moved into an era of sound that emphasized peace, understanding, and having a good time. Rock and Roll and Disco simultaneously made many major contributions to the sound of the time. Some of the most popular artists included John Lennon and the Beatles, Chicago, the Bee Gees, Van McCoy, Gloria Gaynor, Kiss, Led Zeppelin, and The Doors, just to name a few. Americans in the 1970's depended on music; the best songs were those that struck (and often continue to strike) an emotional chord with listeners and brought them to their feet and onto the dance floor.

The Disco genre serves as the earmark of the seventies, making its strongest emergence after the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. With classic hits like the Bee Gees "Jive Talkin'" (1975) and Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" (1978) leading the way, Americans danced their way toward happiness. But it was undeniably the hit song (and accompanying dance craze) "The Hustle," brought to the airwaves by Van McCoy in 1975, which became the anthem of clubs and discos.

For the second consecutive decade, America looked to the Beatles, and specifically John Lennon for guidance. In March of 1970 the title track off of the Beatles' album "Let It Be" was released to the public. With mostly positive critical acclaim, "Let It Be" makes a plea for peace, calm, and agreement between the parted parties of the world during a time of war and unrest. That song was followed by the single from Lennon's second solo album, released in 1971, "Imagine". With its global universality, "Imagine" established itself as the theme song of peace and harmony.

A plethora of love songs emerged from the seventies. Listeners had traded Free Love for True Love, and it showed in the songs of artists such as Boston and Chicago. In Boston's "More Than A Feeling", the lead singer is aching for Marianne, a love that has slipped away from him. Anyone who has heard Chicago's "If You Leave Me Now" only needs to hear the first few bars to sigh and swoon a bit and remember a time when they lost "the biggest part" of themselves. This song continues to resonate with audiences and serves as a solid example of some of the fantastic music that emerged from the seventies. The Bee Gees had another notable hit with "How Deep Is Your Love". This song glorifies the love interest of the narrator, expressing his deepest affection for her, and asking her to simply return the favor, while ignoring the fools in the world trying to break them apart. Not since the 1950's had radio expressed so much interest in finding and keeping true love, though the True Love of the 1970's was far less nave than that of the 1950's.

Bands like The Doors and Kiss altered the face of Rock and Roll, quite literally and permanently. Though they initially gained popularity in the 1960's, The Doors altered their sound in the 1970's, turning to music based more in Blues. Jim Morrison established himself as the epitome of Rock n Roll greatness; men wanted to be him and women wanted to be with him. Kiss crashed onto the music scene, bringing with them a stage show that was over-the-top, and extremely stimulating visually. With their stage personas breathing fire and spitting blood, and their guitars exploding during solos, who wouldn't be entertained? The most identifiable Kiss song, and the first of six Top 20 songs from the band in the 1970's, is the classic "Rock and Roll All Nite". The song was released in 1975 and speaks volumes for American attitudes of the time.

Led Zeppelin may have been the biggest band to come out of 1970's Rock and Roll. To pick one song and say it is their greatest is a near impossibility. Many could claim "Stairway To Heaven" as their top track, but very few good bands can be defined by a single song, and Led Zeppelin is no exception to that rule. Truly, if one were to make a list of just the greatest Led Zeppelin songs, it would not be a short list in itself. Having released two albums at the tail end of the sixties, Led Zeppelin already had an established fan base follow them into the seventies. Their one of a kind blend of blues and rock was already well known, and they continued this trend on their third album ("Led Zeppelin III, 1970") while incorporating an acoustic feel as well. "Immigrant Song" was their first single to be released in the seventies and still receives airtime to this day. "Led Zeppelin IV" (1971) contained a number of incredible songs, including "Stairway To Heaven". Some of the stand out songs from the album are "Black Dog", "Going to California", and "When the Levee Breaks".

Social change and global unrest served as a catalyst in the 1970's, giving birth to some of the greatest music of all time. Bands like The Doors, Kiss, the Bee Gees, Chicago, and Led Zeppelin are gaining new fans everyday. Their music has stood the test of time thus far, and will continue to do so as long as people like to hear good music.