(June 11, 2021). So SiriusXM’s “’70s on 7” pop oldies station commemorates Black Music Month this weekend by airing its countdown of the 70 greatest soul songs of the 1970s. The first airing of this special happened Friday (6/11) at 3 p.m. Eastern (12 noon Pacific) and will air again several times between now and Flag Day (June 14).
Djrobblog caught the first airing of this event and has the results right here – all 70 songs listed in order from No. 1 to No. 70!
But before we get to that, readers should know that this soul countdown came from a pop music satellite radio station…voted on by pop music fans.
Granted, the list was democratically created, generated by an online listeners’ poll the station recently conducted (although, oddly enough, I listen to this ‘70s station pretty often and don’t recall them announcing the poll’s availability).
(Spoiler alert: If you haven’t caught the countdown yet and want to be surprised when you do, don’t read much further than this.)
Anyway, as one might expect given the station’s normal playlist and likely audience demographic (older, mostly white), the list is pretty poppy.
All 70 of the soul songs listed below also reached the pop chart; in fact, all but two of them reached the pop top ten (using Billboard’s Hot 100 chart as the reference).
Ironically, the only two songs on this list that didn’t reach the top ten on the pop chart were both by Earth, Wind & Fire (“That’s The Way of the World” and “Fantasy,” which reached Nos. 12 and 32, respectively, on the Hot 100).
Interestingly, two of the seventy songs also missed the soul chart’s top 10 (Billboard’s Hot Soul Singles Chart): again one was “Fantasy” by EWF and the other Freda Payne’s “Band of Gold.” Those two songs petered out at Nos. 12 and 20 on the Soul chart during their original runs in 1978 and 1970, respectively.
Continuing with the soul vs. pop comparisons, 33 of the songs reached No. 1 on the pop chart, while 46 of them topped the soul list, which is respectable enough.
Twenty-seven of the songs topped both lists, while 35 – or half of the songs – reached No. 1 or No. 2 on both charts.
In addition to the 27 songs that reached No. 1 on both charts, only two other listed songs had matching pop and soul chart peaks: EWF’s “After The Love Has Gone,” which reached No. 2 on both lists, and Rufus ft. Chaka Khan’s “Tell Me Something Good,” which peaked at No. 3 pop and soul.
Fourteen songs peaked higher on the pop chart than they did on the soul list, while 27 did the opposite.
That’s not a bad showing for fans of pop and soul crossover hits, but this list (printed in its entirety below) leaves a lot to be desired for soul music purists.
For example, there is no Parliament/Funkadelic to be found. George Clinton was snubbed big time, which is just downright disgraceful for any greatest ‘70s soul hits list, especially one that’s seventy songs deep.
“One Nation Under A Groove,” for example, is an iconic soul music anthem plus it has the chart credentials – it reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Soul Singles list for six weeks (only two songs during the 1970s spent longer time in that position: “Let’s Stay Together” by Al Green and “Serpentine Fire” by EWF, at nine and seven weeks, respectively). “Serpentine Fire” is also non-existent on this SiriusXM countdown.
There is plenty of other EWF, however. The band from Chicago has five songs on this countdown (tied with the Spinners for the most), including the song that finished at the top – the No. 1 ranked “September” (no surprise there). Several days before this show aired, I predicted that outcome to a bunch of fellow music nostalgia fans in a Lost Pop Hits Facebook group to which I belong.
Earth, Wind & Fire will always get love from this blogger – they alternate with the disco band Chic (more on them in a minute) as my favorite group of all time. But even I will admit that “September” is a dubious choice as the No. 1 soul song of the entire 1970s decade. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great song – clearly EWF’s most enduring classic – but it just doesn’t feel like the No. 1, greatest song of the ‘70s, either by chart standards or by quality standards.
There are too many other songs – many on this list, some not – that represent the true essence of ’70s soul music better than “September.” That song gets by on its catchiness, the nostalgic factor and its more current popularity.
“September” and EWF have inspired annual celebrations across the nation every 21st night of September. It has become the “Don’t Stop Believin'” of Black music – the song that had respectable chart success when it was released but has grown tremendously in stature ever since. But even most Earth, Wind & Fire fans will tell you that the band had several songs that were superior to “September,” but those other jams just don’t get the love that this ubiquitous hit does. “Getaway” would have been a nice entry on this list, for example.
Speaking of getting no love, also omitted from this list was that other favorite group of mine, Chic. Now, I know that they’re considered more disco than soul. Still, there’s no denying the soul/funk credentials of their biggest R&B hit, “Good Times,” which sparked an entire hip-hop movement and, like “One Nation,” topped Billboard’s Soul list for six weeks – making it one of the five longest-running No. 1 songs of the decade.
Even “Le Freak” or “I Want Your Love” arguably deserved at least an entry on the list (okay, admittedly, my bias influenced that last statement, but hey).
As far as multi-format songs go, perhaps the most glaring omission was the Emotions’ “Best of My Love,” which is ironic because it was produced by EWF’s Maurice White and was heavily contributed to by his band.
“Best” spent four weeks at No. 1 on the Soul list but – even more importantly – logged FIVE weeks at No. 1 on the pop chart during the summer and fall of 1977. If any ‘70s jam was the epitome of chart crossover success during that decade and belongs on this list, it was that one.
Now, before I reveal the list, I thought readers might be interested in another countdown subplot: which one of the two most important music capitals of the era – Philadelphia and Detroit – won the battle for representation on this list?
Philly soul (songs written and/or produced by Kenneth Gamble, Leon Huff and/or Thom Bell) accounted for twelve of the 70 songs, with Philadelphia International Records accounting for five of those (the others were on the Atlantic or Avco labels by the Spinners and Stylistics, respectively).
Philly soul fans will be disappointed to learn, however, that classics by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, Teddy Pendergrass, and the label’s house band, MFSB (Mother, Father, Sister, Brother) did not even make the list (nope, there’s no “TSOP” here…sheer blasphemy!). Apparently, pop fans don’t have as much love for Soul Train’s most popular theme music, even though it also topped both the pop and soul charts – a seemingly winning formula for getting on this list.
Motown Records (the main blue label plus the Tamla and Gordy imprints) had 19 songs listed, the highest of which was Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” at No. 3. Motown was easily the most represented label here (and you thought just the 1960s were their decade!).
And speaking of Hitsville, USA, three former Motown acts did make the list with songs from their ‘70s labels, but sadly with only one hit each. Gladys Knight & the Pips took their “Midnight Train” to the runner-up position (a little higher than I expected, but I’m not knocking it…although she’s the only woman in the top ten), the Four Tops’ “Ain’t No Woman (Like The One I’ve Got)” ranked at No. 35, and the Isley Brothers’ “That Lady” placed at No. 59. If you’re looking for the latter group’s top-5 pop and soul social anthem “Fight the Power,” you won’t find it here.
All-n-all (pun intended for those who get it) it’s not a horrible list; all of the songs here are truly soul hits – big ones even. But, there’s clearly a demographic influence on the outcome, as some might have expected.
As for the list itself, brace yourself, here it is – the 70 songs voted by SiriusXM’s pop listeners as the greatest soul songs of the 1970s.
|1.||“September”||Earth, Wind & Fire||1||8|
|2.||“Midnight Train To Georgia”||Gladys Knight & the Pips||1||1|
|3.||“What’s Going On”||Marvin Gaye||1||2|
|4.||“Let’s Stay Together”||Al Green||1||1|
|5.||“Lean On Me”||Bill Withers||1||1|
|6.||“Could It Be I’m Falling In Love”||Spinners||1||4|
|7.||“You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine”||Lou Rawls||1||2|
|9.||“Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love, Babe”||Barry White||1||1|
|10.||“Me And Mrs. Jones”||Billy Paul||1||1|
|11.||“Too Late To Turn Back Now”||Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose||5||2|
|12.||“Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)”||Temptations||1||1|
|13.||“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”||Diana Ross||1||1|
|14.||“Strawberry Letter 23”||Brothers Johnson||1||5|
|16.||“Have You Seen Her”||Chi-Lites||1||3|
|17.||“I’ll Be Around”||Spinners||1||3|
|18.||“Mercy, Mercy Me”||Marvin Gaye||1||4|
|19.||“I Want You Back”||Jackson 5||1||1|
|21.||“That’s The Way Of The World”||Earth, Wind & Fire||5||12|
|22.||“Ain’t No Sunshine”||Bill Withers||6||3|
|23.||“Sir Duke”||Stevie Wonder||1||1|
|24.||“When Will I See You Again”||Three Degrees||4||2|
|25.||“Theme From ‘Shaft'”||Isaac Hayes||2||1|
|27.||“Band Of Gold”||Freda Payne||20||3|
|28.||“Proud Mary”||Ike & Tina Turner||5||4|
|29.||“Betcha By Golly Wow”||Stylistics||2||3|
|30.||“Shining Star”||Earth, Wind & Fire||1||1|
|31.||“I’ll Be There”||Jackson 5||1||1|
|32.||“Let’s Get It On”||Marvin Gaye||1||1|
|33.||“You Are The Sunshine Of My Life”||Stevie Wonder||3||1|
|34.||“The Rubberband Man”||Spinners||1||2|
|35.||“Ain’t No Woman (Like The One I’ve Got)”||Four Tops||2||4|
|36.||“You’re The First, The Last, My Everything”||Barry White||1||2|
|37.||“Papa Was A Rolling Stone”||Temptations||5||1|
|39.||“The Tears Of A Clown”||Smokey Robinson & the Miracles||1||1|
|41.||“Ladies Night”||Kool & the Gang||1||8|
|42.||“Everybody Plays The Fool”||Main Ingredient||2||3|
|43.||“After The Love Has Gone”||Earth, Wind & Fire||2||2|
|44.||“Rock Your Baby”||George McCrae||1||1|
|45.||“Reunited”||Peaches & Herb||1||1|
|46.||“Love Rollercoaster”||Ohio Players||1||1|
|47.||“You Make Me Feel Brand New”||Stylistics||5||2|
|48.||“Living For The City”||Stevie Wonder||1||8|
|49.||“Working My Way Back To You, Babe”/”Forgive Me Girl”||Spinners||6||2|
|50.||“You Sexy Thing”||Hot Chocolate||6||3|
|51.||“Kiss And Say Goodbye”||Manhattans||1||1|
|52.||“Never Can Say Goodbye”||Jackson 5||1||2|
|53.||“Got To Give It Up”||Marvin Gaye||1||1|
|54.||“Show And Tell”||Al Wilson||10||1|
|56.||“Tell Me Something Good”||Rufus||3||3|
|57.||“Fantasy”||Earth, Wind & Fire||12||32|
|58.||“Games People Play”||Spinners||1||1|
|59.||“That Lady”||Isley Brothers||2||6|
|60.||“You Don’t Have To Be A Star”||Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis, Jr.||1||1|
|62.||“Family Affair”||Sly & the Family Stone||1||1|
|63.||“Car Wash”||Rose Royce||1||1|
|64.||“This Will Be”||Natalie Cole||1||6|
|65.||“Use Ta Be My Girl”||O’Jays||1||4|
|66.||Then Came You”||Dionne Warwick & the Spinners||2||1|
|68.||“Mr. Big Stuff”||Jean Knight||1||2|
|69.||“Want Ads”||Honey Cone||1||1|
|70.||“You Can’t Change That”||Raydio||3||9|
So what do you think? Representative list? Keep checking back for updates as I populate the list with other statistics, a Spotify playlist, and other fun facts. And feel free to comment either here or in any of the social media feeds where this article is posted.
Oh, and here’s that Spotify playlist of the countdown for your listening pleasure.
DJRob is a freelance music blogger from somewhere on the East Coast who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop and rock genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff! You can follow him on Twitter at @djrobblog.
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