The 70s was an odd, but rich, decade. Looking at it from strictly a musical point-of-view, it covered A LOT of ground: from the end of The Beatles; to arena rock; to funk and proto-hip-hop; to punk and New Wave. Oh, and did we mention disco?
But for straight-up quirky lyrics, it’d be hard to top the soft-rock musings of artists that’d now find themselves mostly on Yacht Rock playlists.
Maybe it was something about the inward-focused “Me Decade” zeitgeist, or the warm smell of colitas rising up through the air, but the songwriters of the time managed to roll up some genuinely memorable turns of phrases.
Please let us nominate a few lines for our “Most 70s Lyric Ever” list:
– “There were plants and birds and rocks and things.”
Songwriter Dewey Bunnell explained that “A Horse with No Name” was “a metaphor for a vehicle to get away from life’s confusion into a quiet, peaceful place.” It’s an undeniably catchy tune, but it does seem a bit odd to run out of things to list after, you know, three items. Of course, this was soon followed by “’Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain.” For pure 70s-style, weed-scented navel-gazing, this is hard to beat.
– “Blowin’ thru the jasmine of my mind.”
If there were ever an era to have some jasmine of your mind, whatever that is, the 70s was it. It’s hard to know what those words mean, exactly, but they’ve got a vibe. Rolling Stone named it #13 on the list of “best summer songs of all time.” Plus, any song that gets covered by both the Isley Brothers and Type O Negative has got something going for it.
– “I’m a joker. I’m a smoker. I’m a midnight toker.” (Not to mention, “’Cause I speak of the pompatus of love.”)
Steve Miller covers a lot more ground than soft rock, of course, but this one lands pretty squarely in the mellow sweet spot of the time. He was also a savvy early recycler, using “pompatus” in two songs; and the “Fly Like an Eagle” riff twice.
– “We are real, and we are burnin’, hey.”
Seals and Crofts earn two spots on this list, as they really did nail the soft-rock thing completely. “Burnin’” is probably not the first description you’d apply to these guys, but “Diamond Girl” is undeniably one of the masterworks of the genre. Get the yacht ready…
– “Moonlight. Feels Right.”
If you’re gonna have one hit, make it a monster, as Starbuck did in 1976. The record’s success is a great story of perseverance, as the band delivered the single, by hand, to over 400 radio stations; but it took months before one started the ball rolling by playing it in the warm spring season. It was a smart move, as the song does conjure a languid summer feeling that fits its time splendidly.
Of course, there are lots of other memorable lyrics, in many other genres, from that time. (“You drive us wild, we’ll drive you crazy” or “Here’s a chance to dance our way out of our constrictions,” anyone?)
Please let us know which lyrics bring you back. We’d love to hear from you.
(Photo: Warner Brothers Records, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)
PS. We first posted this in 2022, but with the summer breezes starting to blow again, it seemed a good time to revisit…