Popular music in the 1970s
Written by MarkCarney on 24th May 2016
In North America, Europe, and Oceania, the decade saw the rise of disco, which became one of the biggest genres of the decade, especially in the mid-to-late 1970s. In Europe, a variant known as Euro disco rose in popularity towards the end of the 1970s. Aside from disco, funk, smooth jazz, jazz fusion, and soul remained popular throughout the decade. It is this influx of popular music that soon transformed into rock and roll during the Early 1970s. Rock music played an important part in the Western musical scene, with punk rock thriving throughout the mid to late 1970s. Other subgenres of rock, particularly glam rock, hard rock, progressive, art rock and heavy metal achieved various amounts of success. Other genres such as reggae were innovative throughout the decade and grew a significant following. Hip hop emerged during this decade, but was slow to start and did not become significant until the late 1980s. Classical began losing a little momentum; however, through invention and theoretical development, this particular genre gave rise to experimental classical and minimalist music by classical composers. A subgenre of classical, film scores, remained popular with movie-goers. Alongside the popularity of experimental music, the decade was notable for its contributions to electronic music, which rose in popularity with the continued development of synthesizers and harmonizers; more composers embraced this particular genre, gaining the notice of listeners who were looking for something new and different. Its rising popularity, mixed with the popular music of the period, led to the creation of synthpop. Pop also had a popularity role in the 1970s.
In Asia, music continued to follow varying trends. In Japan, the decade saw several musical phases, including the highly popular folk-influenced fōku, as well as greater experimentation with electronic music, ranging from developments in synthpop, electro, and Electronic Dance Music, created through different Japanese artists and bands such as Yellow Magic Orchestra.
In Latin America and the Iberian Peninsula, the Nueva canción movement peaked in popularity and was adopted as the music of the hippie, Liberation Theology, and New Left movements. Cumbia music began its internationalization as regional scenes rose outside Colombia. merengue experienced mainstream exposure across Latin America and the southern US border states.
In Africa, especially Nigeria, the genre known as Afrobeat gained a following throughout the 1970s.
Hard rock, arena rock and heavy metal
The 1970s saw the emergence of hard rock as one of the most prominent subgenres of rock music with acts such as Alice Cooper, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Queen, Nazareth, Black Sabbath and Blue Öyster Cult were highly popular during the first half of the decade. By the second half of the decade, many other acts had also achieved stardom, namely, AC/DC, Kiss, Aerosmith, Van Halen and Ted Nugent.
Arena rock grew in popularity through rock acts such as Styx and The Who.
Psychedelic rock declined in popularity after the deaths of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison of The Doors, the self-imposed seclusion of Syd Barrett from Pink Floyd, and the break-up of The Beatles in 1970.
Country rock and Southern rock
Country rock, formed from the fusion of rock music with Country music, gained its greatest commercial success in the 1970s, beginning with non-country artists such as Bob Dylan, Gram Parsons, and The Byrds. By the mid-1970s, Linda Ronstadt, along with other newer artists such as Emmylou Harris and The Eagles, were enjoying mainstream success and popularity that continues to this day. The Eagles themselves emerged as one of the most successful rock acts of all time, producing albums that included Hotel California (1976).
During the 1970s, a similar style of country rock called southern rock (fusing rock, country, and blues music, and focusing on electric guitars and vocals) was enjoying popularity with country audiences, thanks to such non-country acts as The Ozark Mountain Daredevils, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Allman Brothers Band, and The Marshall Tucker Band.
The American brand of prog rock varied from the eclectic and innovative Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart, and Blood, Sweat and Tears, to more pop rock oriented bands like Boston, Foreigner, Journey, Kansas and Styx. These, beside British bands Supertramp and Electric Light Orchestra, all demonstrated a prog rock influence and while ranking among the most commercially successful acts of the 1970s, ushering in the era of pomp or arena rock, which would last until the costs of complex shows (often with theatrical staging and special effects), would be replaced by more economical rock festivals as major live venues in the 1990s.
Many American bands in the late seventies began experimenting with synthesizers, forming the new wave style. The original American bands included Talking Heads, The Cars, and Devo. In the 1980s, Britain would respond with the synthpop style, which broadened the definition of “new wave”.
Combining elements of punk rock and pop music, bands such as The Romantics, The Knack, and Cheap Trick created the “power pop” sound. Also seeing mild success is Loverboy.
The mid-1970s saw the rise of punk music from its protopunk-garage band roots in the 1960s and early 1970s. The Ramones, Patti Smith, and Blondie were some of the earliest American Punk rock acts to make it big in both the United Kingdom and the United States. Punk music has also been heavily associated with a certain punk fashion and absurdist humour which exemplified a genuine suspicion of mainstream culture and values. Blondie quickly lost their punk roots going on to become a pop/ska/reggae band.
Blues rock remains popular, with Eric Clapton, ZZ Top, and George Thorogood seeing the greatest success. Freddie King started moving from straight blues to blues rock since the genre was now mostly popular among white audiences. Stress from nonstop touring resulted in his death at the age of 42 in 1976.
Soft rock and Pop
Some of the more notable pop/soft rock groups during the 1970s were the Carpenters, the Jackson 5, Seals & Crofts, The Doobie Brothers, Hall & Oates, Bread, Captain & Tennille, Tony Orlando and Dawn, Bay City Rollers, and The Osmonds.
Soloists who characterized the pop music of the era included Barry Manilow, Andy Gibb, Elvis Presley, Neil Diamond, Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Marvin Gaye, Cat Stevens, James Taylor, Eric Clapton, Barry White, and Rod Stewart. Female soloists who epitomized the 1970s included Linda Ronstadt, Carly Simon, Roberta Flack, Donna Summer, Barbra Streisand, Rita Coolidge, Olivia Newton-John and Helen Reddy.
Some of the most popular music acts of the day got their own network television variety shows, which were very popular in the 70s. Acts like Sonny & Cher, Glen Campbell, John Denver, Tony Orlando and Dawn, husband and wife team Captain & Tennille, brother and sister Donny & Marie Osmond.
Soft rock was prominently featured on many Top 40 and contemporary hit radio stations throughout the 1970s. Soft rock often used acoustic instruments and placed emphasis on melody and harmonies. Major soft rock artists of the 1970s included Carole King, James Taylor, Billy Joel, Chicago, America, and Fleetwood Mac, whose Rumours (1977) was the best-selling album of the decade. (See the country music section of this article for more about country music that crossed over onto the pop charts.) Bob Dylan’s 1975–1976 Rolling Thunder Revue reunited him with a number of folk-rock acts from his early days of performing, most notably Joan Baez, who returned to the charts in 1975 with “Diamonds & Rust”.
Some of the most successful singers and songwriters were: Jackson Browne, James Taylor, Jim Croce, John Denver, Neil Diamond, Barry Gibb, Stevie Wonder, Carole King, Elton John, Don McLean, Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, Kris Kristofferson, Carly Simon, Donna Summer, and Gordon Lightfoot — some had previously been primarily songwriters but began releasing albums and songs of their own. King’s album Tapestry became one of the top-selling albums of the decade, and the song “It’s Too Late” became one of the 1970s biggest songs. McLean’s 1971 song “American Pie,” inspired by the death of Buddy Holly, became one of popular music’s most-recognized songs of the 20th century, thanks to its abstract and vivid storytelling, which center around “The Day the Music Died” and popular music of the rock era.
The early 1970s marked the departure of Diana Ross from The Supremes and the break-up of Simon & Garfunkel and The Beatles. All continued hugely successful recording careers throughout the decade. Some of their songs are that among the hits of the early 1970s: Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, Simon’s solo hit “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover”, The Beatles “Let It Be”, Paul McCartney’s “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey”, George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord”, and Ross’ “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”.
R&B and urban
Along with disco, funk was one of the most popular genres of music in the 1970s. Primarily an African-American genre, it was characterized by the heavy use of bass and “wah-wah” pedals. Rhythm was emphasized over melody. Artists such as James Brown, The Meters, Parliament-Funkadelic and Sly And The Family Stone pioneered the genre. It then spawned artists such as Stevie Wonder, Rufus (band), The Brothers Johnson, Kool & The Gang, Earth, Wind & Fire, Bootsy’s Rubber Band, King Floyd, Tower of Power, Ohio Players, The Commodores, War, Confunkshun, Gap Band, Slave, Cameo, the Bar-Kays, Zapp, and many more. Other popular artists with the mainstream were Bill Withers, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Three Dog Night, The Stylistics, The Fifth Dimension, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, The O’Jays, Barry White and Issac Hayes.
The 1970s saw African-American audiences shift away from genres like rock and blues which had originally been invented and dominated by black musicians. While blues performers like B.B. King and Albert King remained successful, they changed to a mostly white audience. Soul, R&B, and funk became the predominate music styles among black artists and audiences.
Roberta Flack had two of the biggest hits of the decade with The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, from the Clint Eastwood movie Play Misty for Me; and Killing Me Softly. Both were # 1 hits on the pop charts and she became the first artist and the only female artist to win back to back Grammy Awards for Record of the Year. Stevie Wonder who topped the charts five times during the decade with songs such as You Are the Sunshine of My Life and Sir Duke had a unique treble. He won Grammy Awards for both best male Pop and R & B vocal performance in 1974, 75, & 77.
The Jackson 5 became one of the biggest pop-music phenomena of the 1970s, playing from a repertoire of rhythm and blues, pop and later disco. The Jacksons — brothers Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon and Michael — the first act in recording history to have their first four major label singles: “I Want You Back”, “ABC”, “The Love You Save”, and “I’ll Be There” reach the top of the Billboard Hot 100. The band served as the launching pad for the solo careers of their lead singers Jermaine and Michael, both had some solo success in the early part of the decade. Jermaine with top 10 hit Daddy’s Home and Michael topped the charts with Ben theme song to the movie. Other family acts included Gladys Knight & the Pips who topped the charts with Midnight Train to Georgia, Sly & the Family Stone who brought Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) and Family Affair to the top spot. As well as The Staple Singers with I’ll Take You There and Let’s Do It Again theme song to a 1975 Sidney Poitier/Bill Cosby movie. The Sylvers with Boogie Fever and The Emotions with Best of My Love.
The Emotions were a girl group which were still popular in soul music, Honey Cone had a chart topping hit with Want Ads, as did Labelle with Lady Marmalade and A Taste of Honey with Boogie Oogie Oogie. Other examples of the girl group were Love Unlimited and The Three Degrees who scored a number two pop hit with When Will I See You Again but topped the chart when they teamed with Mother, Sister, Father, Brother (MSFB) on the Sound of Philadelphia (TSOP).
The Commodores were another group that played from a diverse repertoire, including R&B, funk, and pop. Lionel Richie, who went on to even greater success as a solo artist in the 1980s, fronted the group’s biggest 1970s hits, including “Easy”, “Three Times a Lady”, and “Still”.
A number of styles defined country music during the 1970s decade. At the beginning of the decade, the countrypolitan — an offshoot of the earlier “Nashville Sound” of the late 1950s and early 1960s — and the honky-tonk fused Bakersfield Sound were some of the more popular styles.
The countrypolitan sound — a polished, streamlined sound featuring string sections, background vocals and crooning lead vocalists — was popularized by artists including Lynn Anderson, Glen Campbell, Anne Murray, Dottie West, Tammy Wynette and others, achieving their successes through such songs as “(I Never Promised You a) Rose Garden”, “Snowbird”, and others. The Bakersfield sound, first popularized in the early 1960s, continued its peak in popularity through artists such as Buck Owens and Merle Haggard.
But other styles began to emerge during the 1970s. One of the more successful styles was “outlaw country”, a type of music blending the traditional and honky tonk sounds of country music with rock and blues music, and mixed with the anger of an alienated subculture of the nation during the period. The leaders of the movement were Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson, although others associated with the movement were David Allan Coe, Jessi Colter, Tompall Glaser, Gary Stewart and Billy Joe Shaver. The efforts of Jennings, Nelson, Colter and Glaser were encapsulated in the 1976 album Wanted! The Outlaws.
The country pop sound was a successor to the countrypolitan sound of the early 1970s. In addition to artists such as Murray and Campbell, several artists who were not initially marketed as country were enjoying crossover success with country audiences through radio airplay and sales. The most successful of these artists included The Bellamy Brothers, Charlie Rich, John Denver, Olivia Newton-John, Marie Osmond, B. J. Thomas and Kenny Rogers. Newton-John, an Australian pop singer, was named Female Vocalist of the Year by the Country Music Association in 1974, sparking a debate that continues to this day — what is country music? A group of traditional-minded artists, troubled by this trend, formed the short-lived Association of Country Entertainers, in an attempt to bring back traditional honky-tonk sounds to the forefront, setting the stage for the neotraditional country revival that would become particularly prominent in the early 1980s. The debate continued into 1975, a year where six songs reached No. 1 on both the Billboard Hot Country Singles and Billboard Hot 100 charts. Things came to a head when, at that year’s CMA Awards, Rich — the reigning Entertainer of the Year, and himself a crossover artist — presented the award to his successor, “my good friend, Mr. John Denver.” His statement, taken as sarcasm, and his setting fire to the envelope (containing Denver’s name) with a cigarette lighter were taken as a protest against the increasing pop style in country music (this despite Rich himself having made his name with songs that crossed over from country into the pop and adult contemporary charts).
By the later half of the 1970s, Dolly Parton, a highly successful traditional-minded country artist since the late 1960s, mounted a high-profile campaign to crossover to pop music, culminating in her 1977 hit “Here You Come Again”, which peaked at No. 1 country and No. 3 pop. Of her 25 career No. 1 hits, 11 of them came during the 1970s. Parton, also became the female country music artist to host her own variety show, Dolly!, which aired during the 1976-77 season. Rogers, the former lead singer of The First Edition, followed up a successful career in pop, rock and folk music by switching to country music. Like Parton, whom he would record with in the 1980s and thereafter, Rogers enjoyed a long series of successful songs that charted on both the Hot Country Singles and Billboard Hot 100 charts; the first of the lot was “Lucille,” a No. 1 country and No. 5 pop hit. Crystal Gayle, Ronnie Milsap, Eddie Rabbitt, and Linda Ronstadt were some of the other artists who also found success on both the country and pop charts with their records as well.
The most successful of the female artist in the 1970s was Loretta Lynn, releasing her best selling album, Coal Miner’s Daughter, in 1970. She gained a total of 7 number one albums, and 20 number one hit singles including her biggest hit single, “Coal Miner’s Daughter” which was released in 1970 and peaked at #1 on the Billboard Top Country Singles Chart for 3 weeks and has sold over 500,000 copies to date. Several of Lynn’s siblings gained national recording contracts, and it was her youngest sister, Gayle (born Brenda Gail Webb), who would become by far the most successful. Although she has recorded and/or performed traditional country, Gayle’s primary style was country pop, and by forging her own path rather than mimicking her famous sister’s style, she had several tremendously successful songs, most notably “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue.” Lynn also recorded with Conway Twitty multiple times during the 1970s, and had five No. 1 singles together, including “After the Fire Is Gone.” Like Lynn, Twitty had family — in this case, his children — who also recorded and had songs make the top 40 of the Billboard country chart, but none of them had sustained, long-term success.
Besides Lynn-Twitty duet pairing, there were other notable duet pairings during the 1970s, including George Jones and Tammy Wynette. Married in 1968, the two had their first duet hit together in 1972 with “Take Me” (a remake of Jones’ 1965 solo hit), and went on to have three No. 1 hits together. The two went through an acrimonious divorce in 1975, due in part to Jones’ increasingly erratic behavior worsened by substance abuse problems, but the two did continue recording together afterward, releasing their most successful hit, the ironic “Golden Ring” (a song about how a wedding ring is meaningless without true love) in 1976. As a solo artist, Jones continued to maintain his hold as the premiere honky-tonk artist of the genre, recording songs of broken relationships (“The Grand Tour,” “The Door” and “Her Name Is”) and bitterness (“These Days I Barely Get By”), but the aforementioned substance abuse and behavioral issues restrained his own success and by the end of the decade, his life was wildly out of control.
The 1970s continued a trend toward a proliferation of No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart. In 1970, there were 23 songs that reached the top spot on the chart, but by the mid-1970s, more than 40 titles rotated in and out of the top spot for the first time in history. The trend temporarily reversed itself by the late 1970s, when about 30 to 35 songs reached the pinnacle position of the chart annually.
The decade saw the deaths of several country music performers, many who would come to be regarded as classic stars of the genre. The year 1975 was a particularly difficult year for the genre, as three key performers — Bob Wills, George Morgan and Lefty Frizzell — all died within a two-month timespan. In 1977, Elvis Presley and Bing Crosby, two performers not directly identified as country but were vastly influential in and/or had substantial successes and fanbases in the genre, died within six weeks of each other. Within a seven-month time span from October 1978 to May 1979, four other notable performers died: Mel Street, a relative newcomer whose honky tonk stylings made him one of the decade’s most promising new artists; “Mother” Maybelle and Sara Carter, of the pioneering Carter Family; and Lester Flatt, an early bluegrass pioneer who formed a successful partnership with Earl Scruggs.
The decade saw commercial success for blue-eyed soul artists, such as David Bowie who released the successful albums Young Americans (1975), which included the number one hit “Fame”, and Station to Station (1976).
In the second half of the decade, a 1950s nostalgia movement prompted the Rockabilly Revival fad. The Stray Cats led the revival into the early 1980s. Queen participated through their hit “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”. Also symbolizing this trend was the hit movie Grease in 1978, starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.
Tying in with the nostalgia craze, several stars of the late 1950s and early 1960s successfully revived their careers during the early- to mid-1970s after several years of inactivity. The most successful of these were Ricky Nelson (“Garden Party”, 1972), Paul Anka (“(You’re) Having My Baby”, 1974), Neil Sedaka (“Laughter in the Rain” and “Bad Blood”, both 1975), and Frankie Valli as both a solo artist (1975’s “My Eyes Adored You”) and with The Four Seasons (1976’s “December 1963 (Oh, What A Night)”). In addition, Perry Como—one of the most successful pre-rock era artists—enjoyed continued success, albeit on a somewhat smaller scale (as most of his fans were adults who grew up during the 1940s and early 1950s, and not the rock record-buying youth); his most successful hits of the decade were “It’s Impossible” (1970) and the Don McLean song “And I Love Her So” (1973).
Two of popular music’s most successful artists died within eight weeks of each other in 1977. Elvis Presley, the best-selling singer of all time, died on August 16, 1977. Presley’s funeral was held at Graceland, on Thursday, August 18, 1977.
Bing Crosby, who sold about half a billion records, died October 14, 1977. His single, White Christmas, remains as the best selling single of all time, confirmed by the Guinness Records.
The early seventies also marked the deaths of rock legends Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, gospel great Mahalia Jackson and Cass Elliot of the Mamas and the Papas. The decade also saw the plane crash in 1977 in which three members of Lynyrd Skynyrd were killed.
The UK and the rest of Europe
Popular music of the United Kingdom in the 1970s built upon the new forms of music developed from blues rock towards the end of the 1960s, including folk rock and psychedelic rock. Several important and influential subgenres were created in Britain in this period, by pursuing the limitations of rock music, including British folk rock and glam rock, a process that reached its apogee in the development of progressive rock and one of the most enduring subgenres in heavy metal music. Britain also began to be increasingly influenced by aspects of World music, including Jamaican and Indian music, resulting in new music scenes and subgenres. In the middle years of the decade the influence of the pub rock and American punk rock movements led to the British intensification of punk, which swept away much of the existing landscape of popular music, replacing it with much more diverse new wave and post punk bands who mixed different forms of music and influences to dominate rock and pop music into the 1980s.
Elton John became the decade’s biggest solo pop star, releasing diverse styles of music that ranged from ballads to arena rock; some his most popular songs included “Crocodile Rock,” “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” “Bennie and the Jets,” “Philadelphia Freedom and “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” (the latter a duet with Kiki Dee). Other European soft rock major artists of the decade included Cat Stevens, Fleetwood Mac and Joan Armatrading. (See the country music section of this article for more about country music that crossed over onto the pop charts.)
One of the most successful European groups of the decade was the quartet ABBA. The Swedish group, who are still the most successful group from their country, first found fame when they won the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest. They became one of the most widely known European groups ever and one of the best selling artists of all time, as well as one of the few groups from a non-English speaking country to gain international success with several back-to-back No. 1 albums and singles in most of the major music markets. “Waterloo”, “Mamma Mia”, “Take a Chance on Me”, “Knowing Me, Knowing You”, “Dancing Queen” and “The Winner Takes It All are just some of ABBA’s most popular and most successful songs.
One of the first events of the 1970s was the break-up of The Beatles in the spring of 1970. Paul McCartney formed a new group, Wings, and continued to enjoy great mainstream success. The three other former Beatles — John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr — all continued hugely successful recording careers throughout the decade and beyond. Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison all released extremely successful solo albums in 1970, Imagine, McCartney, and All Things Must Pass, and several of their songs are listed among the biggest hits of the 1970s: Wings’ “Silly Love Songs” and “My Love,” and Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord”.”
Heavy metal music gained a cult following in the 1970s, led by Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Deep Purple, with their styles later influencing other bands like Judas Priest and Motörhead, which eventually started the New Wave of British Heavy Metal in the 1980s.
Black Sabbath, formed in 1968 (as The Polka Tulk Blues Band, then Earth), is often credited with inventing the metal genre as well as stoner rock, doom metal, as well as sparking a revolution with much darker lyrics than were the norm in rock at that time.
Progressive or prog rock developed out of late 1960s blues-rock and psychedelic rock. Dominated by British bands it was part of an attempt to elevate rock music to new levels of artistic credibility. Progressive rock bands attempted to push the technical and compositional boundaries of rock by going beyond the standard verse-chorus-based song structures. The arrangements often incorporated elements drawn from classical, jazz, and world music. Instrumentals were common, while songs with lyrics were sometimes conceptual, abstract, or based in fantasy. Progressive rock bands sometimes used “concept albums that made unified statements, usually telling an epic story or tackling a grand overarching theme.” King Crimson as well as the Moody Blues have been seen as the bands who established the concept of “progressive rock”. The term was applied to the music of bands such as Yes, Genesis, Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, Rush, and Emerson, Lake & Palmer. It reached its peak of popularity in the mid-1970s, but had mixed critical acclaim and the punk movement can be seen as a reaction against its musicality and perceived pomposity. Never-the-less, Pink Floyd’s 1973 release, The Dark Side of the Moon, was an immediate success, remaining in the charts for 741 weeks from 1973 to 1988, with an estimated 50 million copies sold. It is Pink Floyd’s most commercially successful album and one of the best-selling albums worldwide. It has twice been remastered and re-released, and has been covered in its entirety by several other acts. It spawned two singles, “Money,” and “Time”. In addition to its commercial success, The Dark Side of the Moon is one of Pink Floyd’s most popular albums among fans and critics, and is frequently ranked as one of the greatest rock albums of all time.
Glam or glitter rock developed in the UK in the post-hippie early 1970s. It was characterized by outrageous clothes, makeup, hairstyles, and platform-soled boots. The flamboyant lyrics, costumes, and visual styles of glam performers were a campy, playing with categories of sexuality in a theatrical blend of nostalgic references to science fiction and old movies, all over a guitar-driven hard rock sound. Pioneers of the genre included David Bowie, Roxy Music, Mott the Hoople, Marc Bolan, and T.Rex. These, and many other acts straddled the divide between pop and rock music, managing to maintain a level of respectability with rock audiences, while enjoying success in the singles chart, including Queen and Elton John. Other performers aimed much more directly for the popular music market, where they were the dominant groups of their era, including and Slade, Sweet and Mud. The glitter image was pushed to its limits by Gary Glitter and The Glitter Band. Largely confined to the British, glam rock peaked during the mid-1970s, before it disappeared in the face of punk rock and new wave trends.
From the late 1960s it became common to divide mainstream rock music into soft rock and hard rock. Soft rock was often derived from folk rock, using acoustic instruments and putting more emphasis on melody and harmonies. It reached its commercial peak in the mid- to late-1970s with acts like the reformed Fleetwood Mac, whose Rumours (1977) was the best-selling album of the decade. Major British soft rock artists of the 1970s included 10cc, Mungo Jerry, and Rod Stewart. Some of the most successful singers and songwriters were Cat Stevens, Steve Winwood, and Elton John.
The mid-1970s saw the rise of punk music from its protopunk-garage band roots in the 1960s and early 1970s. The Sex Pistols, and The Clash were some of the earliest British acts to make it big in both the United Kingdom and the United States. Groups like the Clash were noted for the experimentation of style, especially that of having strong ska influences in their music. Punk music has also been heavily associated with a certain punk fashion and absurdist humour which exemplified a genuine suspicion of mainstream culture and values. The Sex Pistols caused a major sensation in 1977 and were the first serious challenge to the established rock groups like the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin, although the punk era in Britain lasted only three years and effectively ended with the Pistols’ breakup.