Revisiting the top 10 singles of 1974

Disco! Elton John! Songs about streaking! It was the Seventies, alright.

Do you know the top 10 songs from 1974? Of course, you might say, that was a great era of music! John Denver! The Carpenters! ABBA!

What if we told you that none of those artists made the cut?

We're going off the Billboard Year-End Hot 100 list, as published by the magazine themselves. Keep in mind that the magazine uses dates between November of the year prior and October of the current year, so some of these may have been released in 1973, but they count for the 1974 charts. Or they may have been released late in 1973, but spent most of their time on the charts in '74.

How many of these do you remember? Any surprises?

1. The Way We Were - Barbra Streisand

The top song of 1974 was a melancholic tune sung by Babs for the 1973 movie she starred in with Robert Redford, also called The Way We Were. While the movie got a mild-to-positive reception, the song became a massive hit and revitalized Streisand's career. It not only won Best Original Song at both the Academy Awards and the Golden Globes, but earned the 1974 Grammy for Song of the Year. Gladys Knight & The Pips later recorded a cover that also had some success on the charts.

2. Seasons in the Sun - Terry Jacks

Another song that isn't the feel-good pop you might imagine during the disco era. "Seasons in the Sun" was an English adaptation of a Belgian song about a dying man saying goodbye to his loved ones. The English version gives the dying man closure and ends on a more uplifting note than the original. Terry Jacks never had another song as a solo artist reach the same success, and later pivoted to producing music and working on environmental projects.

While the song received commercial success, recent critics have called it over-sentimental and even put it on lists of the worst pop songs ever. 

3. Love's Theme - The Love Unlimited Orchestra

"Love's Theme" was one of the only purely instrumental songs to reach #1 in the U.S. Top 100. The recording was considered to be an influence on the emerging disco scene. The group, formed by Barry White and later joined by the famous Kenny G, never had another #1 on the U.S. Top 100, but their later single "Satin Soul" reached 22.

4. Come and Get Your Love - Redbone

While Redbone had previously shown up on the US Hot 100 with their previous single "The Witch Queen of New Orleans", their major hit "Come and Get Your Love" made them the first Native American band to reach top five on the US Billboard Hot 100.

The song had a resurgence in popularity in 2014 when it was used in the film Guardians of the Galaxy, as a song on a mixtape used by character Peter Quill (Chris Pratt). The soundtrack to the movie reached #1. The song was later heard again in Marvel movies Avengers: Endgame and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.

5. Dancing Machine - The Jackson 5

"Dancing Machine" came at a difficult period for the hit machine that was The Jackson 5. It was their first single to crack the US Top 10 since 1971's 'Sugar Daddy" and came just a couple years before the group would rebrand themselves as The Jacksons as part of a contract dispute. 

The song popularized the "robot" dancing technique after Michael Jackson performed the dance on Soul Train. "Dancing Machine" was nominated for a Grammy Award in the R&B Duo/Group category, but lost to Chaka Khan and Rufus' "Tell Me Something Good".

6. The Loco-Motion - Grand Funk Railroad

Two iconic dance move moments in a row? You bet! This song is especially unusual for making three different appearances in the US Top 3 under different artists: Little Eva in 1962, Grand Funk Railroad in 1974, and Kylie Minogue in 1988.

This was the second #1 hit from Grand Funk Railroad, following the previous year's "We're an American Band".

7. TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia) - MFSB

The first TV theme to reach number one on the US Hot 100, people grooved out to this song every week on Soul Train. Though it was only the theme for the show's 1973-1975 run, it remains the best-known theme. This is another chart-topper that gets recognized for its influence on disco sound.

8. The Streak - Ray Stevens

In the Seventies, the "streaking" fad (or menace, depending on who you asked) was streaking - sorry, sweeping the nation. Stevens decided to write this country comedy song after reading an article about the phenomenon. The song follows a reporter covering disturbances at a supermarket, service station, and high school sports games, where each time the same man describes what he saw and telling his wife "don't look, Ethel!"

Notably, less than a week after the release of "The Streak", there was a public uproar when the 46th Academy Awards was disrupted by a streaker. 

9. Bennie and the Jets - Elton John

1974 was a good year for Elton John. Two more of his songs made the '74 Hot 100 - "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" at #72 and "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me" at #78 - but he had the most singles crack the top 10 that year of any artist, with five hits (the other two were "The Bitch is Back" and his cover of "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds".)

However, "Bennie" is the one that made the top 10. Today, everyone can recognize it... even if you don't always know the words.

10. One Hell of a Woman - Mac Davis

Interestingly, while it came in at #10 in the year-end charts, this song never cracked the top 10 of the weekly charts. It peaked at #11. However, it spent 10 weeks in the top 40 and 28 weeks on the national charts. 

Davis enjoyed a career as a songwriter as well as a singer, notably writing for Elvis early on, and later established himself as an actor, working on TV, movies, and Broadway.

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96 Comments

daDoctah 1 month ago
It's probably just as well they cut it off at ten. #11 that year was something called "Until You Come Back to Me (That's What I'm Gonna Do)", an Aretha Franklin cover of a Stevie Wonder composition that Stevie failed to chart with.

If they'd kept going, #13 was "Midnight at the Oasis", which is one of those songs that I liked but a lot of people hated.
MadMadMadWorld daDoctah 1 month ago
You skipped #12 "Jungle Boogie" by Kool and the Gang.
You mentioned #13 already (by Maria Muldaur), so here are the rest of the Top 40, with so many classic and beautiful songs as in #18, #24, and #35:

14. You Make Me Feel Brand New - The Stylistics
15. Show and Tell - Al Wilson
16. Spiders and Snakes - Jim Stafford
17. Rock On - David Essex
18. Sunshine On My Shoulders - John Denver
19. Sideshow - Blue Magic
20. Hooked On a Feeling - Blue Swede
21. Billy, Don't Be a Hero - Bo Donaldson and The Heywoods
22. Band On the Run - Paul McCartney and Wings
23. The Most Beautiful Girl - Charlie Rich
24. Time In a Bottle - Jim Croce
25. Annie's Song - John Denver
26. Let Me Be There - Olivia Newton-John
27. Sundown - Gordon Lightfoot
28. (You're) Having My Baby - Paul Anka
29. Rock Me Gently - Andy Kim
30. Boogie Down - Eddie Kendricks
31. You're Sixteen You're Beautiful (And You're Mine) - Ringo Starr
32. If You Love Me (Let Me Know) - Olivia Newton-John
33. Dark Lady - Cher
34. Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me - Gladys Knight and The Pips
35. Feel Like Makin' Love - Roberta Flack
36. Just Don't Want to Be Lonely - The Main Ingredient
37. Nothing from Nothing - Billy Preston
38. Rock Your Baby - George McCrae
39. Top of the World - The Carpenters
40. The Joker - The Steve Miller Band
Looking at the list of the Top 40 for 1974, we've lost so many wonderful, creative artists: Barry White, Mac Davis, Al Wilson, Charlie Rich, John Denver, Olivia Newton-John, Jim Croce (b. today Jan. 10, in 1943; 81st birthday, but lost him at only 30 on Sep. 20, 1973), Gordon Lightfoot (died this past May 1, 2023), Billy Preston, and maybe the saddest of all, the best female singer I ever heard: Karen Carpenter.
Moverfan daDoctah 1 month ago
I admit I can't stand Midnight At The Oasis, but it's more because of Maria Muldaur's voice than the song itself.
slim115W 1 month ago
70's was OK, but just OK. The 60's were the best years for R&R and Country!
Scott76112 1 month ago
Confirms what I remember from 1974...the music sucked.
daDoctah Scott76112 1 month ago
Three Beatles had #1 singles that year (four if you count Billy Preston), and it's second only to the following year for the number of different records that topped the chart. That, to me, indicates in year in which *everybody* was out there competing. There were also only three singles that stayed at #1 for three weeks, two of which are mentioned in the quiz (best we don't address the third)
cperrynaples daDoctah 1 month ago
I believe the missing Beatle here is George! Paul was in Wings, Ringo had You're Sixteen and John had his duet with Elton John! And yes Billy Preston counts because we all know he played on Get Back!
daDoctah cperrynaples 1 month ago
When they made the movie "Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" with Peter Frampton and the Bee Gees, Preston had the best legitimate claim of anyone in the film to a genuine Beatles connection, having been billed on the label of the "Get Back" single. And someone made sure people knew it, having him appear as the weathervane of the original Sgt Pepper come to life singing "Get Back".

On the rooftop, no less.
cperrynaples daDoctah 1 month ago
Yes, and they wanted Paul but he refused! I know John hated that movie! I actually have the soundtrack on vinyl! Weirdest song: George Burns singing Fixing A Hole!
daDoctah cperrynaples 1 month ago
Aerosmith issued an apology to their fans for their participation in the film. Alice Cooper seemed to enjoy appearing as Reverend Sun, and one group actually got a popularity boost out of doing the movie (Earth, Wind and Fire). It was also Steve Martin's first feature film (he'd previously appeared in a short called "The Absent-Minded Waiter").

The one I really wish had gone on to more success was Sandy Farina who played "Strawberry Fields".
CouchPotato19 1 month ago
1974 always brings me back to ELO, the "Eldorado" album.
BrittReid 1 month ago
Diamond Dogs by David Bowie. None of the above...
Bapa1 1 month ago
Just all kinds of genres here. Terry Jacks, yeech! The Streak, "look out Ethel!" Never heard of the Mac Davis one.
Gatorrat1963 1 month ago
Is it just me, or does Terry Jacks look just like Mac Davis?
Big floofy hair. Yep.
musicman37 Gatorrat1963 1 month ago
Yes, it's just you.
ww245 1 month ago
That was my freshman year. Surprised the group "Bread" doesn't have any tunes there. Most listed were ok.
George58 ww245 1 month ago
The reason no songs by Bread weren't listed is because they had no singles put out in 1974. Disagreements between David Gates & James Griffin about the singles being released caused friction in the band. In June of 1973 a truck carrying their equipment 7 instruments got n an accident on its way to a gig & all their equipment/instruments were destroyed. It was then the band decided to disband. They reunited in 1976.
Bapa1 ww245 1 month ago
Bread was a real good group. Under-rated. Have an anthology Cd by them.
Snickers 1 month ago
What? No Disco Duck?
cperrynaples Snickers 1 month ago
I believe it was a couple years later! Fun Fact: you can hear it in Saturday Night Fever!
George58 1 month ago
You can hear "Come And Get Your Love" on those recent car/ truck commercials.
cperrynaples George58 1 month ago
I already said that!
JeffSchafer 1 month ago
2. Seasons in the Sun - Terry Jacks
"While the song received commercial success, recent critics have called it over-sentimental and even put it on lists of the worst pop songs ever."

The Millennial & GenZ generations have no taste in music. Just listen to the junk they put out. Seasons in the Sun by Terry Jacks beat them all.

"recent critics have called it over-sentimental" - Recent critics are shallow people.

Others that are good on this list are:
4. Come and Get Your Love - Redbone
6. The Loco-Motion - Grand Funk Railroad
8. The Streak - Ray Stevens
9. Bennie and the Jets - Elton John
George58 JeffSchafer 1 month ago
Some trivia regarding Terry Jacks. He was in a band called, The Poppy Family along with his wife. They had a hit with "Which Way You Goin' Billy".
cperrynaples George58 1 month ago
I do remember that song! The wife did the lead vocal!
timothys71 JeffSchafer 1 month ago
Some trivia regarding "Seasons In the Sun": Rod McKuen recorded the first English-language version a decade before Terry Jacks, and it is featured in the excellent PBS special "My Music: Folk Rewind." The Kingston Trio also recorded a version around that time. Both are better than Terry Jacks' version IMHO.
djfone 1 month ago
Has anyone ever heard why Elton John stuttered "B-B-B Benny and the Jets"?
cperrynaples djfone 1 month ago
Well don't forget Roger Daltry stuttered on My Generation! That's the only way he could sing "Why don't you just...f-f-fade away?" We all KNEW what word he wanted to say...LOL!
From the Mods taking uppers. Made them stutter.
Guess that explains Odds & Sods...LOL!
djfone 1 month ago
Given the ubiquity of Top Ten singles in any year, merely mentioning these songs is likely to elicit groans since every single one was wildly overplayed, and hearing any one of them today will get a reaction similar to hearing "We Are the World": "My god, they're playing that AGAIN??!!" when in fact they may not have heard it in decades....but it wore out its welcome on Top 40 radio when it came out.
JeffSchafer djfone 1 month ago
Most of these songs are as great today as they were back then. Far superior to what has come out in the past 2 decades.

Do you have Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder?
That's just wrong! And i speak as a sufferer of OCD & Asburger's syndrome!
cperrynaples 1 month ago
Did you notice the cover on 9 said "Benny" NOT "Bennie"? For once, MeTV got the right spelling! After all. Elton was singing about a girl...LOL!
daDoctah cperrynaples 1 month ago
Is that a reference to Elton not liking girls? Because the words of the song came from the thoroughly straight Bernie Taupin, and the song in fact does not present Benny as a love object but as an admired performer.
cperrynaples daDoctah 1 month ago
I didn't mean that! What I meant that in the chorus, he sings "SHE'S got electric boots, A Mohair suit, you know I read it in a mag-a-zine"!
Tampammm 1 month ago
I did confirm that the Mac Davis single was number 10 for the year. The problem is, I've never heard of it - and I listened to the radio constantly in 1974.

So I think the way the votes are tabulated in order to form the Top Ten in Billboard isn't designed to well.
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cperrynaples daDoctah 1 month ago
No, you're thinking of Nice To Be With You! However, they did cover I Believe In Music!
daDoctah cperrynaples 1 month ago
Somewhere in storage I have the 45 of their Mac Davis cover single. I don't have Mac's version.

I also have Gallery's single of "Big City Miss Ruth Ann", which peaked just one spot lower on the Billboard Hot 100 (#23 as opposed to #22).
cperrynaples daDoctah 1 month ago
Believe it or not, I DON'T remember that song...LOL!
daDoctah cperrynaples 1 month ago
That'll happen. I went *decades* thinking Tommy James "Cat's Eye in the Window" was at least a minor hit, until I happened to look it up in Billboard and found that it was only in the Hot 100 for four weeks, peaking at #90.
Jaxter14 1 month ago
I remember a CBS NFL pre-game show with Linda Day-George using The Way We Were in a retrospective of the great 1960’s GB Packers.
cperrynaples Jaxter14 1 month ago
Are you sure you don't mean Phyllis George? She was a sportscaster for CBS!
Jaxter14 cperrynaples 1 month ago
Yeah you’re right, Phyllis not Linda. Thanks
marjean Jaxter14 1 month ago
Lynda Day-George
cperrynaples marjean 1 month ago
That woman was on Mission Impossible! She later became a director!
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