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The 25 Greatest Breakup Songs of the 1970s
We recently assembled the greatest love songs of all time, but let's face it: while love has inspired some great songs, the majority of classics come from a darker place. Our rules this time were simple: a breakup song can be vengeful, dignified, devastated, or whatever else, as long as the lyrics make explicit reference to a relationship that is ending or has ended. Again, we limited it to one song per songwriter (not necessarily per band). Come back next week for the best breakup songs of the '80s, and let us know what we missed in the comments. Also, feel better. You're going to get through this, and to help with that, here's a Spotify playlist of this week's list, and here are the greatest breakup songs of the '60s. — The Nerve Editors
25. Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, "The Love I Lost" (1973)
Very few breakup songs make you want to shake your extremities, but sometimes that's the best cure for heartbreak. "The Love I Lost" has some somber lyrics, but the beat begs to differ. It's perfect for when you want to atone for your relationship sins on the dance floor. — Rachel Krantz
24. Leonard Cohen, "Chelsea Hotel #2" (1974)
The Hotel Chelsea has seen a lot, not least of which was a brief, unlikely fling between Leonard Cohen and Janis Joplin. The honesty of Cohen's lyric about the encounter extends well beyond its frank sexual details. It's loving, but also distant — "emotion recollected in tranquility." — Peter Smith
23. Talking Heads, "I'm Not In Love" (1978)
David Byrne's early persona — kind of a visiting Martian's take on human experiences held to be normal — gets profound here. A relationship is falling apart, but Byrne's observing from a distance, trapped in his own head, cold, and unable to connect. "There'll come a day when we don't need love," he says, like some autistic visionary. Like many great Talking Heads songs, "I'm Not In Love" is both chilling and highly danceable. — P.S.
22. Rod Stewart, "Maggie May" (1971)
The deceptively nuanced lyrics, Stewart's wistful vocal, and the band's rustic, ramshackle feel make "Maggie May" one of the most heartfelt portraits of a disintegrating relationship ever recorded. That it's a May-December relationship doesn't make any difference — this relationship wasn't a novelty to the people in it, and it shouldn't be to the listener, either.— A.H.
21. Led Zeppelin, "Tangerine" (1970)
"Tangerine" should probably appear in the dictionary next to the word "wistful." With its sweet vocal harmonies and beautiful slide guitar, it's a perfect picture of a past relationship that hasn't quite lost its ache in the recollection. — P.S.