The 25 Greatest Love Songs of the 1970s

Wild horses couldn't drag us away.

Read this first! Bloggers, DJs, and critics helped us assemble this comprehensive list of great love songs. Before you tell us what we missed, a few notes. One, we excluded breakup songs and come-back-to-me songs and please-sleep-with-me songs. These are love songs — songs you could play to your current squeeze immediately after saying, "Steve/Miriam, this song explains my feelings for you, which may be nuanced but are ultimately positive," and not expect to sleep on the couch. Two, we limited it to one song per artist, with a couple of exceptions, like The Beatles, because they're The Beatles. Lastly, come back next week for the best love songs of the '80s, and click here for the best love songs of the '60s. Okay, now you can tell us what we missed. Have fun! — The Nerve Editors

25. Barry White, "Can't Get Enough Of Your Love, Babe" (1974)

"Putting on the Barry White" has become synonymous with "trying to seduce your date in the most ridiculous way possible." But no matter how many would-be Casanovas misuse his work, Barry remains irresistible. "Can't Get Enough of Your Love, Babe" is sweet and a whole lot of fun, as any partner should be. — Kristin Hunt

Listen: Barry White, "Can't Get Enough Of Your Love, Babe"

 

24. Carly Simon, "Nobody Does It Better" (1977)

Recorded as the theme song for the James Bond flick The Spy Who Loved Me, Carly Simon's quintessential power ballad (written by Marvin Hamlisch and Carole Bayer Sager) is an overwhelming ode to He Who Does It Best. Simon's full-bodied vocals are undoubtedly full of love and wonder, even if when Simon claims that "nobody does it better," you can't help but envy them both a little. — Maura Hehir

Listen: Carly Simon, "Nobody Does It Better"

 

23. David Bowie, "Be My Wife" (1977)

Bowie, at the apex of his chilliest, most cerebral, most coke-whacked period, is wildly convincing as a libertine realizing he can't sustain on kicks alone. "I've lived all over the world. I've left every place." And if his love is one born of desperation, well, that kind gets its day in the sun too. "Please be mine. Share my life. Stay with me. Be my wife." The nakedness of that declaration retains its power, no matter what suspicions you might have over its likely outcome. — Jeff Klingman

Listen: David Bowie, "Be My Wife"

 

22. George Harrison, "What is Life" (1970)

Coming early on George Harrison's first solo album, "What is Life" remains one of the sweetest pop tunes ever produced by the brilliant, reserved ex-Beatle. Weaving his characteristic devotional sensibilities into otherwise lighter lyrics, Harrison also delivers a euphoric sax/trumpet/tambourine combination that complements his signature guitar and vocal work. "What is Life" makes you want to hug a stranger and kiss your lover at the same time. — Marina Cukeric

Listen: George Harrison, "What is Life"

 

21. Tom Waits, "Somewhere" (1978)

As written for West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim in the late '50s, "Somewhere" was already devastatingly beautiful. Tom Waits's interpretation, which opens up his album Blue Valentine, cuts right to the heart of it. This recording is place- and timeless. — Gary Calamar, of KCRW

Listen: Tom Waits, "Somewhere"

 

20. Donna Summer, "Love to Love You Baby" (1975)

A pioneering track for early disco, "Love to Love You Baby" was also one of the most erotically charged songs of its time. Summer recorded the vocal track while lying on the floor of a darkened studio, channeling Marilyn Monroe to deliver her orgasmic performance. The result is a classic of sexual devotion. — Peter Smith

Listen: Donna Summer, "Love to Love You Baby"

 

19. Buzzcocks, "Love You More" (1978)

From a band normally concerned with heartache comes this excited little gem, which (admittedly) doesn't quite shake the angst ("I've been hurt so many times before"). For all its delicious harmonies and early-punk exuberance, it's also a sharp picture of that shaky, "Oh, shit, love!" phase that characterizes so many young relationships. — P.S.

Listen: Buzzcocks, "Love You More"

 

18. Lou Reed, "Perfect Day" (1972)

Some people think this song is about heroin. And while that's certainly a possibility given the singer, I prefer to see it as a sweetly restrained ode to that one glowing day with someone you love: time is fleeting, but we'll always have that day at the zoo. (Come on — you can't go to the zoo with heroin.) — Alex Heigl

Listen: Lou Reed, "Perfect Day"

 

17. Sister Sledge, "Thinking of You" (1979)

If you can absorb the funkiness of Nile Rodgers' guitar playing, and the sweetness of Kathy Sledge's vocal, on "Thinking of You," and not fall in love with everyone and everything for four minutes, you are a harder soul than I. — P.S.

Listen: Sister Sledge, "Thinking of You"

 

16. John Lennon, "Love" (1970)

Can love get any more straightforward than this? "Love is you, you and me. Love is knowing, we can be." The lyrics from this Lennon classic are sparse, to-the-point, poignant, and naked. It's a lullaby of sorts that works as a song of hope and desire. Yet if you pull it out of the context of the Lennon's pure love for Yoko Ono at the time, you can hear echoes of weariness and heartache. Phil Spector plays the piano, Lennon strums and sings. All you need is love, indeed. — Bruce Warren, of WXPN

Listen: John Lennon, "Love"

 

Commentarium (70 Comments)

Nov 07 11 - 1:18am
Mikhail

This was fantastic. It can be tough for us 20-somethings to get into any 70s music. Roberta Flack!!

Nov 10 11 - 10:07pm
webslob

nice that young folk can like what we liked that many years ago!!

Nov 07 11 - 1:45am
Betty

Great list, appreciated being able to play all of the tracks. One suggestion: I would have liked to see Minnie Riperton's "Lovin' You" on the list.

Nov 08 11 - 1:18am
Jim

Yipes. That song's nails on the chalkboard screech presages Mariah Carey and makes my 'nads go skittering for safety.

Other than that, the song is terrific.

Nov 11 11 - 6:32am
longpete

The difference is that Minne didn't screech. She just glides through insanely high notes. Putting her on the same page as Carey is really a very heavy insult to the memory of a truly great talent.

Nov 07 11 - 1:55am
Victor W

A list that has EW&F, the Jackson 5, Stevie, Bill Withers and Al Green all in the top 10 is definitely awesome. A bit of Stylistics would have been nice ("I'm Stone In Love With You" or "Betcha By Golly, Wow" would be my choice, or even "You Make Me Feel Brand New") and "Oh Girl" by the Chi-Lites (if you call that a 'love song'). I think Marvin Gaye should somehow be on the list too, but he didn't really do a lot of 'love' songs in the 70s. "Lets Get It On" doesn't really fit the bill, I guess.

Nov 07 11 - 3:10am
Ta

Thanks, now I have Stylistics stuck in my head.

Nov 07 11 - 4:53am
Victor W

That's a good thing ... right? And I didn't even mention "You Are Everything": that's at least four classic love songs that could have been on the list.

Nov 07 11 - 10:36am
PeterSmith

Yeah, "Betcha By Golly, Wow" almost made it. And we looked carefully at Marvin Gaye's '70s discography, but you're right--actual love songs are few. ("You Sure Love to Ball" didn't seem to fit, as much as we wanted it to.) We do have Marvin Gaye (with Tammi Terrell) on the '60s list.

Nov 07 11 - 2:10am
bernie

Amazing list. A+

Nov 07 11 - 4:26am
Sareena

Love it! Except it should have been "Woman" by John Lennon. Legendary.

Nov 07 11 - 4:54am
Victor W

You'll have to wait for Nerve's Top 25 Love Songs of the 80s. It came out in 1980.

Nov 07 11 - 9:18pm
GeeBee

English actor/singer Jimmy Nail does a killer version of "Love" on his album "Big River".

Nov 07 11 - 9:16am
PolarBear

"Except it should have been "Woman" by John Lennon. Legendary." Except that "Woman" came out in 1980.

Nov 07 11 - 11:34am
fishstix

How Deep Is Your Love! BeeGees

Nov 07 11 - 11:27pm
sexy minx

I lost my virginity to that song!

Nov 07 11 - 12:15pm
TAL

"My Love" by Paul McCartney. Even better is the new cover by Corinne Bailey Rae.

Dec 07 11 - 2:27am
Wings

McCartney put out so many great ones in the 70s, it's ridiculous. Even Mull of Kintyre is a fabulous love (...of the Earth) song.

Nov 07 11 - 12:25pm
pnin

I'd go with Springstreen's "Backstreets" rather than "She's the One." Because love songs of queer adolescent anguish and exhilaration are still awesome love songs.

Nov 30 11 - 1:03am
ChrisJB

That was my immediate thought as well.

Nov 07 11 - 12:43pm
Hipster Hustle

Of course you can go to the zoo with heroin. And why can't a love song be about a drug, an addiction? It's far more moving and deep to have layers (which reed's greatest works contain in folds). To be attached and reviled, addicted and loath, to someone, something, to the point they mingle into the highest high, revisited by the bitter plight of memory. I really like the song though, so I can't complain. :D

Nov 07 11 - 1:37pm
Alex Heigl

Well, the song made it onto the list based on the idea that it was about a person. I think you're right, though -- the song's layers and nuances are what makes it work. Someone brought up the line "You made me forget myself/ I thought I was someone else, someone good," as an example of its negativity, but I think that ultimately just makes it that much more honest and unflinching.

Nov 07 11 - 1:50pm
JP

Those lines are so great precisely because sometimes another person can make you do that (at least for a few moments).

Nov 07 11 - 1:03pm
thinkywritey

I can't even read the title "Perfect Day" without misting up a little.

Nov 07 11 - 2:35pm
BobbyBob

Nice list. Always nice to be reminded of classics and find some new ones.

Nov 07 11 - 2:51pm
Ahab

No Dylan? I thought I was sure to see something off of 'Blood on the Tracks' on this list. I am disappoint, Nerve

Nov 07 11 - 3:34pm
Alex Heigl

Not sure if trolling or wildly confused about that album's subject matter.

Nov 07 11 - 4:36pm
Ahab

Well I wasn't suggesting putting "Idiot Wind" on the list. Too much hot fire. But some of the other tracks utterly lack that venom and are entirely good-natured. even if they feature dylan pining about a lost love or fretting over one he's about to lose, aren't they still great love songs?

Nov 07 11 - 6:08pm
tmp

not according to the intro.

Nov 07 11 - 6:40pm
Anon

Time in a Bottle - Jim Croce

Nov 07 11 - 9:18pm
GeeBee

Absolutely!

Nov 08 11 - 5:52pm
Micha

Agreed, such a beautiful song

Nov 07 11 - 8:36pm
AN

Lovely list and all, truly but where the f%$& is Marvin Gaye?! "I Want You"? People please!

Nov 08 11 - 12:15pm
PeterSmith

Doesn't really fit our criteria. Marvin made it onto the '60s list.

Nov 08 11 - 12:39pm
Flav

So then, Peter, by your logic, Marvin Gaye is only fit to place once on one of Nerve's lists? I agree, "I Want You" is a love song. I was actually written about a woman he was mad over. Sheesh...

Nov 08 11 - 6:03pm
PeterSmith

"It's too bad, it's too sad/ You don't want me now/ But I'm gonna change your mind/ Someway, somehow, oh baby" -- that goes specifically against what we're talking about (songs of devotion, not songs of longing).

Nov 07 11 - 9:23pm
GeeBee

How about "Angie" in place of "Wild Horses"?

Nov 08 11 - 11:22am
Alex Heigl

"Angie, you're beautiful, but ain't it time we said goodbye?" Nah. Great song, but definitely a break-up piece.

Nov 07 11 - 10:45pm
grant the architect

what, no I Was Made for Lovin' You by Kiss? What kind of rip off is this I see before me?

Nov 07 11 - 10:58pm
AML

Hard to say what should be taken out, but Layla didn't make it?

Nov 08 11 - 1:23am
Jim

Just for the sake of symmetry since one of the '60s great love songs was about the same person. ("Wonderful Tonight," too?)

Nov 07 11 - 11:06pm
sergio

It's a shame that the list doesn't have "for once in my life" with Gladys knigths and the Pips.

Nov 07 11 - 11:25pm
Fishtix

So you all missed the number one...Lovin' You by Minnie Ripperton...1974.

Nov 07 11 - 11:39pm
Where Are....

1. I'm all out of Love- Air Supply
2. Twelfth of never- Donny Osmand
3. Hello it's Me- Todd Rundgren
4. Band Of Gold - Freda Payne
5. Without You - Nilsson
6. You Make Me Feel Brand New - The Stylistics
7. Emotion - Samantha Sang

Nov 08 11 - 11:25am
Alex Heigl

We thought of "Without You," but jaw-droppingly beautiful as it is, it's a breakup song.

Nov 10 11 - 10:09pm
webslob

Alex is right, i think, though that is an odd/love-break up song: Could have been a novel!

Nov 08 11 - 11:38am
Kmac

Great list! One of the best of the series by far...I was surprised by the lack of Fleetwood Mac. No "Songbird"?

Nov 08 11 - 12:16pm
PeterSmith

If we ever get around to a list of the best breakup songs, I assure you it'll be 90% Mac.

Nov 08 11 - 10:12pm
grant the architect

yeah, songbird for sure should be here.

Nov 08 11 - 11:38am
z

Good list... agree with some more than others, but ultimately, Flack's rendition of 'The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face' is definitely the best love song of the 70s....maybe of all time.

Nov 08 11 - 7:18pm
e

Where is "Best of My Love" by the Emotions?

(I also would have liked to see some Supremes on the 60s AND the 70s list, but I guess most of their biggest hits fall into the heartbreak category. But seriously, "Best of My Love"!)

Nov 09 11 - 5:11pm
AnonymousDoofus

A few more:

Neil Young "When You Dance I Can Really Love"
Pete Townshend - "Mary" (it wasn't released until the 1980's, but I'm fairly certain he recorded it in the early 70's)
Joe Ely- "Because the Wind"
Tom Petty - "Here Comes My Girl"

and imo Al Green's "What a Wonderful Thing Love Is" is as good, if not better than "Let's Stay Together"

Nov 09 11 - 9:08pm
alpelican

I have always thought that Wonderful Tonight was a breakup song. Like, the last final moment before throwing in the towel.

Nov 10 11 - 10:02pm
webslob

agree: It always had that sense of "Oh, you look great; Goodbye" to me , too

Nov 10 11 - 1:20pm
MsChris

Dan Hill, "Sometimes When We Touch."

Nov 10 11 - 11:16pm
Pedro

Ooof. Well, that list kicked my ass. Now for some of Mr. Daniels best Old No.7, and see y'all Tuesday.

Kidding, kidding. Gave me nothing but the *good* kind of soul-scorching excruciating pain.

Nov 11 11 - 6:36am
longpete

What happened to "I'm not in love" by 10cc?? And there should've been "Killing me softly" as well. Just because the number one is by Roberta Flack doesn't mean that the number 2 can't be as well!

Nov 19 11 - 5:44am
Mike Hehir

Where is "Let's Get It On" by Marvin Gaye?

Dec 01 11 - 8:05pm
Bots

It doesn't fit the criteria....

Nov 20 11 - 8:19am
Jaylyn

Whoa, whoa, get out the way with that good ifnomratoin.

Dec 01 11 - 5:21pm
Shirley Marquez

What, no "Colour My World" by Chicago?

Dec 01 11 - 8:04pm
Bots

Well, your criteria knock out a few classics that would otherwise spring to mind - You To Me Are Everything by The Real Thing might be pop but it's pure, joyous pop (but is a bit yearning), Make it With You (Bread) ditto and a bit winsome, but how about a lost classic - You're My Everything, Lee Garrett. "Plenty of sunshine to follow the rain, I'm yours and your mine baby, why should we complain". Why indeed? Great list, but Wonderful Tonight is a painful dirge, Eric's worst ever song. Cheers!

Dec 07 11 - 2:33am
Pete I Hate Your Way

As a white european male, I'd rather walk naked from one end of Baghdad to the other before I ever again knowingly subject myself to Peter Frampton.

Jan 04 12 - 12:50pm
TFT

The incomparable but shy Mick Taylor was on Wild Horses. Fact checkers?

Jan 04 12 - 7:31pm
Alex Heigl

Ah, sharp eyes. Bit much to expect the intern picking out photos for these articles to have an encyclopedic knowledge of Rolling Stones guitarists, though. A begrudging touche to you, sir, though that probably won't get changed.

Mar 18 12 - 12:58pm
champ99

Precious and Few by Climax. And I completely agree that Dan Hill's Sometimes when we touch should be there. Johnny Rivers, Slow Dancin Swayin to the Music should be given some thought too. So many to pick from. Tough job but 1 or 2 of these should be there in the list.

Apr 17 12 - 10:05am
Kevin

Paul Davis - "I go crazy"... is that going to be on the breakup list?

Apr 18 12 - 11:54am
Helen

Help Me- Joni Mitchell... not sure if it qualifies as a song about devotion but it's beautiful all the same! x

Jun 01 12 - 11:55pm
Dexter

"Day After Day" by Badfinger???

Aug 23 12 - 4:16pm
DarkStar56

How about LADY by Styx and THE AIR THAT I BREATH by The Hollies