The 20 Best Rock Bands Of The 70s

The 70s was a time for folk, heavy metal, psychedelic, and avant-garde rock music that music lovers would never forget. Some artists defined a generation with their music, ranging from blues rock to progressive rock. Here is a list of the 20 best rock bands of the 70s.

1. Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd was formed in 1965 but it was not until the early 1970s that the group gained mainstream success. With hits such as “Money” and “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2”, the group’s popularity rapidly increased. They were known for their psychedelic and progressive rock sound.

With successful albums such as “Dark Side of the Moon” and “The Wall”, the band has sold over 250 million units worldwide, won a Grammy, and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

2. Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin’s legacy in the 70s focused on blending blues and heavy metal music, which became known as their signature sound. They were also one of the first bands to popularize the power ballad with hits such as “Stairway to Heaven”.

Selling over 300 million records worldwide, they are one of the best-selling music artists in history. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.

3. The Velvet Underground

As pioneers for punk rock, The Velvet Underground landed a spot in being one of the best rock bands. This American band’s experimental sound and use of feedback and distortion sparked attention and huge influence on many future artists.

Although the group was not initially popular, their album “The Velvet Underground & Nico” made them one of the most important bands in rock history.

4. Heart 

Due to their hard rock and heavy metal compositions, this American band hit it big in the 1970s. Selling over 35 million copies worldwide and having several hits such as “Never,” “Barracuda,” “Magic Man,” and “Crazy On You” under their belt, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

5. The Rolling Stones

For those who prefer a deeper level of heavy rock with a blend of blues, The Rolling Stones excelled in this style of music. After experimenting with psychedelic music, they returned to their roots. They performed commercially successful concerts and tours throughout their career.

“Let It Bleed” is one of their top albums. Over the years, they have sold more than 200 million copies. Their influence on rock music is still evident today, especially since they’ve won three Grammys.

6. Genesis

Famous for Peter Gabriel’s theater-inspired dress-ups in live performances, this British progressive rock band was popular in the 1970s. They released several hits throughout this time, such as “The Knife” and “I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)”. The group has sold over 150 million records worldwide and was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

7. Rush 

This progressive rock band gained interest in exploring the new wave with their shifts in instrument-oriented music. Starting as progressive rock, using synthesizers, and going back to guitars, Rush become a fan favorite during the 70s with their hit songs “2212,” “Fly By Night,” “A Farewell to Kings,” and “Subdivisions.”

8. Simon & Garfunkel

Being the only duo band on this list, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel go way back to their elementary days when they became best friends and decided to partner up in music. They are recognized as an American folk rock band and became prominent in the 70s because of their college-age and literary-inspired songs.

Their most famous album was their final album “Bridge Over Troubled Water” which has garnered sales of over 25 million. They’ve won numerous awards including seven Grammys.

9. Jethro Tull

Jethro Tull are progressive rock pioneers who gained popularity for their memorable guitar riffs and ability to seamlessly blend blues rock, jazz, and folk elements in their music.

Their hit album “Aqualung” serves as evidence of their skills as musicians, and they are also known for incorporating the flute into many of their songs.

10. Thin Lizzy

This unique Irish rock band are known for their twin guitar harmony solos which they often incorporated into their songs. They have released numerous hits throughout the years, such as “The Boys Are Back in Town” and “Whiskey in the Jar.”

Thin Lizzy has been credited as being one of the first bands to fuse hard rock with Irish folk music.

11. Black Sabbath

Heavy metal wouldn’t be the same without Black Sabbath, who are known for their dark lyrics and slow-tempo songs. They gained popularity in the early 1970s with hits such as “Paranoid” and “Iron Man.”

Throughout their career, they have sold over 70 million records and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006.

12. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

This American rock band is known for its heartland rock style and Petty’s distinctive voice. They gained popularity in the 1970s with hits such as “Refugee,” “The Waiting,” “American Girl” and “Mary Jane’s Last Dance.”

Not only were they passionate about their music, but they also enjoyed each other’s company which is evident in both their long career as a band and their solo ventures.

13. Styx

Styx is also one of the bands in the 70s who helped pioneer the development of arena rock and progressive rock. They began using synthesizers in their songs which made them stand out among other bands at the time. They have sold a whopping 20 million copies which is quite impressive.

14. Deep Purple

The Guinness Book of World Records considered Deep Purple as the ‘world’s loudest band.’ Having sold 100 million units, they are well-known to be pioneers of heavy metal and hard rock. In 1972, they released their most popular album, “Machine Head,” which contained the hit song “Smoke on the Water.”

15. The Who

The tracks “Baba O’Riley” and “Pinball Wizard” from their album “Tommy” helped propel The Who to stardom in the 70s. They are considered one of the best rock bands because of their experiments in rock music.

With their propensity for destroying instruments, rock operas, and feedback usage, The Who established themselves as innovators in the rock genre, being called ‘rock nirvanas’.

16. Kansas

Melodic rockers Kansas were one of the most popular bands in the 70s, thanks to their hits “Dust in the Wind” and “Carry on Wayward Son.” They are known for their long guitar solos and complex drumming.

17. Lynyrd Skynyrd

The triple-guitar attack and the band’s song “Sweet Home Alabama” made the Southern rock genre popular in this era. Lynyrd Skynyrd also had success with other hits such as “Free Bird” and “Gimme Three Steps.”

A devastating plane accident took their lead singer Ronnie Van Zant and guitarist Steve Gaines but the surviving members soldiered on and continued to play music.

18. The Doors

The folk-rock frenzy of the 60s might have been over, but The Doors managed to stay relevant in the 70s with hits like “People Are Strange” and “Riders on the Storm.”

They were a psychedelic rock or acid rock band known for their mystical stage presence and continued to influence their blues-rock style, which is reflected in their live shows. Their self-titled debut sold 4 million copies in the United States.

19. Fleetwood Mac

Fleetwood Mac is a well-deserved entry on this list. They had numerous member changes throughout the years, with the most significant being the addition of Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham in the early 1970s.

Starting as a blues band, they later moved to pop-rock which is evident in hits like “Go Your Own Way” and “The Chain.” This Grammy-winning band has sold over 40 million units worldwide with their 1977 album entitled ‘Rumors.’

20. Electric Light Orchestra

The creation of modern rock and pop songs with a mix of classical overtones was popularized by this English rock band in the 70s. They were known for their massive hits “Telephone line,” “Mr. Blue Sky” and “Livin’ Thing.”

As one of the progressive rock bands in this era, they were a pioneer in the genre, fusing classical and pop music together to create great music.

Conclusion

Rock bands have been exploring their music style and experimenting with different sounds since the genre’s inception in the early years. The 1970s were a memorable decade for rock bands, as many found success with their innovative styles. Ranging from hard rock to soft rock, these groups achieved popularity and notoriety within the music industry.

Thin Lizzy Featured Image (Bottom-Right) by: Harry Potts, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Brian Clark is a multi-instrumentalist and music producer. He is passionate about practically all areas of music and he particularly enjoys writing about the music industry.

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