Home Music Music Lists

Readers’ Poll: The 10 Worst Songs of the 1970s

You chose to include ‘Billy Don’t Be A Hero,’ ‘Disco Duck,’ ‘You Light Up My Life’ and more

debbie boone worst 70s

Debbie Boone. Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Earlier this month, we asked our readers to vote on their least favorite songs of the 1980s. Quite frankly, you guys didn't go a very good job. You picked classics like "Puttin' On The Ritz" and "Rock Me Amadeus" and many people on the Internet violently disagreed with your choices. One guy even blamed me for the selections. "I make the assumption that the 20-something Rolling Stone writer wasn't even alive in the 80's," Rik Mikals wrote. "Or if they were, they were rolling around in a dirty diaper and would have no idea what constitutes a bad song from the 80's." I will have Mr. Mikals know that I turned 30 a whole four months ago. I was rolling around in diapers in the early 1980s, but I had nothing to do with the selections. I even repeatedly chastised the readers for making weak choices.

This week, we asked our readers to vote on their least favorite songs of the 1970s. They did a much better job this time around, picking some real turkeys. I guess that cheesy 198os is often fun, but cheesy 1970s tends to be agony. Remember, if you disagree with the selections, you have nobody to blame but yourselves. Click through to see the results. 

By Andy Greene

Play video

10. Minnie Riperton – ‘Loving You’

Say what you will about Minnie Riperton's song "Loving You," but you have to admit that she could hit some seriously high notes. At Mariah Carey's absolute best, she would have difficulty reaching the places that Minnie effortlessly hit in "Loving You." Riperton's daughter is actress Maya Rudolph. Riperton even wrote some of the "Loving You" melody as a song for Maya, and can be heard singing her name on the long version of the song. Sadly, Minnie died of cancer in 1979 when she was just 31. 

Play video

9. Morris Albert – ‘Feelings’

Thankfully, Morris Albert has no incredibly sad story and famous offspring that will make you regret voting for his song. He's just the singer of an incredibly, stunningly crappy song. "Feelings" has been mocked for a good 30 years, largely for the lack of specificity in the lyrics. What kind of feelings is Morris singing about? It's clearly a love song, but it's hard to think of a vaguer term than "feelings" to describe, um, feelings. Albert maintains a following in his native Brazil, but he hasn't much success in America since he shared his "Feelings" with us back in 1975. If you wonder why punk had to happen, listen to this song. 

Play video

8. Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods – ‘Billy Don’t Be A Hero’

U.K. pop group Paper Lace wrote "Billy Don't Be A Hero" at the tail end of the Vietnam War, but it's actually about the American Civil War. But much like M*A*S*H was about the Korean War but really about Vietnam, people will forever associate "Billy Don't Be A Hero" with Vietnam. They'll also associate it with insipid 1970s drivel. Paper Lace were planning on releasing the song in America, but Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods beat them to it. It was their only hit. 

Play video

7. Terry Jacks – ‘Seasons In The Sun’

You guys really have it out for mid-1970s soft rock. This one is another song about a tragedy. "Billy Don't Be A Hero" is about a woman begging her boyfriend to be safe while fighting the Civil War, and Terry Jacks' 1974 mega-hit is about a dying person saying goodbye to his loved ones. The song was written by poet Rod McKuen in the early 1960s and first made a hit by Belgian singer Jacques Brel in 1961. The version by Terry Jacks hit Number One around the world in 1974, but Jacks largely retired from music just a few years later. 

Play video

6. Rupert Holmes – ‘Escape (The Pina Colada Song)’

This is the one song on the list that some people might actually appreciate on some level. Holmes was inspired to write "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)" when he saw a want ad in the paper. He wondered what would happen if he responded to it, only to discover it had been placed by his own wife. The lyrics originally went "If you like Humphrey Bogart," at the last minute he changed it to "pina coladas," a drink he didn't even particularly enjoy. The couple in the song both agree to meet at O'Malleys Bar, and don't seem all that miffed to discover they were both trying to cheat on each other. Instead, they discover they both love pina coladas, being caught in the rain and making love at midnight. It's like a modern-day O. Henry story. Maybe those should be called O'Malley stories now.  Holmes had another hit in 1980 with "Him," but after that his pop career pretty much went to shit. He's had far more success in recent years as a playwright. 

Play video

5. The Captain and Tennille – ‘Muskrat Love’

I really have to hand it our readers on this one. The Captain and Tennille clearly deserve a spot on this list, but you didn't go for the obvious choice with "Love Will Keep Us Together" or "Do That to Me One More Time." No, you wisely went with "Muskrat Love," by far their hit that's aged the worst. The song (originally called "Muskrat Candlelight") was written by obscure country-rock artist Willis Alan Ramsey in 1972. America covered it in 1973, and the Captain and Tennille cut their own version of it in 1976. The song isn't some sort of analogy. It's about actual muskrats falling in love. They played it at the White House in 1976 when Queen Elizabeth II came for a visit. It's unclear why the Ford Administration thought that was a good idea. If they came a year later, Jimmy Carter would have probably pulled in a better act. Anyway,  the Captain and Tennille rarely perform together these days, but they're still happily married. They're one of the few pop duos in history to actually have a long-lasting personal relationship.

Play video

4. Debby Boone – ‘You Light Up My Life’

You don't hear it much these days, but "You Light Up My Life" was actually the single biggest song of the 1970s. It spent 10 weeks at Number One, a record not beaten until 1991 when Boyz II Men stayed on top for 13 weeks in 1991. The song was written as a love song, but Pat Boone's daughter Debby always interpreted it as a song about her devotion to God. The song was written by Joe Brooks, who was arrested in 2009 on charges that he lured 11 women to his apartment with the promise of a movie audition, and then sexually assaulted them. He committed suicide before the case went to trial. Around the same time this was all going down, his son Nicholas was arrested for murdering his girlfriend. The New York tabloids had a field day with the two cases. Knowing all that, it's hard to listen to the song in quite the same way. 

Play video

3. Paul Anka – ‘(You’re) Having My Baby’

Nobody disputes the fact that Paul Anka is a brilliant – the man wrote "My Way" for God's sake. That feat alone earns him a spot on the Songwriters Hall of Fame.  But in the summer of 1974 he released "(You're) Having My Baby," an uber-saccharine song about a man overjoyed about the news that his wife is pregnant. The song hit home for a lot of Americans, and it gave Anka his first Number One since 1959's "Lonely Boy." It's aged about as well as a bucket of of sweet and sour pork. New life was breathed into the tune in 2009 when it was featured on Glee. Finn sang it to Quinn while having dinner with her parents. At the time, he didn't know that Puck was the real father and that Quinn's dad would throw her out of the house after hearing the news.

Play video

2. Starland Vocal Band – ‘Afternoon Delight’

It's hard to hate on a song about the joys of mid-day sex, but the Starland Vocal Band make it easy. The group was composed of two real-life couples that probably enjoyed some afternoon delights around the time of the song's release in 1976, though both couples have long-since divorced. The song hit Number One in the summer of 1976 and actually got the group a brief variety series on CBS the next year. They also won a Grammy for Best New Artist – as opposed to, say,  the Ramones or Tom Petty and the Hearbreakers or the many other great bands that started that year. The song got renewed attention when it was featured on Glee recently with guest star John Stamos. 

Play video

1. Rick Dees – ‘Disco Duck’

Rick Dees was a Memphis DJ who spun so many disco songs that he decided to record his own parody of the genre in 1976. He never imagined that "Disco Duck" would reach Number One on the Hot 100 and briefly make him a household name. The song was a hit everywhere in America besides Memphis, whose radio stations didn't want to promote a rival – and Rick's own station refused to play it. He continued to release novelty songs in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but they failed to find an audience. Then Weird Al came around with "Eat It" and Dees just couldn't compete. Weird Al wasn't going to keep Rick Dees down though. He started the Rick Dees Weekly Top 40 in 1983 and it's still going strong. 

Show Comments