17 Movie Soundtracks Every Kid from the '70s Loved
These soundtracks and '70s kids go together like rama lama lama ka dinga da dinga dong.
The 1970s were filled with some of the most iconic film scores of all time. From those eerie Jaws notes to the far-far-away sounds of Star Wars, the '70s created movie music that has stuck with us for nearly a half century.
These albums represented the evolving musical tastes of the country at the time, as nostalgic throwbacks to earlier eras transitioned to new sounds: funk, soul, reggae, and more! Here are some of the major soundtracks young people in the '70s were grooving to.
American Graffiti (1973)
American Graffiti was George Lucas's take on teenage life in the early '60s. The soundtrack featured an impressive 41 songs over two LPs—and it was certified triple-platinum in the United States. The tracks included are a perfect time capsule of what young people were listening to nearly 60 years back: Chuck Berry, The Beach Boys, and Buddy Holly, among others.
The late Isaac Hayes made a name for himself with the soundtrack to Shaft, which earned him multiple Grammy Awards and the Academy Award for Best Original Song. "Theme from Shaft," one of only three vocal selections on the album, was a major hit, reaching the top spot on the Billboard 200 chart. The rest of the album is a classic in its own right, featuring the funk score that helped make the 1971 blaxploitation film such a big hit.
Love Story (1970)
If you wanted to get in a romantic mood in the '70s—or if you just wanted to feel some serious emotions—you probably put the Love Story soundtrack on the record player. The album opens with the bittersweet "Theme from Love Story," which went on to get a new title, "(Where Do I Begin?) Love Story," and lyrics recorded by Andy Williams. Lyrics or not, however, the score brings you right back to the doomed romance between Jenny (Ali MacGraw) and Oliver (Ryan O'Neal).
Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
Is there anyone cooler than James Bond? Well, you could make an argument for Shirley Bassey, whose distinctive voice has been indelibly linked to the famous fictional spy since she sang the title song to 1964's Goldfinger, "Diamonds Are Forever."
Sadly, the soundtrack to Jaws does not include Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, and Richard Dreyfuss singing "Show Me the Way to Go Home" as they do in one of the film's more memorable scenes. No matter, you can't ever go wrong with a John Williams score, and Jaws is one of the venerable composer's very best. The simple two-note shark theme has proven to be one of Williams' most enduring cultural contributions, and it's no surprise this soundtrack earned him an Academy Award.
Star Wars (1977)
If there is one definitive John Williams score from the '70s, however, it's probably his work for Star Wars. No one who grew up during that decade can hear the resonant title theme without feeling stirred—and frankly, no one who's grown up since then can either. The film's soundtrack was added to the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress in 2004, but it has been embedded in our collective hearts for far longer than that.
The songs from Grease had been around for almost a decade when the film hit theaters, but it was the movie that turned them into standards. The soundtrack—which includes numbers written specifically for the film, like "Grease" and "Hopelessly Devoted to You"—helped propel leads John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John to superstardom. (It was also the second-best selling album of the year.)
Saturday Night Fever (1977)
The soundtrack for Saturday Night Fever, which was released toward the end of 1977, went on to become the best selling album of 1978. Credit that to the Bee Gees and again, to the star power of Travolta. Though he doesn't sing on the album, his performance as Tony Manero made the film a major success. "Stayin' Alive" became an instant disco classic, not to mention one of the most famous movie songs of all time.
Super Fly (1972)
The soundtrack to Super Fly has likely surpassed the impact of the film itself at this point. It's a major achievement in soul music that has stood the test of time. The songs from The Impressions alum Curtis Mayfield take on a somewhat more serious tone than the movie, exploring issues like drug abuse and poverty through a critical lens.
The Last Waltz (1978)
It makes sense that Martin Scorsese's concert film The Last Waltz would have an incredible soundtrack—while the movie focuses on the farewell concert for The Band, it also features performances from Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, and other big names. The soundtrack was a major event itself, released on three separate records that include all the hits from the concert along with new music recorded just for the album.
Mean Streets (1973)
Earlier in the 1970s, Scorsese made a less explicitly musical movie: the crime drama Mean Streets. It's hard to compete with The Band and Dylan, but Scorsese knows how to fill his films with memorable, scene-setting tracks, and Mean Streets is no exception. The soundtrack has plenty of must-listen songs, like "Be My Baby" by The Ronettes, "Jumpin' Jack Flash" by The Rolling Stones, and "Please Mr. Postman" by The Marvelettes.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
The soundtrack to The Rocky Horror Picture Show might not have been an instant big-seller, but the film wasn't exactly a hit right away either. But Rocky Horror has since become a cult classic, and teenagers who were in-the-know in the '70s—especially those who were a little off the beaten path—surely got down to "The Time Warp" years before everyone knew how to do it.
The Harder They Come (1972)
Here's another soundtrack that's a lot more famous than the movie that spawned it. The Harder They Come struggled to find an audience in the United States, but the soundtrack—with songs performed by the film's star, Jimmy Cliff—has been credited with "[bringing] reggae to the world," according to the Los Angeles Times. The album has popped up on several best-of lists, including Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
Italian prog rock band Goblin might have reached the height of their international fame with their soundtrack to the Dario Argento horror film Suspiria. The creepy, unnerving score gets under your skin just like the colorful imagery of the movie does. It's downright scary to listen to! And for his 2018 remake of the same time, director Luca Guadagnino solicited a score from the legendary Thom Yorke. Sure, it was good, but it was no Goblin.
The Warriors (1979)
The Warriors was a flop when it was released, but then it went on to become a major cult favorite. Even if the movie was divisive, however, the soundtrack was a lot easier to embrace. Joe Walsh's "In the City" is arguably the breakout track, though the version recorded by Walsh's band, The Eagles, might be better known.
Of course Tommy would have a great soundtrack: The film was based on The Who's 1969 rock opera concept album, which tracked the rise of the eponymous pinball wizard. With Tina Turner crooning "The Acid Queen," Elton John singing "Pinball Wizard," and, naturally, a whole lot of The Who performing a whole lot of everything, the soundtrack reached No. 2 on the Billboard Pop Albums chart. Then, in the 1990s, Tommy went on to become a beloved Broadway musical.
When it comes to '70s movie themes, nothing pumps you up like "Gonna Fly Now," the theme from Rocky. The lyrics are simple—very simple—but composer Bill Conti wrote music that would make anyone feel like they could beat Apollo Creed, or at least run up all the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. (The other famous Rocky song, "Eye of the Tiger," didn't appear until Rocky III in 1982.) And for more 1970s memories, check out these 20 Slang Terms From the 1970s No One Uses Anymore.
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