The 1970s were one of the best decades for country music. Country legends like Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton were at the highest point in their careers. The ten-year span produced songs that have withstood the test of time and remain some of the most-played country songs to date.
It can be fun to reminisce about the best songs of the 1970s and see which are still easily recognizable in today’s media. Read on to learn more about 19 of the best country songs of the ’70s.
1. “Rhinestone Cowboy” By Glen Campbell
In 1975, Glen Campbell released his evergreen hit “Rhinestone Cowboy.” The song is the first track on the album of the same name.
The number seems like it is about a cowboy with bejeweled spurs, but it tells the story of a country singer’s struggle to rise to fame. Ironically enough, this song would make Glen Campbell a household name. Fans still hum its catchy country tune under their breath.
“Rhinestone Cowboy” topped both the Hot 100 and Hot Country Singles charts that year. It was awarded awards from all three Academy of Country Music, the American Music Awards, and the Country Music Association.
Related: Check out our list of the all time greatest country songs here.
2. “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” By Charlie Daniels Band
In 1979, the Charlie Daniels Band released one of the most iconic country music songs in history: “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”
The thrilling tune tells a gripping story of the devil challenging a boy named Johnny to a fiddle battle. Knowing he’s “the best that’s ever has been,” Johnny accepts the challenge.
This song was well-received when it was first released, and after reaching #1 on the country charts in 1979, it made its way over to the Billboard Hot 100, where it sat at #3 for two weeks.
3. “The Gambler” By Kenny Rogers
Country Music Hall of Famer Kenny Rogers released “The Gambler” in 1978. It includes all the classic country music themes: strangers, trains, advice from a sage older man, and poker. Rogers released it on his album of the same name, but he did not write the song.
Written by Don Schlitz, “The Gambler” uses poker as an allegory for life itself. After all, what life throws at you is comparable to the cards you’re dealt in a game.
Multiple artists recorded the tune in their style, including Bobby Bare and Johnny Cash, but Kenny Rogers was the most successful.
“The Gambler” endures in popular culture. In particular, the football team Houston Gamblers owes its name to this song. Fans can also hear it in movies and television shows like King Richard and The Muppet Show.
4. “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys” By Willie Nelson And Waylon Jennings
Two of the most successful country music stars are Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. In 1978, the pair got together on Nelson’s album Willie and Family Live to sing “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys.”
Ed and Patsy Bruce wrote the tune, and the country music genre is all the better because of it. It pleads with mothers, asking them to ensure their sons never become cowboys. They insist that the cowboy lifestyle pales in comparison to the lives of lawyers and doctors.
The song topped the Hot Country chart, and Nelson and Jennings won a Grammy for Best Country Performance by a Duo for it.
5. “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” By Crystal Gayle
“Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” is a gem on Crystal Gayle’s 1977 album, We Must Believe in Magic, that helped launch the singer’s career.
In the song, her lover has found someone else. Realizing what she had done, she apologizes for how she had treated him and pleads for him to tell her lies and alibis, but not goodbyes.
The following year, Gayle won the Grammy Award for Best Country Song for this sweet tune. She also won the Country Music Association Award for Song of the Year.
Since its release, “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” has been covered by several artists, including Lorrae Desmond and Dolly Parton, and was even translated into French and German.
6. “Jolene” By Dolly Parton
Released in 1973, “Jolene” is one of Dolly Parton’s most famous songs and one of the most well-known country songs of all time. Dolly pleads with Jolene not to steal her man, even though she knows she can.
Many fans do not realize that the song is about a real person. Nevertheless, Parton was inspired by a red-headed bank worker who used to flirt with her husband.
The song has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, and with good reason. Despite Dolly Parton having 51 Grammy nominations during her career, “Jolene” remains one of her most iconic songs.
7. “Coal Miner’s Daughter” By Loretta Lynn
The 1971 hit “Coal Miner’s Daughter” by Loretta Lynn also has a spot in the Grammy Hall of Fame. In the song, Lynn reflects on her life as a coal miner’s daughter. She loved her father and everything he did for her family on his coal mining wage.
The song was a critical and commercial hit. It received multiple nominations and awards, including a nomination for the Country Music Association’s Song of the Year.
In 1980, it became the namesake of Lynn’s biopic starring Sissy Spacek. The film received nominations for seven Academy Awards.
8. “Flesh And Blood” By Johnny Cash
In 1970, Johnny Cash hit the charts with almost every song on his album I Walk the Line. His career was at its peak during the decade.
“Flesh and Blood” is about the importance of human contact. It tells the story of a man who loves nature and connects with the wilderness but understands there is no greater pleasure than being with someone of flesh and blood.
The song topped the Billboard US Hot Country Songs and the Canadian RPM Country Tracks. It stayed for 13 weeks on the US charts and was also featured in the Gregory Peck film I Walk the Line.
9. “Somewhere In Virginia In The Rain” By Jack Blanchard and Misty Morgan
This 1972 hit song comes from the beloved country duo of Jack Blanchard and Misty Morgan. It is the first track on their album, Two Sides of Jack and Misty.
This album is the husband and wife’s second work to reach the top of the charts, and the lead track is their most famous song.
Unlike the happy couple, “Somewhere In Virginia In The Rain” is about a person who is pleading for forgiveness. They find themselves in a telephone booth, calling to say sorry and remind the person that they love them.
10. “Any Old Wind That Blows” By Johnny Cash
In 1972, Johnny Cash released “Any Old Wind That Blows,” written by Deena Kaye Rose, on his album of the same name. It’s a love song that some men might relate to.
“Any Old Wind That Blows” is a tale of a man who loves a woman he knows will never settle down with him. Instead, she is sure to always wander, much like a butterfly or a ship on windy seas. Despite this, he waits faithfully for her to return to him.
The song reached #3 on the Billboard US Hot Country Songs and topped the Canadian RPM Country Tracks.
11. “Lonely Women Make Good Lovers” By Bob Luman
American country and rockabilly singer-songwriter Bob Luman’s 1972 hit “Lonely Women Make Good Lovers” spotlights single women who have tasted love. He says these women make the best lovers because they are warm and merciful toward men.
The narrator also entreats men who already have a significant other to treat her the best they can, and she’ll be sure to treat him right.
Luman’s song peaked at #4 the year it was released, prompting one of the songwriters, Freddy Weller, to release his own recording in his album The Roadmaster. The hit song charted again in the following decade when Steve Wariner covered it on Midnight Fire.
12. “Pretend I Never Happened” By Waylon Jennings
Waylon Jennings’s well-known song “Pretend I Never Happened” came out in 1973 on his critically acclaimed album Lonesome, On’ry, and Mean.
In the song, he seems to have hurt someone, so he tells them not to think of him once he is gone. He believes that they will be happier once he’s gone and so wishes for them to pretend their relationship never happened.
The album and this track further consolidated Jennings’s reputation as one of the leading figures of the Outlaw movement, along with Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson.
13. “Who’s Gonna Play This Old Piano” By Jerry Lee Lewis
Jerry Lee Lewis is also known as “The Killer” for his unmatched talent as a pianist. In 1972, he released the song “Who’s Gonna Play This Old Piano” to capture all his musical loves.
The song shows a level of self-awareness. Jerry Lee Lewis knows the impact he has had on the country music industry with his piano skills, and he wonders who will take his place after his final bow.
Lewis takes an assured but sometimes bittersweet take on his contributions, with references to sad songs, laughter, and tears.
14. “Delta Dawn” By Tanya Tucker
One of the best country songs of the 1970s, “Delta Dawn,” has had multiple recordings. Its most commercially successful release by a country artist came from Tanya Tucker in 1972. “Delta Dawn” was written by country songwriter Alex Harvey, who was inspired by his mother.
The song is about a faded belle of the south who is seemingly about to die. Its lyrics reflect on her hopeful past, one now distant and unrecognizable. By 41, she is potentially homeless and suffering from poor mental health.
“Delta Dawn” hit #6 on the Billboard US Hot Country Songs. However, its most successful version came in 1973, when Helen Reddy topped the charts in several countries.
15. “Queen Of The Silver Dollar” By Dave & Sugar
Country music trio Dave & Sugar released “Queen of the Silver Dollar” in 1976 when the pop-country group was at its peak. The song features Dave Rowland on the lead vocals, with Vicki Hackeman and Jackie Frantz backing him up.
American writer and cartoonist Shel Silverstein wrote “Queen of the Silver Dollar.” It charted on Billboard’s Top 25 and did well internationally in Canada and Australia.
The song is seemingly centered on a woman whose life revolves around the bar scene. She arrives nightly at the same time. While she once had dreams, now the barstool is her proverbial throne.
16. “Just In Case” By Ronnie Milsap
In 1975, the country music legend Ronnie Milsap released “Just in Case” on his hit album Night Things. Milsap is one of the most renowned country music singers from the ’70s and ’80s, so it is no surprise that this song performed well at the time.
“Just in Case” peaked at #4 in 1976. Its lyrics are bittersweet, in which the narrator recognizes his former love is leaving him. He knows they’ll be happier with their new life and declares he doesn’t love them either.
Many artists have since covered the well-loved tune, including the triple threat Barbara Ann Mandrell, though her version was not as successful as Milsap’s.
17. “Take Me Home, Country Roads” By John Denver
Co-written by John Denver, Bill Danoff, and Taffy Nivert, “Take Me Home, Country Roads” came out in April 1971, but its place in the public consciousness has never faded.
The song is an ode to Denver’s home state of West Virginia. Its lyrics speak lovingly of the beauty of Shenandoah National Park and surrounding areas, making it the perfect anthem for West Virginia natives.
In fact, “Take Me Home, Country Roads” was legally accepted as the state’s official song. It is also West Virginia University’s theme song.
Countless artists have covered the hit, like Hermes House Band and Olivia Newton-John, but it will always be John Denver’s most recognizable work from the 1970s.
18. “Every Face Tells A Story” By Olivia Newton-John
World-famous actress and singer Olivia Newton-John released “Every Face Tells a Story” in 1976 on her album Don’t Stop Believing. She did not release the song in her home country of Australia, but it did peak at #21 in the United States.
The song is another poignant entry on this list, with lyrics suggesting a relationship about to end. As the title implies, the narrator discerns that something is wrong in their relationship with every expression her lover has.
The original version of this song was actually for Cliff Richard, and the lyrics were more gospel-themed. However, it was Newton-John’s version that topped the Canadian RPM Country Tracks.
19. “Kiss An Angel Good Morning” By Charley Pride
Charley Pride was well-known in the world of baseball as well as music. He released “Kiss an Angel Good Morning” in 1971. The upbeat song credits being in love with his happy glow.
Even in the 1970s, it was refreshing to hear a professional athlete so in touch with his emotions. Unsurprisingly, given its cheerful lyrics, “Kiss an Angel Good Morning” reached #1 on the Billboard charts when the song was released.
Charley Pride became a three-time Grammy Award winner and earned the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Recording Academy.
Summing Up Our List Of ’70s Country Songs
The 1970s were responsible for some of the greatest hits in country music. Many iconic artists peaked during the decade, while others launched long-lasting careers. From Dolly Parton to John Denver and Loretta Lynn, the ’70s has had an enduring impact on the genre.
Have we missed a country song that should be on this list? Let us know, and we’ll add them!