18 Of The Greatest And Most Famous Male Singers Of The 1970s

Written by Dan Farrant
Last updated

The 1970s are home to many of the most famous male performers ever. Although rock and roll had existed for decades, ’70s singers added the dramatic flair that is so popular today.

Meanwhile, reggae made its way to the western world, country music saw the rise of outlaw country, and soul music continued to rise in popularity.

To this day, the messages of clever songwriters resonate with audiences around the world. Without them, the entertainment industry would look much different today.

This post will delve into the lives of 18 of the greatest and most famous male singers of the ’70s. Interested? Read on!

1. Marvin Gaye

Known as the Prince of Motown, Marvin Gaye is still renowned across the United States. Gaye grew up in a public housing project with a supportive mother but an abusive father.

His quartet, Harvey and the New Moonglows backed Gaye up on his first lead vocal recording in 1959.

Throughout the 1970s, he released six studio albums. Let’s Get It On was #2 on the US Billboard 200 album charts. In 1971, he produced his own album, What’s Going On, which became the biggest album of his career despite its controversial political stance.

In 1987, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted Gaye. After his death in 1984, he received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

2. Elton John

Born in 1947, Elton John grew up in Middlesex, England, where he received a music scholarship at the age of 11, but his father was not supportive of his dreams of being a musician.

Nonetheless, John became a pub pianist and later a member of the band Bluesology, giving his career a kick start. Since then he’s released over 30 albums and 100 singles.

In 1992, John was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and, in 1994, into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

To date, John has sold over 300 million records. His single “Candle in the Wind 1997” is his best-selling track ever.

3. Stevie Wonder

One of the world’s unique singers, Stevie Wonder was born six weeks premature and soon went blind

He took the entertainment industry by storm with his recording debut, released when he was just 11 years old. Two years later, he became the youngest person to have a #1 song on the US charts.

In 1972, Wonder released the album Talking Book, with the songs “Superstition” and “You Are the Sunshine of My Life,” which became chart-topping hits.

In the 1970s, Stevie Wonder created and produced his own unique music using synthesizers. He also became the first black person to win a Grammy for Album of the Year in 1974.

4. David Bowie

As a teenager, legendary British singer David Bowie played in several bands. After finding little success, however, Bowie became a solo artist.

He attracted attention with his dramatic wardrobe choices, and his Ziggy Stardust stage show in 1972 finally brought hard-earned fame.

Each of the 11 albums he released in the 1970s was on the US Billboard 200. In 1975, he released “Fame,” his first #1 hit single on the Billboard Hot 100.

Bowie received 19 Grammy nominations and won 5. In 1996, he inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

5. Bruce Springsteen

Thanks to his songs about the working class, Bruce Springsteen is regarded as one of the greats.

Springsteen was raised in the Catholic church, but he often argued against the nuns’ strict rules. He spent most of his school years alone, playing guitar. 

Through the years, he joined many bands, and his original songs attracted attention. As a member of E Street Band, Springsteen began to have some success selling records.

In 1975, Springsteen finally found widespread fame with “Born to Run,” which reached #3 on the Billboard 200. To date, Springsteen has sold over 150 million records. He has also won 20 Grammy Awards and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999.

6. Glenn Frey

Lead singer of the Eagles, Glenn Frey studied piano and guitar from a young age. This early immersion in music laid a solid foundation for his future career.

However, for years, he bounced between bands. While rising in fame, he accompanied Bob Seger on songs, including “Against the Wind.”

Frey and Don Henley met in 1970 and co-founded the Eagles. Frey was the lead singer and writer or co-writer of records like “Take It Easy” and “Lyin’ Eyes.” This latter song, recorded in 1975, was #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Between his time with the Eagles and his solo career, 24 of Frey’s records were on the Top 40 singles of the Billboard Hot 100. With his passing in 2016, his music continues to live on and inspire new generations.

7. Freddie Mercury

The legendary frontman of Queen, Freddie Mercury, began his career singing in London bands, where he also befriended members of the band Smile.

In 1970, he joined Smile and soon renamed it to Queen. The year 1975 became unforgettable when the band released one of their most famous songs, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” written principally by Mercury. 

The band’s 1979 single “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” was also #1 on the US Top 40 charts. Queen went on to become one of the most popular bands of all time, selling over 90 million albums number of records.

Mercury revolutionized the entertainment industry by crossing genres, including heavy metal, gospel, and disco. His unforgettable style and vocal range earned him a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.

8. Al Green

While growing up in Arkansas and Michigan, Al Green sang gospel music with his family in the quartet Green Brothers. His parents later dismissed him from the group for his love of secular music.

Green founded the band Al Greene and the Soul Mates, which released one hit song. Of the 11 albums Green released in the 1970s, seven reached the top 40 on the Billboard 200.

His single “Let’s Stay Together” was #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Currently, Green has sold over 20 million records in styles including R&B, soul, blues, and gospel. In 1995, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

9. Paul McCartney

The lead singer of the Beatles, Paul McCartney, was raised by his parents in England. When he was 14, his mother died of breast cancer. He wrote “Let It Be” with her memory in mind.

When the Beatles disbanded in 1970, McCartney began his solo career. His song “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” became a US #1 hit single. Later, he formed the band Wings, which had 27 US Top 40 hits. 

McCartney was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice — first as a member of the Beatles and then as a solo artist.

10. Roger Daltrey

The lead singer of The Who, Roger Daltrey, was born into a lower-middle-class family. He formed the Who while attending Acton County Grammar School and working in a sheet metal factory.

Daltrey performed lead vocals on “Baba O’Riley,” which was featured in Time magazine’s “All-Time 100 Songs” list. The Who has sold more than 100 million records.

In 1973, Daltrey began a solo career. His debut single, “Giving It All Away,” was #5 on the UK Singles Chart.

The Grammy Foundation awarded Daltrey with a Lifetime Achievement Award, and he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.

11. Robert Plant

As the lead singer of Led Zeppelin, Robert Plant helped form the classic image of a rock god. When he was 10, he often pretended to be Elvis Presley. At 16, he left home and bounced between blues bands.

In 1971, Led Zeppelin released “Stairway to Heaven.” This hit was the most requested song on US FM radio stations. It has been estimated that Led Zeppelin sold between 200 and 300 million records.

Rolling Stone listed Plant as one of the 100 best singers of all time. His extensive vocal range earned him 7 Grammy awards, and in 1995, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

12. Willie Nelson

One of the most recognizable male country artists is Willie Nelson. Despite the chaos of being born during the Great Depression, Nelson immersed himself in music at a young age. During high school, he toured as lead singer and guitarist of Bohemian Polka.

Nelson’s first commercial success stemmed from the 1975 album Red Headed Stranger. In 1976, with the rise of outlaw country, Nelson released The Sound in Your Mind, and it was certified gold in 1978.

In 1993, Nelson was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Rolling Stone also included him in their lists of the 100 Greatest Singers and 100 Greatest Guitarists.

13. Mick Jagger

The lead vocalist and co-founder of the Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger, has played a significant role in rock and roll for decades.

As a child, Jagger was pressured to teach like his father. He studied finance and accounting while performing gigs with the band Blues Incorporated. There, he and two bandmates set the groundwork for the Rolling Stones.

The Rolling Stones released “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” in 1971. Rolling Stone magazine ranked this song as #25 on “The Top 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time.”

Alongside the other Rolling Stones members, Mick Jagger was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.

14. Bob Marley

Born in Jamaica in 1945, Robert Nesta Marley, known to the world as Bob Marley, became an international icon. His music, infused with reggae rhythms and socially conscious lyrics, resonated with people around the globe.

During the 1970s, he gained international recognition. His band, The Wailers, released the album Catch a Fire in 1973, marking the beginning of their international success.

Some of his notable singles from this era include “No Woman, No Cry,” “Exodus,” and “Could You Be Loved.” These songs not only topped charts but also spread messages of peace, unity, and love.

Despite his untimely death at the age of 36 in 1981, Marley’s legacy continues to live on. He was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994, and in 2001, he was awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

15. Michael Jackson

Nicknamed the King of Pop, Michael Jackson was well-known in the 1970s for his time with the Jackson 5. He joined his father’s band, the Jackson Brothers, but Michael’s father abused him during rehearsals.

Michael became one of the lead singers, and Jackson 5 released “I Want You Back” in 1970. It was the band’s first #1 song on the Billboard Hot 100.

In 1972, Jackson began a solo career. His solo studio album Ben was successful, climbing to the top 10 on the Billboard 200.

Jackson’s performance of “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough” in 1979 earned him a Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance. He became one of the most successful and influential artists of all time, with a career spanning over four decades.

16. Paul Anka

The iconic Canadian-American singer- songwriter and actor Paul Anka started his career in the 1950s. Known for his velvety voice and catchy tunes, he quickly became a teen idol.

Anka’s first big hit was “Diana,” a song he wrote for a former girlfriend. The song shot him to fame, making him a household name. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, he continued to churn out popular songs that topped the charts.

In the 1970s, some of his notable singles included “(You’re) Having My Baby,” a duet with Odia Coates, which reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Other hits from this era include “One Man Woman/One Woman Man” and “Times of Your Life.”

17. Billy Joel

Known as the Piano Man, Billy Joel is one of the biggest music icons in the world. His journey in music began with piano lessons at age four. As a teenager, he was drawn to the British Invasion and soul music, which influenced his songwriting later on.

During the 1970s, Joel released some of his most memorable songs that were critical success. These include tracks like “Piano Man,” “Just the Way You Are,” and “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me.”

Selling over 150 million records, Joel is a six-time Grammy Award winner and has been nominated 23 times. Despite retiring from making new music, his legacy continues to inspire many.

18. Eric Clapton

Renowned English guitarist and singer-songwriter Eric Clapton developed a love for blues and American R&B at a young age. He started his music career in his teens and played lead guitar with two minor bands before making a name for himself.

In the 1970s, Clapton produced some of his most notable singles including “Layla,” “Wonderful Tonight,” and a cover of Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff.”

Clapton holds the unique distinction of being the only three-time inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: once as a solo artist, once as a member of The Yardbirds, and once as a member of Cream.

Summing Up Our List Of The Famous ’70s Male Singers

The music industry has always attracted unique individuals from around the world. In the 1970s, countless male singers, especially the men listed above, led bands to fame with new, blended sounds and adventurous stage performances.

Still, other singers enjoyed the freedom of writing, performing, and producing their own music however best suited them. 

New artists exposed fans to new looks and sounds throughout the 1970s. Today, the music industry still reflects dance styles, wardrobes, and blended music born during that time, and for sure, we are still appreciating them!

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Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 15 years, helping hundreds of thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. He plays the guitar, piano, bass guitar and double bass and loves teaching music theory.