In 1974, Captain and Tennille were married while Cher filed for divorce from Sonny Bono. Van Halen played their first gig on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, and The Ramones played their first gig at CBGB in New York City. Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks joined Fleetwood Mac, Journey was signed to Columbia Records and KISS released their debut album.
Love was certainly in the air in 1974, and quite popular at that. All ten songs on this list were Top 10 hits, four of them reaching #1 on the Billboard Pop Top 40 charts. Each of the ten love songs have been carefully selected for their lyrical purity. No breakups, no “love lost”, no scorn or heartache, just lots and lots of love.
“Never, Never Gonna Give Ya Up” by Barry White
Part love song, and part bow-chicka-bow-bow , Barry White and his distinctive voice were a powerful force of love in the 1970s, and this tune is likely responsible for many, many subsequent births in late 1974. “Never, Never Gonna Give Ya Up” was technically released in late 1973, but peaked at #7 in 1974 and was part of a barrage of funky loving love songs from Barry White in the early part of the 1970s.
“Hooked On A Feeling” by Blue Swede
This is a song etched in the subconscious “Ooga-Chaka, Ooga-Ooga, Ooga Chaka…”, and is certainly one of the silliest fun love songs not just of the 1970s, but even today. The original recording was by B.J. Thomas and released in 1969, reaching #5, yet the Blue Swede version is the most recognized and most often used in film and television. Blue Swede’s version topped the charts at #1 in 1974, and was later covered again in an even sillier version by David Hasselhoff.
“Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me” by Gladys Knight & The Pips
The title of this Gladys Knight classic sums up the sentiment of this 1974 love song in a simple phrase. This tune is not only a beautiful love song, but would absolutely make a perfect choice as a dedication for anything from anniversary to wedding first dance, and anything in-between. Ray Price took “Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me” to #1 on the Country charts in 1973, while Gladys Knight & The Pips made it their own, reaching #1 R&B and #5 Top 40 on the charts in 1974.
“I’ll Have To Say I Love You In A Song” by Jim Croce
This tender love song was written by Jim Croce for his wife Ingrid, and is probably the best song ever written for those guys who struggle for just the right way to say it. “I’ll Have To Say I Love You In A Song” was released posthumously in 1974, as Jim Croce was killed in an airplane crash a year earlier. It reached #9 on the U.S. Billboard Top 40, remaining in the Top 40 for eleven weeks.
“Midnight at the Oasis” by Maria Muldaur
Okay, so this one’s a little out there as far as love songs go, but it’s also one of my favorites. The whole song is lyrically analogous, and thematically metaphorical. It dances in playful love wordplay where a desert oasis becomes a lover’s getaway. With arabesque references like “I’ll be your belly dancer and you can be my Sheik” and “You won’t need no harem when I’m by your side”, it’s a clever and cute take on the love song. This one landed a #6 chart position in 1974, and is also unique due to its Jazz styling, uncommon to the Pop charts in the 1970s.
“You Make Me Feel Brand New” by The Stylistics
The last Top 10 hit for the Philadelphia based group The Stylistics, this is a phenomenally endearing love song, and a dance floor favorite (particularly in Philadelphia). This is a heartfelt and romantic tune, with a expresses sincere sentiment of appreciation for the subject of the song’s love. “You Make Me Feel Brand New” peaked at #2 on the Pop Top 40 in early 1974.
“The Air That I Breathe” by The Hollies
This killer love song was covered by countless artists since, but it was in 1974 that The Hollies that made the biggest impression with this tune charting at #6 in the U.S., #5 in Canada and #2 in the U.K. As far love songs go, to say “All I need is the air that I breathe and to love you” is a pretty profound statement in itself. That particular lyric aside, the entire song is a bold and powerful statement of love, and was an a.m. radio favorite in the summer of 1974.
“Feel Like Makin’ Love” by Roberta Flack
This one’s tricky. The title is an accurate sentiment, but a bit misleading as to the theme of the song. In 1974, Roberta Flack’s smash hit “Feel Like Makin’ Love” shot to #1, perhaps helped by its risqué title (yes, “Makin’ Love” as a song title was somewhat risqué in 1974). Yet it’s not the chorus or title, it’s the verses that make this such a beautiful love song… the ‘thing’ that cause you to feel like makin’ love like strolling in the park, watching the seasons change, hearing your sweet voice and feeling your touch. All the romantic gobbledygook that love is made of.
“Then Came You” by The Spinners with Dionne Warwick
From the first note, this tune says bouncy upbeat love song, and moving along is a celebratory declaration of love. With the powerhouse sounds of Dionne Warwick paired with The Spinners (who had a great run in the 1970s), this one is Funky Soul 70s love at its best. In 1974, “Then Came You” reached #1 on the Pop Top 40, while stalling at #2 on the R&B charts.
“Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love, Babe” by Barry White
Barry White’s second 1974 love song on our list, this one topped the Billboard Top 40 at the #1 spot. Of all the love songs in 1974, this is the one featuring a new sound, which would soon become known as Disco, and departs slightly from the typical Barry White love-making sound to something more up-beat. Yet the title says it all, and as the opening banter suggests, when it comes to love, too much of a good thing just isn’t enough when it comes to love.
The love songs on this list on this list were arranged in order of their appearance on the Billboard U.S. Pop Top 40 charts. After sorting the list, I found that Barry White songs fell into both the first and last spots chronologically, and that the last had a Disco groove, so, enter Disco to the 1970s. Yet regardless of the eclectic genres of 1974; Soft Rock, Funk, Disco, Rock, Jazz or R&B, love would continue to find its praises sang.
Love the love…
Sources: The Billboard Book of Top 40 [Pop] Hits and The Billboard Book of Top 40 R&B Hits by Joel Whitburn and Billboard’s Hottest Hot 100 Hits by Fred Bronson. Additionally the biography “Time In A Bottle” The Jim Croce Story by Ingrid Croce was used to reference “I’ll Have To Say I Love You In A Song”.