Celebrating 6 Iconic Songs Turning 50 This Year

When we think of the year 1974, images of earthy color palettes and shag rugs come to mind. Bell bottom jeans and Farrah Fawcett feathered hair. Jazzercise and fondue as a popular food and social activity. It was the year the Rubik’s Cube was invented; 26-years-old Stephen King debuted his first novel, Carrie; and the music temperature was wide-ranging. Disco, soul, rock n’ roll, pop, and country songs were on the charts. People were buying vinyl and cassettes, and tuning in to Billboard’s Hot 100 and watching Soul Train to hear songs that are still popular today!

We look back on these six songs celebrating their 50-year anniversary and wonder: what does it take to make an iconic song? Is it a genius songwriter or an unexpected spark of inspiration? Perhaps it’s knowing that the song was written by someone in love or a memorable guitar riff keeps us playing it again and again.


Jolene – Dolly Parton


If there’s one thing Dolly Parton knows how to do, it’s write a hit song with staying power. At 28, the American singer-songwriter (actress, philanthropist, Good Person™) landed in the number-one spot on the charts with her now-iconic hit “Jolene”. Though the lyrics are doused in jealousy, Dolly says the song title was inspired by a young fan–”the prettiest little thing I ever saw”–in the audience at one of her shows. “Jolene” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2014.


Waterloo – ABBA


Even if you don’t listen to iconic Swedish pop group ABBA, you are guaranteed to know more than a handful of their long list of hits. “Waterloo” was written specifically to be entered into the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest and the band won over hearts with the song. It became the first of their nine UK number one singles–launching them to worldwide fame–and has been featured in the musical and movie versions of Mamma Mia!



Rebel Rebel – David Bowie


Written and produced by Bowie, “Rebel Rebel” is described as ‘a defining song of the glam rock movement’ and also his farewell to it before reinventing himself once more. A magnificent guitar riff, which Bowie played himself, and a place on Rolling Stone’s list of his most memorable songs, the 1974 hit from his Diamond Dogs album is sure to get you in the dancing mood.



Kung Fu Fighting – Carl Douglas


Is there a more recognizable opening to a song in the history of songs? Merging two of the biggest trends of the ’70s, Kung Fu and disco, this irresistible jam by Carl Douglas helped to popularize disco music and has appeared in a long list of movies and television shows since its release. Douglas has said that he got the idea for the song one night when he walked by an arcade and saw kids using Kung Fu moves, moving in time to the music. “At that moment, I heard it all in my head,” he explained in the Billboard Book of #1 Hits. Proof that when inspiration hits, you should always listen.



You’re No Good – Linda Ronstadt


Originally written by Clint Ballard, Jr. and sung by Dee Dee Warwick in 1963, Linda Ronstadt’s version of “You’re No Good” became the song’s most successful cover and rose to #1 on the Billboard’s Hot 100. The song, about a person coming to terms with the fact that their partner is no good for them, was a huge breakout for Ronstadt. Its success launched her, and her versatile vocals, into stardom in the ’70s.



Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love, Babe – Barry White


Written, produced, and recorded by Barry White, “Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love, Babe” is a warm and sultry song that perfectly captures the sound of ’70s soul music. White wrote the chart-topping song about a woman he was in love with, who he would later marry, one night when he couldn’t fall asleep. He performed the song live on The Midnight Special in 1974, and on Soul Train the following year.



For more songs that turn 50 this year, check out our Spotify playlist. Hit play and have yourself a little dance party!