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Summer Songs of the '70s

For each year of the '70s, we chose one great song we sang at the beach, in the woods, or on the hot streets

1970: '(They Long to Be) Close to You'

The Carpenters

As if the breakup of the Beatles and the deaths of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin in 1970 didn't signal the end of the 1960s, the biggest song of the summer was "(They Long to Be) Close to You" from squeaky-clean brother-and-sister duo The Carpenters.
Fun Fact:
Karen and Richard Carpenter originally named their band "Carpenters," thinking that version sounded "hipper without ['The'], like Buffalo Springfield or Jefferson Airplane."

Everett Collection

1971: 'It's Too Late'/'I Feel the Earth Move'

Carole King

King paved the way for superstar singer-songwriters by perching atop the charts this summer. In true '70s style, she spent much of the decade passionately advocating for environmental causes.
Fun Fact: Actor Pat Buttram accused CBS of canceling "every show with a tree in it" in 1971: The Beverly Hillbillies, Mayberry RFD, Hee Haw and his own Green Acres.

Retna/Photoshot/Everett Collection

1972: 'The Candy Man'

Sammy Davis Jr.

Sammy Davis Jr.'s version of this song from the movie Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory was a surprise hit in the summer of '72: Davis didn't love the song, but it revived his career; he was nicknamed "The Candy Man" from then on. 
Fun Fact: Davis caused a stir earlier in the year when he appeared on All in the Family and planted a kiss on racist character Archie Bunker.

NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

1973: 'My Love'

Paul McCartney and Wings 

This sugary ballad was written by ex-Beatle Paul about his wife (and Wings bandmate) Linda. Paul made Linda part of every musical project so they'd never have to spend a night apart. Excluding the 11 days Paul spent in a Japanese jail for a pot bust, they never did. 
Fun Fact: The previous single from Wings — 1972's "Hi Hi Hi" — was banned by the BBC for its presumed references to pot use.

David Redfern/Redferns/Getty Images

1974: 'The Streak'

Ray Stevens 

Nothing captured the narcissism of the '70s quite like streaking. Naked runners disrupted all sorts of public events, from ROTC graduations to the 1974 Oscars, where presenter David Niven chided streaker Robert Opel for his "shortcomings."
Fun Fact: Ray Stevens had many novelty hits, including "Rang Tang Ding Dong," "Harry the Hairy Ape" and "I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow."

AP Photo

1975: 'Love Will Keep Us Together'

Captain & Tennille 

While early disco tunes ("Jive Talkin'," "The Hustle") were infiltrating the charts, the mildly funky "Love Will Keep Us Together" was the feel-good hit of the '75 season. Captain & Tennille were married later that year — and they're still together today. 
Fun Fact: The duo realized soft rock had seen its heyday later in the '70s, when their shared record label gave the Sex Pistols reserved parking spots — but denied them to Captain & Tennille.

Everett Collection

1976: 'Don't Go Breaking My Heart'

Elton John and Kiki Dee 

As the U.S. celebrated its bicentennial, a second British invasion — of the pop charts, by this duet — was under way. A year later, John dropped Dee for another singer, Miss Piggy, to sing this signature tune on The Muppet Show.
Fun Fact: An outbreak of swine flu sparked a panicky government vaccination program in 1976. The dreaded epidemic never materialized.

Gus Stewart/Redferns/Getty Images

1977: 'Gonna Fly Now (Theme from "Rocky")'

Bill Conti 

The shaky state of American triumphalism was captured perfectly by "Gonna Fly Now." In the movie Rocky, the theme plays while the title character raises his arms in seeming victory as he trains for a boxing match he is fated to lose.
Fun Fact: "Gonna Fly Now" was the campaign song for Walter Mondale's unsuccessful bid for the presidency in 1984.

United Artists/Everett Collection

1978: 'You're the One That I Want'

John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John

Nostalgia for the 1950s dominated the summer of '78. Laverne & Shirley and Happy Days were No. 1 and No. 2 on TV, while the movie Grease ruled the box office — and gave us this karaoke classic.
Fun Fact: Henry Winkler and Marie Osmond turned down the lead roles in Grease. Winkler resisted being typecast as a "greaser," while Osmond didn't like the idea of having to turn "bad" in order to get the guy she wants.

Alan Pappe/Corbis

1979: 'Bad Girls'

Donna Summer 

Planet Earth seemed to become a giant disco ball in 1979. The undisputed queen of the '70s dance beat was Donna Summer, whose "Hot Stuff" hit No. 1 for five weeks in June. Summer's "Bad Girls" then strutted to No. 1 for four weeks in July and August.
Fun Fact: Summer was moved to write "Bad Girls" after one of her assistants was mistaken for a prostitute by the police.

Richard E. Aaron/Redferns/Getty Images

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