The music scene in the 1970s was ripe with artistry, diversity, and innovation. Rock, disco, punk and new wave all thrived during this decade. But while there were so many great bands that emerged around this time, not all of them remain relevant today. Some you’ve likely never even heard of unless you are an avid music scholar. However, there are a few influential bands from the 70s that continue to have a big impact on pop culture today. These bands inspired future icons like Lady Gaga and Kanye West as well as other artists who came after them. And while their popularity may have waned at some point after their initial rise to fame, when you look back on the history of rock music in the 1970s almost without fail each band listed here left their mark.
The Who are one of the most famous and influential rock and roll bands in history. Formed in 1964, The Who became one of the first British rock bands to earn popularity in the U.S. The band is best known for their rock operas and for their live performances. The group’s concert film, “The Who Live at Leeds,” was ranked No. 1 by Rolling Stone magazine as the “Greatest Rock Concert Ever.” The Who have sold more than 100 million records worldwide. The band is known for its pioneering use of feedback, distortion, and other “noise” in their music. The Who also influenced many bands who came after them, including Nirvana and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
The English rock band Led Zeppelin is considered one of the most influential and successful groups in the history of rock and roll. Led Zeppelin has sold more than 800 million records worldwide, including 111.5 million records in the United States, making it one of the best-selling music artists. The band, consisting of Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and John Bonham, is widely credited as having influenced a great deal of music that came after it, from heavy metal and punk rock to progressive rock. Legendary guitarist Jimmy Page’s style of playing, which relied heavily on feedback, distortion and extended guitar solos, was an early influence on many other rock artists. Led Zeppelin was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.
The British rock band Queen is known for its flamboyant and theatrical style. The group, consisting of singer Freddie Mercury, guitarist Brian May, drummer Roger Taylor and bassist John Deacon, sold more than 220 million records worldwide and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001. Some of the band’s best-known songs include “We Will Rock You,” “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Another One Bites the Dust.” “Bohemian Rhapsody” continues to be featured in movies, television shows and commercials. Queen also had a strong influence on other artists. Singer Lady Gaga paid tribute to Mercury in her song “Million Reasons,” which samples the band’s song “Teo Torriatte.”
The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones are one of the most successful rock and roll bands in history. The group, consisting of singer Mick Jagger, guitarist Keith Richards, drummer Charlie Watts and bassist Bill Wyman, has sold more than 250 million records worldwide. The Rolling Stones have influenced many musicians, as well as fashion designers and artists. The band has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice: once as a band and once for their contributions to music. The Rolling Stones’ most famous songs include “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” and “Paint It Black.” The band was listed No. 4 on VH1’s 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. The Rolling Stones have also had a big impact on other bands. The Beatles took their name from the Stones’ 1963 hit “I Want to Be Your Man.”
The American rock band Blondie was formed during the punk rock and new wave era of the late 1970s. The group, consisting of singer Debbie Harry, keyboardist/guitarist Chris Stein, drummer Clem Burke and bassist Gary Peden, has sold more than 40 million records worldwide. Blondie was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006. The band’s best-known songs include “Heart of Glass,” “Call Me” and “Rapture.” Blondie’s sound was unique in that it combined punk rock with disco and pop music.
The American R&B/funk/soul band The Commodores is one of the best-selling groups of all time. The Commodores, consisting of singer Lionel Richie, keyboardist/guitarist Thomas McClary, drummer Walter “Commodore” Barrows, trumpet player/guitarist Ron Moss and bassist/guitarist/songwriter Andre “Dre” Young, has sold more than 90 million records worldwide. The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005.
Earth, Wind & Fire
The American R&B/funk/soul band Earth, Wind & Fire is one of the most commercially successful African-American groups in music history. The band, consisting of singers Philip Bailey, Al McKay, Ralph Johnson and Andrew Young, bassist/guitarist Eugene “Sparky” Carter and keyboardist/guitarist/songwriter Philip “Phil” Bailey, has sold more than 100 million records worldwide. Earth, Wind & Fire was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.