75 Best Rock Bands of the ’70s

Photo of author
Written By Will Fenton

Founder of MidderMusic. From numerous bands to stints working in music shops, read more about me on the 'Here's My Story' page!

You can’t discuss high quality music without invoking the rock bands of the 70s.

The 70s were the wellspring of music that was revolutionary and restless, provocative and playful, unapologetic and unconventional. 

The rock music genre was cleaved into a myriad of brazen, adventurous new forms: progressive, psychedelic, metal, glam rock and beyond.

Today we’re covering the 70s rock bands with attitude, originality, and staying power.

If you need a healthy dose of spirited tunes from the best in the business, read on.

1. Grateful Dead

Let’s take a minute to be grateful for the kings of psychedelic rock: Grateful Dead. 

They are considered one of the foremost jam bands of all time, effortlessly blending a litany of references, from Eastern mysticism to American delta blues. 

You don’t have to be a Deadhead, as their most dedicated fans are known, to appreciate their visionary approach.

2. Kansas

Named after their hometown state, Kansas was a staple of the 70’s rock scene, blending heartland character with arena rock anthems. 

Two of their best known tracks “Dust in the Wind” and “Carry on my Wayward Son” are still jukebox faves to this day. 

Kansas is one of those 70s music bands that transcend generations.

3. Pink Floyd

Not only one of the best 70s bands, but one of the best British bands in history, Pink Floyd was, and is, disruptive in every possible sense of the term. 

Despite their consistent success, the band remains enigmatic, intriguing, and elusive. 

They incorporate themes of philosophy, mysticism, political commentary, and fantasy to create a sonic landscape that has lost none of its power in ensuing decades.

4. Yes

A progresive rock powerhouse, Yes was formed in London and soon gained world renown for their ambition and scope. 

With groovy-titled albums like Tales from Topographic Oceans (1973) and Time and a Word (1970), Yes was bold and experimental from the start. 

Renowned music critic Lester Bangs complimented their ‘sense of style, taste, and subtlety.’

5. Bad Company

With their raucous, self assured sound, Bad Company was one of the preeminent powerhouse 70s rock bands. 

Bad Company consisted of four talented, experienced musicians: two former members of Free, singer Paul Rodgers and drummer Simon Kirke; former Mott the Hoople guitarist Mick Ralphs; and ex-King Crimson bassist Boz Burrell. 

Very good company indeed.

6. Genesis

No 70s rock band list would be complete without mention of the iconic British group Genesis. 

With haunting, evocative, and experimental synth, their songs leave an emotionally visceral impact. 

They were pioneers of the progressive sound, and band members Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel remain household names to this day.

7. Led Zeppelin

Hailing from London, that stronghold of game changing 70s bands, Led Zeppelin came on the scene in a major way. 

Combining poetic, philosophical lyrics with mind-bending guitar riffs, they sold over 37 million copies of Led Zeppelin IV, their 1971 masterpiece. 

They are the kings of blending complex instrumentals with original, haunting melodies.    

8. Fleetwood Mac

Fleetwood Mac are without doubt one of the most enduring rock groups of the 70s. 

These American legends run the show when it comes to songs on love, betrayal, wanderlust, and restlessness. 

Who doesn’t recognize icon Stevie Nicks’ folksy, dreamy vocals? 

9. Jethro Tull

Jethro Tull was one of the most eclectic, fearless 70s bands around. 

With albums like Songs From the Wood (1973) and songs like “The Witches Promise”, Jethro Tull were not afraid to capitalize on folksy, occult sounds and themes. 

While some of their songs have the flavor of a medieval minstrel, Ian Anderson, their multi-instrumentalist lead, is a veritable 70s icon.

10. Ten Years After

Blues rock band Ten Years After is, hands down, one of the most underrated 70’s rock bands.

Their languid, blues-driven sound is practically made for an afternoon lazing by a rural river with a beer in hand. 

You might know their famous anthem “I’d Love to Change the World” but you’d be remiss if you didn’t run down to the local record store and get your hands on their 1971 masterpiece A Space in Time.

11. Queen

The kings of camp, showmanship, and theatrics, Queen was one of the best rock bands of the 70s. 

Freddie Mercury had the charisma of a great stage actor, and the band brought an audacious, boisterous sound to an already buzzing decade in music. 

To this day you can’t go to a karaoke bar without hearing “Bohemian Rhapsody” or “We are the Champions”.

12. Supertramp

Founded in London in 1969, Supertramp reached the pinnacle of their fame and skill ten years later, with their magisterial album Breakfast in America (1979). 

Blending progressive with pop, philosophy with politics, Supertramp has a sound that is inimitable. 

With their Wurlitzer electric piano in tow, they expanded the scope of what rock could achieve.

13. Talking Heads

Proof that 70s bands were not all prog and hairspray, Talking Heads were at the vanguard of an exciting, unprecedented sound in the middle and later years of the decade: new wave.

Speaking to the anxieties and cultural fractures of the 70s, Talking Heads delighted in their own neurotic, art school grad personas. 

14. Deep Purple

When you think of classic rock bands of the 70s, we guarantee that Deep Purple comes to mind. 

Anthems like “Hush” and “Smoke on the Water” established them as mainstays in the hard rock scene. 

They are considered the fathers of heavy metal, though their sophisticated sounds and seductive vocals have scarcely been matched since.

Deep Purple in Rock (1970) was one of the pivotal albums of the decade. 

15. Rush

Canadian icons Rush originated a completely original sound with their comic book, fantasy, sci-fi, and geek culture references and their mind-altering guitar courtesy of Alex Lifeson. 

Rush reveled in creating a niche within the progressive music genre and their powerful social commentary and heartening nostalgia keep fans coming back decades later.

16. Lynyrd Skynyrd

The undisputed heroes of American rock, Lynyrd Skynyrd was one of the most popular rock and roll bands of the 70s. 

These guys put Southern rock on the map and have inspired many a youthful adventure with their dreamy, wistful anthem “Free Bird”. 

The core lineup met a tragic fate, however, with lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, and backup singer Cassie Gaines perishing in a 1977 plane crash. 

May they rock on. 

17. Creedence Clearwater Revival

Top bands of the 70s, you ask? Three words in response: Creedence Clearwater Revival. 

With the quiet confidence of bluesy, country barons, and the refined style of seasoned rock gods, CCR remains an enigmatic, captivating 70’s band. 

Their rhythmic guitar defines the sound of the decade, and conjures up California counterculture and Woodstock iconoclasm.

18. 38 Special

Unrefined and proud of it, 38 Special is a 70s band with bravado, sex appeal, and well-watered American roots. 

The band was launched in Florida in 1974 by Donnie Van Zant (younger brother of Lynyrd Skynyrd founder Ronnie Van Zant). 

38 Special reached the pinnacle of their success in the early 80s with cheerful, spirited anthems like “Hold on Loosely” and “Caught Up In You”. 

19. KISS

KISS are hair metal rockers par excellence, infusing their music and aesthetic with provocative, boisterous sexuality and thrill seeking showmanship. 

KISS are not just a band, they’re an experience. 

Their music is infused with the downtown attitude of New York and the backstage daring of a seedy after hours bar.

20. AC/DC

The most audacious and shameless of 1970s bands, AC/DC came out of Australia and changed the direction of heavy metal. 

They brought an unsuspecting world an intoxicating blend of vivaciousness, surliness, and plain head-banging, anthemic rock.

Their corpus is chock-full of high voltage tunes that defy low volumes. 

Named after alternating current/direct current, the band themselves knew their magic lay in the electric, raw impact of their sound.

21. The Eagles

If you’ve ever asked yourself “I wonder what bands were popular in the 70’s” the answer is pretty self-evident: The Eagles. 

Though the competition for the title is impressive, The Eagles are unarguably the gods of American road trip rock. 

Their music evokes California sunsets, Southwestern nights, and the intrigues and deceptions of Route 66. 

Between “Tequila Sunrise”, “Hotel California”, and “Take it Easy” these rockers don’t have a bad song in their canon.

22. The Kinks

Legendary British band The Kinks remain one of the most delightful, playfully elusive music groups of the 70s. 

Their twangy, lyric-driven London sound is as insouciant as it is strangely melancholic. 

They were stalwarts of the British new wave that rocked the sonic landscape of the 60s, and they entered the 70s with an unstudied, unpretentiously cool megahit: “Lola”. 

23. Judas Priest

This British heavy metal band has sold over 50 million albums, just further proof of their disruptive impact on the music world. 

Certainly one of the most unorthodox 70’s groups, Judas Priest were fearless and controversial and they never shied away from the taboo. 

Rob Halford’s operatic vocals and the band’s gothic, edgy demeanor were nothing short of revolutionary.

24. Roxy Music

Known for Bryan Ferry’s lush, melancholic vocals and their dreamy guitar riffs, Roxy Music are in a class all their own. 

They were one of the most intriguing, ethereal bands of the 70s and 80s and their sound is distinctly their own. 

They brought an unparalleled sophistication and maturity to glam rock, creating a musical tapestry of emotionally-driven, impactful vocals and pared-down instrumentals. 

25. Bee Gees

One of the greatest 70s bands, The Beegees combines overt sensuality with a completely unique vocal sound. 

The experience is all fun, camp, and guilty pleasure. True to their Australian good nature, The Bee Gees are tongue in cheek and in on the joke of their own flamboyance. 

In addition to their musical offerings, they are unquestioned 70s disco style icons.

26. King Crimson

If you don’t think jazz and classical music have a place in the 70s, think again. 

British band King Crimson ruptured the clean divisions between musical genres, creating a highly referential style of progressive rock. 

King Crimson is a great 70s band because they demonstrate the best tendencies of the decade: adventurousness, courage, and an unwavering creative vision.

27. Santana

After an epic breakthrough at Woodstock, Santana became one of the all-time great bands from the 70s. 

With seductive guitar riffs, honeyed vocals, and Latin American rhythms, Santana’s sound was something wholly unrivaled. 

Rolling Stone Magazine named frontman Carlos Santana the 20th best guitarist of all time in 2015 and we are apt to agree with the distinction.

28. ZZ Top

Billy Gibbons, Frank Beard, and Dusty Hill of ZZ Top are like your cool, unapologetic, rebellious uncles with a healthy wild streak. 

Their sly, innuendo-strewn lyrics and full throttle guitar riffs confirm their unfazed, carefree motorcycle gang credentials. 

These Houston-based rockers are one of the 70s classic rock bands par excellence.

29. Van Halen

One of the most popular bands of the 70s, Van Halen is world renowned for their high-impact, electric sound and Eddie’s killer guitar chords. 

Their music is sheer energy, packed to the brim with punchy lyrics, sensual vocals, and charged instrumentals. 

Nothing quite gets a crowd riled up to this day like “Panama”, “Jump”, or “Jamie’s Cryin”.

30. The Beach Boys

The Beach Boys are not only one of the most popular 70s bands of all time, but they pretty much originated and popularized a whole genre of music. 

They are campy, sugar-sweet California surf rockers with a twist. 

The music smacks of simpler times, leisurely adolescence, and well-meaning nostalgia. 

31. The Clash

Political, brash, and unflinchingly subversive, The Clash came out of London with a raw, gritty punk rock sound, and became one of the defining 1970s punk rock bands. 

The Clash never skipped a cultural beat, incorporating voltaic instrumentals with sharp, scathing commentary and cheeky innuendos.

32. Blondie

With dreamy vocals that sound like they’re refracted through a looking glass, Deborah Harry took the rock scene by storm. 

Fearless and experimental, Blondie were pioneers of the American new wave scene that took root in the 70s and fully blossomed in the 80s.

33. Sex Pistols

Defiant yet charming, The Sex Pistols distilled all the angst and temperamentality of youth into an unadorned, urgent new sound. 

They defined the emerging British counterculture of the mid and late 70s with their unholy lyrics and subversive aesthetic.

34. The Ramones

A list of 70s rock bands would miss the mark without the inclusion of New York punk kingpins The Ramones. 

Their sounds came with a heavy dose of mid-century nostalgia, endearing iconoclasm, and a touch of melancholic pathos. 

They captured the earnestness, expectation, and growing pains of youth like none before or after. 

35. The Rolling Stones

When you think of rock you think of The Rolling Stones. 

Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts, and Ronnie Wood have reached legend status in their lifetimes. 

The Stones pioneered a fresh, intense, affable style of hard rock. 

They had eight consecutive number one studio albums throughout the 70s and 80s, forever cementing their impact on popular culture.

36. The Misfits

For the adventurous, morbid, and lawless among us, no band looms larger than New Jersey-bred The Misfits. 

They capitalized on shock, vulgarity, and occultist themes to great effect. 

The original not-safe-for-work horror rockers have amassed a cult following that has only grown in the past few decades.

37. Black Flag

Greg Ginn, Henry Rollins and crew are veritable slacker icons, showing a middle finger to polite society and taking pride in being unrefined. 

Innovators of California’s punk rock subculture, they combined relentless riffs with scathing social commentary. 

These renegades were cited by both Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers and Kurt Cobain for being influential on their own sounds. 

38. Joy Division

Moody, erudite, and ethereal in turn, Joy Division were enigmatic at every turn, and became one of the staple 70s and 80s bands

Their synth-based instrumentals and melancholic, dream-like vocals are immediately identifiable to this day, and they helped to put new wave on the Billboard charts.

39. Jefferson Starship

Formed by former members of Woodstock icons Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship went on to sell eight platinum and gold selling studio albums between 1974 and 1984. 

True to their San Francisco roots, they combined psychedelic and hard rock in turn, synthesizing an ambitious sound. 

40. Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers

These Florida rock legends are one of the most enduring, popular 70s bands, and for good reason. 

Lonesome, wistful lyrics and heartland twang combined to create a distinctly American sound. 

Their music charts a thin line between tender lonesomeness and hopeful naivete.

41. Electric Light Orchestra

Straight out of Birmingham, England ELO masterfully combined pop, synth, and classical arrangements to produce a dynamic sound all their own. 

With insightful, fresh references to science fiction, futurism, and fantasy, they hit the ball out of the park with their bestselling 1977 album Out of the Blue.

42. Bachman Turner Overdrive

Probably one of the most unusual 70s band names, BTO were a Canadian foursome who provided the airwaves with wit, verve, and good old fashioned rock n roll riffs. 

Their songs like “Roll on Down the Highway” and “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” still dominate classic rock stations in Canada and beyond. 

43. Thin Lizzy

Irish rockers Thin Lizzy wholeheartedly embraced heavy metal and hard rock, with a healthy dose of Irish folk melodies thrown in. 

Considered one of the best 70s bands by fans and spectators alike, Thin Lizzy put on a raucous, memorable show. 

“The Boys are Back in Town” remains an anthem of the decade.

44. Trooper

You can’t go to a sports game these days without hearing the Trooper classic “Raise a Little Hell” and for good reason. 

Known as ‘Canada’s party band’ Trooper is all good times, good beer, and high energy. 

Their uplifting lyrics and humble roots make them fan favorites to this day. 

45. Journey

Nothing gets hearts blazing and vocal chords pumping like “Don’t Stop Believin”.

Journey are the masters of unrestrained, exuberant rock ballads and their legacy endures in karaoke bars across the world.

With their emotional chords and vocals, Journey was one of the most popular 70s and 80s bands. 

46. The Cars

Formed in Boston, the band consisted of Elliot Easton, Greg Hawkes, Ric Ocasek, Benjamin Orr, and David Robinson. 

With their synthesizer-oriented pop and new wave sensibilities, The Cars propelled to worldwide fame that lasted well into the 80s. 

They threw textured guitar and melodic, catchy hooks into the mix to create an uncommonly sophisticated, yet exuberant sound. 

47. Boston

Named after their hometown, Boston is known for razor-sharp guitar chords, captivating vocals, and vivid live performances. 

The band has sold more than 75 million records worldwide and were one of the most critically and commercially successful bands from the 70s.

48. America

Dewey Bunnell, Dan Peek, and Gerry Beckley brought folksy, heartland twang to the musical landscape of the 70s. 

These bohemian troubadours were unquestionably one of the best bands of the 70s. 

Their gentle acoustics and melodic vocal harmonies ensured songs like “Horse With no Name” and “Sister Golden Hair” became hits for generations.

49. Heart

Heart went through many name and lineup changes, but they’re best remembered for the evocative vocals of sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson. 

Their hard rock sound was tempered by folksy elements, and a powerful, vibrant vocal range. 

Their hits “Crazy on You” and “Barracuda” are well-known, even with listeners who aren’t familiar with the band’s work. 

50. The Scorpions

The original rebel rockers, the German band The Scorpions defined the hair metal, performative craze that began to sweep the scene in the mid 70s. 

They created a patent sound of seductive, provocative instrumentals and suggestive lyrics. 

Their music is high-octane, explicitly glam, and relentlessly paced. 

51. The Pretenders

Chriss Hynde is considered one of the most talented female vocalists of all time. 

When The Pretenders emerged on the scene in 1978 they gained quick acclaim with their mature arrangements, sophisticated lyrics, and emotionally riveting chords. 

If you love moving, unflinching vocals then this is one of the best 70s singing groups around.

52. The Velvet Underground

Infused with all the gritty sophistication and terrible glamor of a prep-school dropout, The Velvet Underground under the direction of icon Lou Reed are veritable cultural giants. 

Their pared-down instrumentals, delicate riffs, and unadorned vocals made them the darlings of the New York art and underground scene. 

Songs like “Heroin”, “Sweet Jane”, and “There She Goes Again” still resonate with all their original power. 

53. The Who

The Who are one of the most distinctive, commercially successful 70s bands. 

They helped kick off the Brit-rock craze that swept the decade. 

Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey are still considered some of the best vocalists of the century. 

They kept true to their mod roots throughout the 70s with gems like “Baba O’Riley” and “Who Are You”.

54. Emerson, Lake and Palmer

British supergroup ELO were one of the most commercially successful progressive bands during their musical tenure. 

They mixed organ, synthesizer, and piano to create a trippy, surreal sound. 

The artistic, eclectic feel of their output cemented their reputation as one of the most daring bands of the 70s.

55. Dire Straits

Formed in London in 1977, Dire Straits are renowned for unparalleled melodies and mastery of roots-rock references. 

Mark Knopfler’s dynamic vocals were at times ebullient, at others earnest and unpretentious. 

Their 1985 album Brothers in Arms is the 8th best selling British rock record of all time.  

56. Rainbow

Formed in 1975, Rainbow was a supergroup that proved why 70s bands rock. 

Ritchie Blackmore, Ronnie Dio, et al produced stadium-thumping pop-rock that got heart beats racing and feet stomping. 

Their hit “Since You Been Gone” is pure rock energy and vivaciousness. 

57. Sly & The Family Stone 

Combining progressive soul, funk rock, R&B and psychedelic influences in a fresh, enthusiastic way, Sly and The Family Stone released some of the best remembered songs of the decade. 

“Dance to the Music” and “Family Affair” cemented their status as fearless, humble musicians whose passion and verve showed through at every turn.

58. April Wine

Canadian act April Wine was led by multi-talented singer, songwriter, and guitarist Myles Goodwin. 

They released eight rock n roll, blues-inspired albums throughout the 70s, many hitting platinum status. 

They are best known for their fast-paced hard rock hit “Sign of the Gypsy Queen”. 

59. The Runaways

The Runaways were an all-female power band that delivered sass, ferocity, and unapologetic energy to the male-dominated 70s rock scene. 

Formed by Joan Jett and Sandy West, The Runaways pioneered a brazen sound that inspired countless female chart toppers in the 80s and 90s.

60. Blue Oyster Cult

New York rockers BOC are well-remembered for their psychedelic roots, hard rock credentials, and radio-friendly hits. 

The musical composition and lyrics of many of their hits were complex and obscure (in the best possible way). 

They were true to their unconventional vision and later became a staple on 80s MTV.  

61. The Doobie Brothers

California rockers through and through, The Doobie Brothers are famed for their vocal harmonies, easygoing sound, and smooth yet complex guitar riffs. 

They incorporated elements of folk and R&B, producing a leisurely canon perfect for summer days by the river. 

62. Black Sabbath

The Birmingham-based kings of heavy metal, Black Sabbath fearlessly embraced controversy, unorthodox themes, and provocative aesthetic. 

Ozzy Osbourne is still remembered as the master of horror-inspired, occultist lyrics and delightfully unkempt, unrestrained vocals. 

63. Chicago

Chicago have sold over 100 million albums with their blend of R&B, classical, and jazz. 

They are remembered as one of the great 70’s bands and in 1974 they had seven separate albums on the Billboard Top 200…at the same time!

64. Cheap Trick

With their earnest, sing-along classic “I Want You to Want Me” Cheap Trick lives on in the collective imagination of hard rock lovers everywhere. 

They’ve performed live over 5,000 times and give a riveting, theatrical performance that matches their animated, zesty musical arrangements.

65. The Stooges

Lead vocalist Iggy Pop is today considered the ‘father of punk’ and he certainly deserves the moniker. 

The Stooges were known for their unpolished, primitive, vehement sound and their gritty stage presence. 

They rocked from the garage to the local dive bar to the arena with their unruly performances. 

Iggy was known for self-mutilating on stage, proof of the band’s shameless insouciance. 

66. The Guess Who 

Canadian rockers, The Guess Who came in hot in 1970 with their blockbuster album American Woman

They’ve had more than 30 chart singles in Canada, and 14 in the U.S. 

They had a rock n roll sensibility and focused on creating a sound that blended elements of soul, folk, and fast hitting guitars.

67. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

This folk-rock supergroup consisted of icons David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash. Canadian legend Neil Young joined in on many of their most enduring hits. 

They created an earnest, nonchalant sound with haunting melodies and rustic, unadorned vocals. These masters are proof that soft rock can be just as compelling as hard. 

68. Aerosmith 

Ask anyone to name one of the best bands of the 70s and 80s and they’ll inevitably answer Aerosmith. 

The Boston-based rockers perfected hair metal, stadium rock, and blues-based anthems. 

Their high-octane, spirited songs remain immensely catchy and ideal for karaoke night.

69. Steely Dan

Formed in New York by Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, Steely Dan were called “the perfect musical antiheroes of the 70s” by Rolling Stone Magazine. 

They combined jazz, jukebox nostalgia, soft, intentional instrumentals, and pared-down vocals. 

Their lyrics were poetic and often rich with irony and social commentary.    

70. Three Dog Night

Consummate 70s rockers, Three Dog Night was an eight-piece band that oozed confidence, retro flair, and rock n roll purity. 

They are considered an example of blue-eyed soul and boogie rock with their mellow, musically complex piano-driven tracks. 

71. Steppenwolf

Reaching the height of their fame in the early 70s, Steppenwolf had the cool as a cucumber, bohemian energy of the decade they had just left behind. 

With hits like “Born to Be Wild” and “Magic Carpet Ride”, Steppenwolf has an outsize impact on the rhythmically tight, guitar-driven rock of the decade that followed.

72. The Allman Brothers Band

Considered one of the foundational Southern Rock groups, the band was led by brothers Duane and Gregg Allman. 

They are known for the folksy, country-inspired sound and twangy, breezy instrumentals. 

Their plucky hit “Ramblin’ Man” is an undeniable jukebox classic.

73. Nazareth

Scottish hard rockers Nazareth are best known for their fast-paced, audacious “Hair of the Dog” and their melodic, melancholic rock opera “Love Hurts”. 

They had a resolutely hard and electric sound, and were rock chart toppers throughout the 70s and well into the 80s.

74. The Marshall Tucker Band

Straight at the juncture of Southern rock and old school country, The Marshall Tucker Band are one of the 70s music bands that old fans and new can rally around. 

With a hint of delta blues and hometown roots, their sound defies time.

75. Motorhead

The gregarious and non-conformist British heavy metal band Motorhead were the perfect blend of hard-hitting sounds and amped-up attitude. 

They were integral to the development of British new wave metal and they provided fans with a different kind of gritty, impolite rock icon.

70s Rock Bands – Final Thoughts

Now that you’re thoroughly schooled in the masters of 70s rock, there’s no excuse for inaction.

Head over to the record store, retro style, and pick yourself up some of the greats.

These 70s rock band legends will be the new soundtrack to your life- promise. 

Similar Playlists:

Best 70s Rock Songs

Best 70s Songs