"These are not the soft rock hits you are looking for..."
Rhino issued the first three volumes in their Billboard Top Soft Rock Hits series on April 15, 1997. In 1970, the Billboard chart that these songs topped was called Easy Listening. Six of the artists on this disc are holdovers from the Sixties.
The number of Sixties veterans decreased on the second volume of the series, devoted to the soft rock hits of 1971. Probably due to licensing, none of the three #1 hits Richard and Karen Carpenter scored that year made this compilation. One of Bread's pair of chart-toppers made the cut but neither of The Fifth Dimension's pair of Number Ones made it onto the disc.
Easily the best disc in the bunch with Michael Jackson's ode to a rat the only weak spot. 1972 was a monster year in soft rock: Don McLean's epic rock history poem "American Pie", the emergence of Roberta Flack and the sweet return of Rick Nelson. Bread, Three Dog Night and Ms. Flack all scored two #1 songs each on the Easy Listening chart in 1972.
The second and final flight of releases in the Billboard Soft Rock Hits series came on July 29, 1997. The soft rock hits of 1973 are represented well although the year saw a then record twenty-five singles reach the top spot. For comparison, here are the amount of Number Ones on Billboard's other major singles charts in 1973:
- Hot Soul Singles - 22
- Hot 100 - 27
- Hot Country Singles - 26
For HERC's tastes, this disc starts off strong with six great tracks in a row before flaming out. As the proud product of a redneck father and a hillbilly mother, HERC has always liked "Dueling Banjos" up to and including the sweet version below.
The final volume in the series shines the soft rock, soft white spotlight on 1974 - the year of HERC's earliest, clearest music memories. He bought his first 45 in 1974 (Ray Stevens' "The Streak") and the first two songs he remembers hearing on the radio as HERC SR. drove the 1968 Chevelle SS 396 around Fort Worth, Texas (Al Wilson's "Show And Tell" and Clint Holmes' "Playground In My Mind")
What are your musical memories from when you were eight years old?
If you failed to snag the five volumes in the series as they were released, Rhino took pity on you and made all five discs available in a special sleeve (pictured at top of post). All of the discs and the box set are still readily available although they are no bargain with only ten tracks per disc.
Just because the folks at Rhino stopped at 1974 doesn't mean HERC has to stop the soft rock hit parade. Here are his personal picks, arranged in 10 song playlists just like the Rhino discs.
In 1975, there was an unprecedented 41 different Number One singles on Billboard's Easy Listening chart - which stands as the most ever for that chart. Here's how many singles topped the those other major charts - it was a good year to be a music fan:
- Hot Soul Singles - 42!
- Hot 100 - 35!
- Hot Country Singles - 45!
There were so many great soft rock songs in 1975, HERC went overboard and created a 1975 - Yacht Rock playlist and a 1975 - Country Soft Rock playlist, each with 10 songs.
The soft rockin' hits didn't let up much in 1976 which featured 40 chart toppers on the smooth and mellow chart. The playlist above features HERC's 10 favorites from those 40 #1s.
Three songs featured in HERC's soft rock playlist for 1977 are from motion picture soundtracks:
- "Nobody Does It Better" is from The Spy Who Loved Me
- "You Light Up My Life" is from You Light Up My Life
- "How Deep Is Your Love" is from Saturday Night Fever
Also of interest from 1977 is the #1 song from the week of Sept 3: "Handy Man" by James Taylor. It was displaced the following week by Mrs. James Taylor - Carly Simon - and her hit "Nobody Does It Better". Four years later, they separated; coincidence?
Both 1976 and 1978 are definitely in HERC's Top 5 Best Years In Music EVER! As a result, picking just 10 songs to represent his favorite soft rock songs for the year was not an easy task. A short list of 66 songs was drawn up before being whittled down to the ten in the playlist above. There were two songs he had hoped to include that are currently unavailable in Spotify:
As the decade of the Seventies came to a close, Billboard changed the name of its Easy Listening chart to Adult Contemporary. The soft rock hits of 1979 are as diverse a group of hits as ever featuring more jazz, disco, soul, country and rock songs than ever before. Soft Rock-type songs even accounted for almost half of the Number One songs on the Hot 100.
Speaking of 100 or at least numbers close to it, the playlist below features all 98 songs from the featured playlists above - 10 songs for each of 10 years EXCEPT 1970 and 1971. (The 1975 bonus playlists are not included.) Be sure to let HERC know which songs he missed in the Comments below.