HYMNS of the 1970s

Historians have increasingly portrayed the 1970s as a “pivot of change” in world history, focusing especially on the economic upheavals.  In the Western worldsocial progressive values that began in the 1960s, such as increasing political awareness and economic liberty of women, continued to grow.

Novelist Tom Wolfe coined the term “‘Me’ decade” in his essay “The ‘Me’ Decade and the Third Great Awakening“, referring to the 1970s.  The term describes a general new attitude of Americans towards individualism and away from communitarianism in clear contrast with the 1960s.  For example, the first face lifts were attempted in the 1970s.

Vietnam War

The Vietnam War came to a close in 1975 with the fall of Saigon and the unconditional surrender of South Vietnam on April 30, 1975.  The following year, Vietnam was officially declared reunited.

Cold War

There was major conflict between capitalist and communist forces in multiple countries, while attempts were made by the Soviet Union and the United States to lessen the chance for conflict, such as both countries endorsing nuclear nonproliferation.  The Soviet Union under the leadership of Leonid Brezhnev, having the largest armed forces and largest stockpile of nuclear weapons in the world, pursued an agenda to lessen tensions with its rival superpower, the US, for most of the seventies. That policy known as détente abruptly ended with the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan at the end of 1979. 


The decade was marked by the 1973 oil crisis and the 1979 energy crisis.

The 1970s were perhaps the worst decade of most industrialized countries’ economic performance since the Great Depression.  Although there was no severe economic depression as witnessed in the 1930s, economic growth rates were considerably lower than previous decades.  As a result, the 1970s adversely distinguished itself from the prosperous postwar period between 1945 and 1973.  The oil shocks of 1973 and 1979 added to the existing ailments and conjured high inflation throughout much of the world for the rest of the decade.  U.S. manufacturing industries began to decline as a result, with the United States running its last trade surplus in 1975.  In contrast, Japan’s economy continued to expand and prosper during the decade, boosted by growing exports.

In the US, the average annual inflation rate from 1900 to 1970 was approximately 2.5%; from 1970-1979, however, the average rate was 7.06%, and topped out at 13.29% in December 1979.  This period is also known for “stagflation“, a phenomenon in which inflation and unemployment steadily increased.  It led to double-digit interest rates that rose to unprecedented levels (above 12% per year).  The prime rate hit 21.5 in December 1980, the highest in history.  By 1980, when President Jimmy Carter was running for re-election against Ronald Reagan, the misery index (the sum of the unemployment rate and the inflation rate) had reached an all-time high of 21.98%.  The economic problems of the 1970s would result in a sluggish cynicism replacing the optimistic attitudes of the 1950s and 1960s.  Faith in government was at an all-time low in the aftermath of Vietnam and Watergate, as exemplified by the low voter turnout in the 1976 United States presidential election.

Space Race

As the 1960s ended, the United States had made two successful manned lunar landings.  Many Americans lost interest afterward, feeling that since the country had accomplished President John F. Kennedy‘s goal of landing on the moon by the end of the 1960s, there was no need for further missions.  There was also a growing sentiment that the billions of dollars spent on the space program should be put to other uses.  The moon landings continued through 1972, but the near loss of the Apollo 13 astronauts in April 1970 served to further anti-NASA feelings.  Plans for missions up to Apollo 20 were canceled, and the remaining Apollo and Saturn hardware was used for the Skylab space station program in 1973/74.  Meanwhile, the Soviets, having failed completely in their attempt at manned lunar landings, canceled the program in 1972.


The birth of modern computing was in the 1970s, which saw the development of pocket calculators, the Magnavox Odyssey was the first home video game console, the Sony Walkman (1978), consumer video games, and floppy disks (they were 8” square).  The 1970s were also the start of: fiber optics, which transformed the communications industry; microwave ovens & VCRs became commercially available; the first voicemail system, known as the Speech Filing System (SFS), was invented (1973); and e-commerce was invented (1979).


The 1970s was an era of fuel price increases, rising insurance rates, safety concerns, and emissions controls.  The 1973 oil crisis caused a move towards smaller, fuel-efficient vehicles.  Attempts were made to produce electric cars, but they were largely unsuccessful.  In the US, imported cars became a significant factor for the first time, and several domestic-built subcompact models entered the market.  Muscle cars and convertible models faded from favor during the early-1970s.  Cars in the US from the early 1970s are noted more for their power than their styling, but they even lost their power by the late-1970s.  Styling on American cars became progressively more boxy and rectilinear during the 1970s, with coupes being the most popular body style. Wood paneling and shag carpets dominated the interiors.  Many automobiles began to lose their character and looked the same across brands and automakers, as well as featuring “luxury” enhancements such as vinyl roofs and opera windows.  Only a few had “real personalities” such as the AMC Gremlin, which was America’s first modern subcompact, and the AMC Pacer.

European car design underwent major changes during the 1970s due to the need for performance with high fuel efficiency.  The Japanese automobile industry flourished during the 1970s, compared to other major auto markets.  Japanese vehicles became internationally renowned for their affordability, reliability, and fuel-efficiency, which was very important to many customers due to the oil embargo.  The Honda Civic was introduced in 1973, and sold well due to its high fuel-efficiency.  Other popular compact cars included the Toyota Corolla and the Datsun Sunny, in addition to other cars from those companies and others such as SubaruMitsubishi, and Mazda.


The role of women in society was profoundly altered with growing feminism across the world and, with the presence and rise of a significant number of women as heads of state outside monarchies and heads of government in a number of countries across the world during the 1970s… many being the first women to hold such positions.   The women’s movement had a shining moment when Australian-American singer Helen Reddy recorded the song “I Am Woman“, which became an anthem for the women’s liberation movement.  “I Am Woman” reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and even won Helen her one and only Grammy Award.

Social Activism

The opposition to the War in Vietnam that began in the 1960s grew exponentially during the early 1970s.  One of the best-known anti-war demonstrations was the Kent State shootings (1970) where university students were protesting the war and the draft.


The 1970s started a mainstream affirmation of environmental issues.  On April 22, 1970, the United States celebrated its first Earth Day.

Civil Rights

The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s began to fracture in the 1970s, as social groups began defining themselves more by their differences than by their commonalities.  The Black Nationalist movement grew out of frustrations with the “non-violent” strategies of earlier Civil Rights Activists.  With the assassinations of both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Senator Bobby Kennedy, many blacks were compelled to reject ideas of negotiation and instead embrace isolation.  The feminist movement also splintered from a larger push for Civil Rights in the 1970s.  The seventies were seen as the “woman’s turn”, though many feminists incorporated civil rights ideals into their movement.  A feminist who had inherited the leadership position of the civil rights movement from her husband, Coretta Scott King, as leader of the black movement, called for an end to all discrimination, helping and encouraging the Woman’s Liberation movement, and other movements as well.  At the National Women’s Conference in 1977 a minority women’s resolution, promoted by King and others, passed to ensure racial equality in the movement’s goals.  Similarly, the gay movement became more prominent in the 1970s with the election of political figures such as Harvey Milk to public office and the advocating of anti-gay discrimination legislation passed and not passed during the decade.  Many celebrities, including Freddie Mercury and Andy Warhol, also “came out” during this decade, bringing gay culture further into the limelight.


The top 10 highest-grossing films of the decade are (in order from highest to lowest grossing): Star WarsJawsGreaseThe Exorcist, Close Encounters of the Third KindSupermanThe GodfatherSaturday Night FeverRocky, and Jaws 2Martial arts films reached their peak of popularity largely in part due to their greatest icon, Bruce LeeThe Rocky Horror Picture Show flopped in its 1975 debut, only to reappear as a more-popular midnight show later in the decade.


In the US, long-standing television trends were declining.  The Red Skelton Show and The Ed Sullivan Show, long-revered American institutions, were canceled. The innocent, 1950s-style family sitcom saw its last breath at the start of the new decade with The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family.

To reflect the new social trends, television changed dramatically with more urban and edgy settings, and replaced the popular rural/country wholesome look of the previous decade.  This particular trend was known as the rural purge.  Television was transformed by what became termed as “social consciousness” programming, such as All in the Family and Soap, which broke down television barriers.

The women’s movement ushered in a slew of programming featuring strong, independent females as central characters.  Most notable was The Mary Tyler Moore Show, which spawned the successful spin-offs Rhoda and Phyllis, and also resulted in Mary Tyler Moore becoming the first female to head a television production company of her own, MTM Enterprises, which churned out groundbreaking programming in the late 1970s throughout the 1990s.  Women were also established portraying strong characters in programs like Police WomanWonder WomanThe Bionic Woman, and others.

Minority-centric television programming also featured prominently during the 1970s.  Shows featuring minorities as main characters, such as Sanford and SonMaude and Good Times, broke down barriers and became very popular.  In addition, Soul Train, premiered in 1971 as an alternative to American Bandstand, giving a forum for soulfunkjazzR&Bdisco, and future rap and hip hop artists to gain exposure to American audiences, consumers, music lovers, enthusiasts, and those keen on learning new dance moves.

The television western, which had been very popular in the 1950s and 1960s, all but died out during the 1970s, with BonanzaThe Virginian, and Gunsmoke ending their runs.  Replacing westerns were police and detective shows, a trend that would last through the 1980s.

Television still had its medical shows of the 1970s, however, Emergency! was the first popular medical drama ever to feature both the paramedic program as well as the hospital emergency department, which also encouraged people in the US to develop their own paramedic program or hospital emergency department, and acted as an inspiration for many.

By the mid-to-late 1970s, programs oriented toward sexual gratification and bawdy humor and situations – such as Charlie’s AngelsThe Love Boat, and Three’s Company – became popular.

Soap operas expanded their audiences beyond housewives with the rise of All My ChildrenAs the World TurnsSomerset, and The Young and the Restless.

Game shows such as Match GameThe Hollywood Squares, and Family Feud, were also popular daytime television.  The height of Match Game’s popularity occurred between 1973 and 1977, before it was overtaken by Family Feud in 1978.  Television’s current longest-running game show, The Price Is Right, began its run hosted by Bob Barker in 1972.

Another influential genre was the television newscast, which built on its initial widespread success in the 1960s.

The science fiction phenomenon of the late 1970s that began with Star Wars went to television with shows such as Battlestar Galactica.

Finally, the variety show received its last hurrah during this decade, with shows such as Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour and Donny & MarieThe Carol Burnett Show also ended its historic 11-year run in 1978.

As cable television became more affordable and accessible by U.S. consumers, the race to bring the silver screen to the small screen commenced with the launch of pay television services showing premium content; HBO launched in1972, becoming the nation’s first pay-television channel.  HBO became the first television network to continuously deliver signals via satellite when it showed the “Thrilla in Manila” boxing-match between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier; Showtime started in 1976, after a brief, wildly successful test launch on their cable system in Dublin, California; and The Movie Channel first aired in 1979.

Video Games

Popular and notable video games of the 1970s include: Space Invaders,  AsteroidsSnakePong, and Breakout.  The 1970s was the Golden age of video arcade games.


The Dallas Cowboys and the Pittsburgh Steelers dominated the decade in the NFL.  Steelers were led by Terry Bradshaw and Chuck Noll, and the Cowboys were led by Roger Staubach and Tom Landry.


Clothing styles during the 1970s were influenced by outfits seen in popular music groups and in Hollywood films.  In clothing, prints, especially from India and other parts of the world, were fashionable.  Much of the 1970s fashion styles were influenced by the hippie movement.

Significant fashion trends of the 1970s include:

–  Bell-bottomed pants; these combined with turtle necked shirts and flower-prints to form the characteristic 1970s look.  In the latter part of the decade, this gave way to three-piece suits, in large part because of the movie “Saturday Night Fever“.

–  Sideburns were popular for men, as were beards, which had been out of fashion since the 19th century.

–  Women’s hairstyles went from long and straight in the first half of the decade to the feathery cut of Farrah Fawcett.

–  Platform shoes


–  Patton won the Oscar for best picture.

–  The Cincinnati Reds went to the World Series in 197019721975, and 1976, led by the Big Red Machine winning two out of four.


–  The first e-mail transmission was in 1971.

–  In Finland, car phone service was first available in 1971.

–  The 26th Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified in July, lowering the voting age for all federal and state elections from 21 years to 18 years.  The primary impetus for this change was the fact that young men were being drafted to fight in the Vietnam War before they were old enough to vote.

–  The French Connection won the Oscar for best picture.

–  The Oregon Trail was the first publicly available educational video game made available for widespread use in schools.  The game is a cult classic and is still used today, in a wide variety of formats.


–  The Munich massacre took place at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany, where Palestinian Arab terrorists of the Black September terrorist organization kidnapped and murdered 11 Israeli athletes.

–  Apollo 17 Astronaut Gene Cernan became the last man on the moon in December.

–  The Godfather won the picture for best picture.

–  The computer game, Pong, was introduced in 1972.

–  The first commercially available video game console, Magnavox Odyssey, was released.

–  The 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany saw swimmer Mark Spitz set 7 World Records and won a record seven gold medals.

–  The Oakland Athletics three-peated in the World Series in 19721974.


–  The Yom Kippur War was launched by Egypt against Israel in October to recover the international standing Egypt had lost in the 1967 conflict.  The Israelis were taken by surprise and suffered heavy losses before they rallied.  In the end, they managed to repel the Egyptians (and a simultaneous attack by Syria).  In 1978, Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel at Camp David in the US, ending outstanding disputes between the two countries.

–  The first MRI image was published in 1973.

–  In April, Michael Cooper of Motorola transmitted the first Cell Phone call.

–  The Supreme Court‘s decision of Roe v. Wade constitutionalized the right to an Abortion and brought the women’s rights movement into the national political spotlight.

–  The Sting won the Oscar for best picture.


–  America’s first space station, Skylab, went into orbit in February.

–  President Richard Nixon resigned as President in August, while facing charges for impeachment as a result of the Watergate scandal.

–  The Godfather Part II won the Oscar for best picture.


–  In Cambodia, the communist leader Pol Pot led a revolution against the American-backed government of Lon Nol in April.

–  In November, the U.S. Great Lakes bulk freighter SS Edmund Fitzgerald foundered on Lake Superior with the loss of all 29 crewmen.

–  One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest won the Oscar for best picture.


–  Rocky won the Oscar for best picture.

–  Mattel introduced the first handheld electronic game with the release of Mattel Auto Race.


–  The first complete DNA genome to be sequenced was that of bacteriophage φX174.

–  Apple Computer Company was officially founded in a garage in Los Altos, CA.

–  The highest-grossing film of the decade was Star Wars.

–  Annie Hall won the Oscar for best picture.

–  Apple, Inc. ushered in the modern personal computing age with its launch of the first mass-produced personal computer, the Apple II.  Although many business-focused personal workstations were available to corporations years earlier, the Apple II has the distinction of being the first to produce personal computers specifically targeted to home users, beating the Commodore PET and Atari 400 to the market by five months.  Its initial price tag was US$4999.99.

–  The Atari 2600 was released in October and was a huge commercial success.  It is also credited for being the first gaming console to have a plug-in concept.  It was challenged by the Magnavox Odyssey² and Intellivision.

–  The New York Yankees won the World Series in 1977 and 1978 after losing in 1976.


–  The Ugandan–Tanzanian War was fought between Uganda and Tanzania, based on an expansionist agenda to annex territory from Tanzania.  The war resulted in the overthrow of Idi Amin‘s regime.

–  In Guyana, the Rev. Jim Jones led several hundred people from the US to establish a Utopian Marxist commune in the jungle named Jonestown.  Amid allegations of corruption, mental and physical abuse by Jones on his followers, and denying them the right to leave Jonestown, a Congressional committee visited Guyana to investigate in November.  They were attacked by Jones’ guards and Congressman Leo Ryan was killed.  The demented Jones then ordered everyone in the commune to commit suicide.  The people drank – or were forced to drink – cyanide-laced fruit punch.  A total of 900 dead were found, including Jones, who shot himself.

–  Louise Brown became the first child to be born via in vitro fertilization, or IVF.

–  The Deer Hunter won the Oscar for best picture.


–  President Jimmy Carter and Soviet Union leader Leonid Brezhnev signed the SALT II Treaty in June in Vienna, Austria.

–  The Iranian Revolution transformed Iran from an autocratic pro-Western monarchy under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to a theocratic Islamist government under the leadership of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.  Distrust led to the Iran hostage crisis in November, where 66 diplomats, mainly from the US, were held captive for 444 days.

–  After successful vaccination campaigns throughout the 19th & 20th centuries, the World Health Organization certified the eradication of smallpox in December.

–  Kramer vs. Kramer won the Oscar for best picture.

Music in the 1970s

The early 1970s saw the rise of many diverse forms of popular and rock musical styles, including jazz rock (aka “fusion”), southern rock, folk rock, and soft rock.  It also included the rise of such popular, influential rhythm and blues (R&B) and Motown artists. Funk, an offshoot of Soul music with a greater emphasis on beats, influences from rhythm and bluesjazz, and psychedelic rock, was also very popular.  The mid-1970s also saw the rise of disco music, which dominated during the last half of the decade with bands.  In response to this, rock music became increasingly hard-edged with British early metal artists.  Experimental classical music influenced both art rock and progressive rock with bands.  Hard rock and Heavy metal also emerged among British bands.

The mid-’70s saw the rise of punk rock from its protopunk/garage band roots in the 1960s and early 1970s.  The highest-selling album was Pink Floyd‘s, The Dark Side of the Moon (1973); it remained on the Billboard200 albums chart for 741 weeks.

The late ’70s also saw the beginning of Hip Hop music.

Country music remained very popular in the United States… becoming more mainstream in the latter half of the decade.

The early 70s saw the deaths of popular rock stars Jimi HendrixJanis Joplin, and Jim Morrison, all at the age of 27.  Elvis Presley, the best-selling singer of all time, died in 1977.  Bing Crosby, who sold about 50 million records, also died in 1977; his single, White Christmas, remains as the best-selling single of all time.

Statistically, Led Zeppelin was the most successful musical act of the 1970s, having sold more than 300 million records since 1969.


The decade of the 1970s is considered by many to be the best decade in the history of music.  But what about church music in the 1970s?

Arguably the single biggest alteration in the life of the average evangelical congregation within the last 50 years has been the sweeping change in the music that is played on Sunday morning.  Where organ and piano, formal choirs, and vocal soloists and groups once held sway over a slowly-changing canon of staid hymnody and peppy gospel songs, a flood of guitars and “praise choruses” suddenly came rushing in during the 1970s.  The Jesus Movement had an obvious effect on songwriters… and choruses and praise songs became more popular.  An irresistible, grassroots, pop-culture-driven force met the immovable object of tradition and sentiment, and the ensuing years saw no shortage of conflict and controversy as a result.

Most churches sing more songs written in the 1970s than they do the 1940s, 50s & 60s combined.  The 1970s introduced a revival of songwriting for churches!


1970…           Praise the Name of Jesus; There’s Something about That Name;

The Family of God; The King Is Coming;

Lord, Listen to Your Children Praying; Give Thanks

1971…           Through It All; My Tribute

1972…           Seek Ye First; Alleluia; Father, I Adore You; Freely, Freely

1973…           Greater Is He That Is In Me

1974…           Our God Reigns; Jesus, Name above All Names

1975…           O, How He Loves You and Me

1976…           He Has Made Me Glad; Cornerstone; Open Our Eyes, Lord

1977…           Surely the Presence of the Lord

1978…           In His Time; Soon and Very Soon

1979…           Sweet Beulah Land


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