The best music of 1970, and how we’re coming back to it

From Alexandra DiPalma, Midmorning assistant producer:

When listener Josh Collins turned on the radio and heard the Beatles playing today, he sent a worried tweet:


Flipped on Midmorning with @KerriMPR, heard Beatles and suddenly worried that something had happened to Ringo or Paul. Guess not. Whew.less than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply

Fortunately, Paul and Ringo are fine. “Let It Be” was one of several songs discussed during Midmorning’s look at the music and culture of 1970. Here’s the show:

Author David Browne and pop critic extraordinaire Ann Powers joined Midmorning to revisit what Browne calls “the moment at which the remaining slivers of the idealism of the 1960s began surrendering to the buzz-kill comedown of the decade ahead.”

In his book Fire and Rain Browne describes the final concert of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s 1970 tour. Several Midmorning listeners were right there in the front row of the Met Arena in Bloomington. Many of the 10,000 audience members might not have known how volatile that tour was, or known that during the kick-off show in Denver, Neil Young threw down his guitar and stormed off the stage, nearly ending the tour before it began.

Phone lines were full throughout Midmorning and we were inundated with online comments from listeners eager to share their stories. There was, understandably, some nowadays-ing – there’s something missing from today’s music, there’s nothing to listen to on the radio, the sound of MP3s can’t possibly compare to the sound of vinyl.

But Ann and David both agreed: We’re back to denim jackets, harmonies and beards. Bands like Fleet Foxes, described by The Independent as “a hairy bunch of young folk-rockers…[who] sound like the heavenly, harmonizing love child of Brian Wilson and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young”), Bon Iver and Middle Brother are bringing back folky-hippie music in a big way.

While Browne’s book focuses on The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, James Taylor and CSNY, several listeners mentioned some of the other legendary musical events of 1970. Black Sabbath put out its first album on Friday the 13th of February. Joni Mitchell released “Big Yellow Taxi.” Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix died.

What were some other moments we missed? What are your memories of music from 1970? What stories did you want to share?

Here are some live versions of music from this legendary year that didn’t make it onto today’s show:

James Taylor, Sweet Baby James (September 13, 1970)

The Beatles, Let It Be (1970)

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Down by the River (1970)

Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi (1970)

  • Kevin

    Never mind Let It Be. In 1970, George Harrison put out arguably the best of the first post-Beatles solo efforts, All Things Must Pass. Black Sabbath also released the groundbreaking Paranoid. And let’s not forget The Who’s Live At Leeds.

  • Ginny

    Duh, didn’t the Jackson 5 burst onto the scene in 1970 with four #1 hits…

  • frightwig

    1970 was the year Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew came out, and he also recorded the classic A Tribute to Jack Johnson as well as some fantastic shows at both Fillmores and the Cellar Door in DC.

    Some other favorites of mine from that year:

    James Brown/ Funk Power: 1970: A Brand New Thang

    Donald Byrd/ Electric Byrd

    Freddie Hubbard/ Red Clay

    Nick Drake/ Bryter Layter

    Vashti Bunyan/ Just Another Diamond Day

    John Lennon/ Plastic Ono Band

    Yoko Ono/ Plastic Ono Band

    George Harrison/ All Things Must Pass

    The Band/ Stage Fright

    Roy Ayers/ Ubiquity

    Gary Burton/ Good Vibes

    Bill Cosby/ Badfoot Brown & the Bunions Bradford Funeral Marching Band

    Herbie Hancock/ Fat Albert Rotunda

    Lee Morgan/ Live at the Lighthouse

    Grant Green/ Alive!

    Jimi Hendrix/ Band of Gypsies

    Santana/ Abraxas

    Derek & the Dominoes/ Layla

    Van Morrison/ Moondance

    Randy Newman/ 12 Songs

    Joe Farrell/ Joe Farrell Quartet

    Duke Pearson/ I Don’t Care Who Knows It

    Antonio Carlos Jobim/ Stone Flower

    Bill Evans/ From Left to Right

    Aretha Franklin/ Spirit in the Dark

    Maceo Parker/ Maceo & All the King’s Men Doin’ Their Own Thing

    Demon Fuzz/ Afreaka!

    Ike & Tina Turner/ Workin’ Together

    Clifford Coulter/ East Side San Jose

    The Velvet Underground/ Loaded

    The Who/ Live at Leeds

    Neil Young/ After the Gold Rush

    Not bad, not bad….

  • http://www.tc.umn.edu/~coop0001 Jenzi

    I second the shout-out for Miles Davis’s Bitches’ Brew and Jack Johnson soundtrack. My spouse and I could listen to those CDs forever…GREAT stuff! And, why no mention of Led Zeppelin’s 3rd album, released in October ’70?? (By the way, they were the first band in 8 years to be voted more popular in the UK than the Beatles, in Melody Maker’s Fall ’70 poll :) Also, Frank Zappa’s Weasels Ripped My Flesh and Chunga’s Revenge, and Chicago’s second album (Chicago was actually a very awesome band 41 years ago). I was glad to see another listener mentioned Hendrix’s Band of Gypsys too. As far as I’m concerned, no discussion of why 1970 was such a great year for music is complete without mentioning any of these records!

  • http://www.tc.umn.edu/~coop0001 Jenzi

    I forgot to add Steeleye Span’s first album, Hark! The Village Wait. For fans of British traditional folk with a rock influence, this is the stuff!