Broadcasting, Music, Music Countdowns, Radio, Retro Rock

1977 Fantastic Top 40 Hits

What are the most significant top 40 songs from 45 years ago?   While that are no definitive answers to that question, I will be sharing what I consider to be the best pop singles of 1977.

During 1977, I lived in Roanoke, Virginia and was employed by WJLM 93.5 FM as a country DJ.  With this full-time position, I was totally immersed within the genre of country music at my radio station.

Whenever I wasn’t working at WJLM, my radio listening tended to be in non-country formats.  Since my first love musically was rock music, I predominantly listened to top 40 stations. And whenever possible, I also tuned into “All Things Considered” on Roanoke’s NPR affiliate, WVWR 89.1 FM.

My go to radio station that I heard the most during 1977 was WROV 1240 AM. I was employed part-time at this legendary top 40 outlet while attending Virginia Western Community College during 1974 and 1975.  I fondly remember regularly listening to WROV DJs Bart Prater, Rob O’Brady, Bill Jordan and Larry Bly in ’77. 

Since WROV reduced their power at sundown, I would sometimes listen to a couple of 50,000 watt AM stations during the nighttime:  WLS 890 Chicago and WABC 770 New York.

On the FM band, I could listen to a couple of high-powered top 40 North Carolina stations that came in strong throughout the Roanoke Valley:  WKZL 107.5 FM Winston-Salem and WRQK 98.7 FM Greensboro. And if weather conditions were just right, I could pick up Q94 Richmond (94.5 FM) which was a premier Top 40 station in Virginia.

With this edition of my musical musings, I am concentrating on most significant top 40 hits from 45-years ago. Using Billboard magazine’s, “Year-End Hot 100 Singles of 1977” chart as a reference, I will countdown the what I consider to be the best songs in this category.

Below are the ten biggest records of 1977 according to Billboard.  Interesting that none of these songs made my final countdown list.

1          “Tonight’s the Night (Gonna Be Alright)”–Rod Stewart

2          “I Just Want to Be Your Everything”–Andy Gibb

3          “Best of My Love”–The Emotions

4          “Evergreen (Love Theme from A Star Is Born)”–Barbra Streisand

5          “Angel in Your Arms”—Hot

6          “I Like Dreamin'”–Kenny Nolan

7          “Don’t Leave Me This Way”–Thelma Houston

8          “(Your Love Has Lifted Me) Higher and Higher”–Rita Coolidge

9          “Undercover Angel”–Alan O’Day

10        “Torn Between Two Lovers”–Mary MacGregor

Before starting my listing with the best top 40 hits of 1977, I have tabulated 10 singles that fell just outside of my top 20 countdown. These songs are in a random order and have no ranking.

  • Weekend in New England—Barry Manilow
  • Give a Little Bit—Supertramp
  • Don’t Worry Baby—B.J. Thomas
  • On and On—Stephen Bishop
  • Lido Shuffle—Boz Scaggs
  • Don’t Stop—Fleetwood Mac
  • Stand Tall—Burton Cummings
  • Livin’ Thing—Electric Light Orchestra
  • Swayin’ to the Music (Slow Dancing)—Johnny Rivers
  • You Don’t Have to Be a Star (To Be in My Show)—Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis Jr.

Without further ado, here are the top selections with my 1977 countdown of fantastic top 40 hits:

20.  Strawberry Letter 23—The Brothers Johnson

Peak Positions on Billboard:  #5 Hot 100, 54th Biggest Song of 1977

R&B band with siblings George (“Lightnin’ Licks”) and Louis (“Thunder Thumbs”) E. Johnson. “Strawberry Letter 23” was produced by Quincy Jones and the song featured studio guitar player Lee Ritenour.

19.  Easy—The Commodores

Peak Positions on Billboard: #4 Hot 100, 33rd Biggest Song of 1977

Front man Lionel Richie wrote and sang lead vocals. “Easy” opened the way for two other number 1 hits for the Commodores during the late 70s: “Three Times a Lady” and “Still.”

18.  Carry on My Wayward Son—Kansas

Peak Positions on Billboard: #11 Hot 100, 58th Biggest Song of 1977 

Written by guitarist Kerry Livgren.  Vocals and keyboard duties were from Steve Walsh. This classic rock single is considered the signature song for Kansas.

17.  Telephone Line—Electric Light Orchestra

Peak Positions on Billboard: #7 Hot 100, 15th Biggest Song of 1977

Hybrid progressive/pop/classical/rock English band.  Composed, produced and vocals are from ELO leader Jeff Lynne.

16.  I Wish—Stevie Wonder

Peak Positions on Billboard: #1 Hot 100, 51st Biggest Song of 1977

Lead single from the legendary “Songs in the Key of Life” album. Stevie wonder wrote and produced the song and it won a Grammy Award for “Best R&B Vocal Performance.”

15.  New Kid in Town—Eagles

Peak Positions on Billboard: #1 Hot 100, 59th Biggest Song of 1977

New Kid in Town” was penned by Don Henley, Glenn Frey and J.D. Souther.  First single from “Hotel California” album.  Song won a Grammy Award for “Best Vocal Arrangement for Two or More Voices.”

14.  Whatcha Gonna Do? Pablo Cruise

Peak Position on Billboard: #6 Hot 100, 16th Biggest Song of 1977

American rock band. This yacht rock classic song was written by Pablo Cruise members David Jenkins and Cory Lerios.  From the album, “A Place in the Sun.”

13.  Nobody Does It Better—Carly Simon

Peak Positions on Billboard: #2 Hot 100, 83rd Biggest Song of 1977

This power ballad was composed by Marvin Hamlish with lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager. Theme song from James Bond movie “The Spy Who Loved Me.” Carly Simon’s single received both Academy Award and Golden Globe Award nominations for best original song.

12.  Just a Song Before I Go—Crosby Stills & Nash

Peak Positions on Billboard: #7 Hot 100, 47th Biggest Song of 1977

Acoustic ballad written by Graham Nash.  Comeback hit for CSN, superb harmonies and excellent guitar solo from Stephen Stills.

11.  Barracuda—Heart

Peak Positions on Billboard: #11 Hot 100, 53rd Biggest Song of 1977

The Wilson siblings are leaders on this hard driving rock masterpiece.  Ann’s excellent vocals and Nancy’s exceptional guitar playing shine on this song.

10.  Dancing Queen—ABBA

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #1 Hot 100, 12th Biggest Song of 1977

ABBA’s most recognizable and popular song. Inducted into Grammy Hall of Fame in 2015. Melodic tune and excellent vocal harmonies by the Swedish quartet. Reached number 1 in 14 countries around the world.

9.    Dreams—Fleetwood Mac

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #1 Hot 100, 39th Biggest Song of 1977

“Dreams” is the only Fleetwood Mac song to peak at number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Written by Stevie Nicks. Ranked #9 on Rolling Stone’s, “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” listing published in 2021.

8.   I’m In You—Peter Frampton

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #2 Hot 100, 42nd Biggest Song of 1977

English singer-songwriter and guitarist.  Was the highest charting single for Peter Frampton. Background vocals provided by Mick Jagger.

7.   Fly Like an Eagle—Steve Miller Band

Peak Position on Billboard Charts:  #2 Hot 100, 79th Biggest Song of 1977

Title track from the Steve Mille Band’s biggest selling studio album. Mix of synthesizer and guitar creates a laid back, soaring experience. Most beloved song by the California band.

6.   So in to You—Atlanta Rhythm Section

Peak Position on Billboard Charts: #7 Hot 100, 38th Biggest Song of 1977

American Southern rock band formed in 1970. Had six top 40 hits. “So in to You” was the biggest hit from the Georgia group. Now considered “Yacht Rock.”

5.   Couldn’t Get It Right—Climax Blues Band

Peak Position on Billboard Charts:  #3 Hot 100, 32nd Biggest Song of 1977.

British blues/rock band. Formed in Stafford, England. Group is a two-hit wonder. Also charted with “I Love You” in 1981.

4.   Go Your Own Way—Fleetwood Mac

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts:  #10 Hot 100, 94th Biggest Song of 1977

Song written by Lindsey Buckingham about his relationship woes with fellow Fleetwood Mac member Stevie Nicks.  First single from the “Rumours” album.  Song is in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Rolling Stone ranks “Go Your Own Way” as the #1 best Fleetwood Mac song of all-time.

3.   Year of the Cat—Al Stewart

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts:  #8 Hot 100, 92nd Biggest Song of 1977

Signature song for Scottish singer-songwriter Al Stewart. Melodic tune that features cello, violin, piano, guitar, synthesizer and saxophone. Recorded by engineer Alan Parsons at London’s Abbey Road Studios.

2.   Sir Duke—Stevie Wonder

Peak Position on Billboard Charts:  #1 Hot 100, 18th Biggest Song of 1977

Stevie Wonder wrote his song as a tribute to jazz legend Duke Ellington. Lyrics also mention Count Basie, Glenn Miller, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald.  “Sir Duke” was produced, arranged and composed by Wonder.

This salute has outstanding saxophone and trumpet playing and is the second single from the acclaimed, “Songs in the Key of Life” album.  My favorite Stevie Wonder song of all-time is “Sir Duke.”

1.   Hotel California—Eagles

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts 1977:  #1 Hot 100:  19th Biggest Song of Year

One of the most iconic rock songs from the 20th Century is “Hotel California.”  Co-written by Don Felder, Glenn Frey and Don Henley, the words depict both literal and symbolic interpretations of Southern California lifestyles from the 70s. 

Themes of good vs evil and light vs darkness are developed throughout the song. Eagles won a Grammy Award for Record of the Year in 1977 with the band’s signature recording. Without a doubt, “Hotel California” is the number 1 song on my 1977 “Fantastic Top 40 Hits” countdown.

 Now that I have submitted what I consider to be the most significant top 40 hits of 1977, I am curious to find out your opinions on this topic.  What are your favorite songs on my countdown?

Obviously, I do not want to come across as authoritative with my critique of superb pop hits from 1977. The songs that you might feel are the best, may be completely different from my selections.

Thanks in advance for sharing your thoughts and comments below on what you consider to be the fantastic top 40 hits of 45 years ago.  I look forward reading your responses. Rock on!

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12 thoughts on “1977 Fantastic Top 40 Hits

  1. Great write-up! Although disco was starting to rear its ugly head more in 1977, there were still a lot of great rock songs that year! I was totally into Boston’s first album at that time. Year of the Cat was a standout song for me then. I also moved from California to Virginia and was starving for the radio formats they had out there!

  2. bruce bias says:

    Fleetwood, Carly, Kansas, and of course Graham Nash and the 2 Eagles songs were spot on!! the rest of the songs listed on your and billboard’s list,, well let’s just say if I never hear any of the again, no great loss.

  3. Barbara Bias says:

    Good year for music. The year of the cat…..really. Yuck Stevie, Carly, ABBA, Kansas, CSN, Eagles, ELO all great a few don’t stand out to me. You couldn’t get everyone to agree to anything. Thanks Dave… great blog!!

  4. Bernard Johnson says:

    77 was a year I would say was my very best of my collegiate years. Music playing a big part of my life. I loved that year. Some of my fav’s (No # Designations)

    “Easy” – Commodores – My Fraternity Nickname

    “You Can’t Turn Me Off” (In the Middle of Turning Me On) High Energy – Title is enough said!

    “Saturday Night” – EFW. Love any song of EFW. The Best Group of the 70’s – To Me!😄

    “A Real Mother For Ya” Johnny Guitar Watson. Life in the 70’s in the Hood!

    ‘Lovely Day” Bill Withers – Not many people could hold notes like him. Beautiful lyrics

    “I Wish” Stevie Wonder. Arguably, the best singer/songwriter/musician of all time.

  5. David Maddox says:

    This article brings back a lot of memories. Tonight’s The Night and Best of My Love are the only 2 on that Top 10 list that I could bear to listen to. The next 10 that you noted, for the most part, are in a different league, no thanks to the arrival of disco.
    Your selection is more along my taste. I had to look up the top 100 songs from ’77 for reference, remembering that was the year of Hotel California, Little Queen by Heart and Fleetwood Mac Rumours. A LOT of good music! I’d have to include:
    Bob Segar’s “Night Moves”
    Queen’s “Somebody to Love”
    Maybe Aerosmith “Walk this Way”
    Another great article (or musing), DJ Dave! Keep ’em coming!

  6. Larry Dowdy says:

    1977 was quite the year for Top 40. I think in many ways, it was preparing us for 1980 and the music explosion in this area of K92.

    When I think of the GREAT songs of that year, chances are my Top 5 would change by the day. However, here we go:
    5) Dreams – Fleetwood Mac
    4) Rich Girl – Hall & Oates
    3) Don’t Leave Me This Way – Thelma Houston
    2) Sir Duke – Stevie Wonder
    1) Hotel California – The Eagles

  7. Paul says:

    Excellent Blog as always. My Favs are Smoke from a Distant Fire, Strawberry Letter 23, Night Moves, Best of My Love, and Carry on Wayward Son in no particular order. Again thanx so much Dave. .

    • Terrie Martin says:

      Hotel California
      Night moves
      I believe these are my favorites…that is the year I got married too!!! Some of these songs I totally forgot about…love the memories though.
      Thank you for doing this….another great one

  8. David Randall Hardie says:

    It is interesting in your introduction DW that you mentioned Q94. When I entered college near Farmville, we picked up Q94 clear as a bell 24/7. My roommate had an elaborate sound system. Probably could have picked up Waikiki. Your list is a lot better than the Top 10. Hotel California definitely #1. Barracuda by heart because I was in love with Ann Wilson. The two Fleetwood Mac songs are keepers and Sir Duke was a favorite. I graduated in 1977 from college. It was indeed a special year.

  9. Ivan Thomas says:

    Fly Like an Eagle—Steve Miller Band & “Easy” – Commodores come to mind that I heard more than others. I was stationed overseas so maybe Armed Forces Network (AFN) had their favorites to play!

  10. Laurie Russell says:

    Another great read and interesting choices. For me Kansas, Eagles, Heart, Fleetwood Mac, Crosby, Stills and Nash and believably enough I loved the Commodores!

  11. Rick Mustin says:

    I love your articles and they make me think about stuff from back in the day! I hurriedly came up with a Top 20 from ’77 and the order might actually be a bit different if I were to analyze more, but it’s 2am, so I’m not going to! 😀
    1 – (Your Love Has Lifted Me) Higher And Higher
    2 – Nobody Does It Better
    3 – The Things We Do For Love
    4 – Sir Duke
    5 – You Don’t Have To Be A Star (To Be In My Show)
    6 – After The Lovin’
    7 – Easy
    8 – Right Time Of The Night
    9 – Weekend In New England
    10 – Carry On, My Wayward Son
    11 – Southern Nights
    12 – New Kid In Town
    13 – Strawberry Letter 23
    14 – Swayin’ To The Music
    15 – Lost Without Your Love
    16 – Lucille
    17 – I Just Want To Be Your Everything
    18 – Feels Like The First Time
    19 – Jet Airliner
    20 – You Light Up My Life (Has to be included in ’77 because it was #1 for TEN weeks from Oct. 15 to Dec. 17) Casey Kasem said that it was not only the biggest seller in the decade, but for the last 25 years (back to ’52)!

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