Of course I was happy to see the Jackson 5 twice on Joshua’s 1970 list, who isn’t? (Shockingly a lot of people: Check out the comments section here.) And any day that involves a surprise visit from a classic Stevie Wonder jam is a good day to me. But when I took a gander at that list, I saw something major was missing: The ladies! Where were the ladies of 1970?
Joshua’s got a tall order grappling with Cassie’s dislike of 70′s music, and while he finagled and listened and tried to pick the very best for his fickle friend, he forgot about the grand musical dames of 1970. He’s onto 1971 (coming soon! get excited!), and asked me to round up the ladies for the previous year. Did I miss anyone? Let me know in the comments.
“Call Me” by Aretha Franklin
A great chef doesn’t need a laundry list of ingredients. They don’t require inexplicably braided saffron threads and eggwashed pastry replicas of famous landmarks. They can salt a perfect, sliced tomato and the world falls to pieces. That kind of finesse and simplicity is what’s happening in this song, where Aretha Franklin proves once again that she is the maestro. “Call Me” is simple, repetitive, focused on something a little inane (Wanting the person you love to call you back—a sentiment also housed in a million misspelled text messages). And yet I could listen to it every day and never tire of it. Walking down the street with Aretha Franklin cheerfully cooing “Call me!” in your ear is a pure and perfect pleasure.
“I Want to Take You Higher” by Ike and Tina Turner
Okay, Ike throws my ladies of 1970 list off, but we all know this song belongs to Tina Turner (as most songs do). “I Want to Take You Higher” is a 70′s delight—from the “Boom-shock-a-locka” chanting back-up singers to the insistent drums to the complex funkiness of layer upon layer of sound. It’s guaranteed to make you drop what you’re doing and dance, or wish that you could leapfrog out of your workday and have Tina Turner take you higher, whatever that means for you.
True story: When my sister and I were really little, my mom would have us do the “Proud Mary” dance all the time. My greatest fourth grade wish was that I could get a flippy Tina Turner dress with flippy hair to match.
“You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man)” by Loretta Lynn
Loretta Lynn delivers sharp barbs with a smile, letting her husband’s mistress know that “For you to get to him I’d have to move over/ and I’m gonna stand right here” and “It’ll be over my dead body/ So get out while you can.” Woman on woman fight songs, especially over men, aren’t usually my favorite, but the set up of the story warrants this reaction. Her husband’s mistress breaks the news and lets Lynn know that she plans to steal her husband. While I question why Lynn would want to keep that man after all this, I appreciate when someone needs to be put in their place. This is one of those times.
Loretta Lynn was a hit machine in 1970, the same year she released “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” a great song that was my original pick for this list. But this song won me over because of how deftly Lynn pulls off a rare combination of chipper and badass, shown perfectly in the peppy way she sings “It will be over my dead body”
“Woodstock” by Joni Mitchell
What’s a better kick off to the 70’s then a proper farewell to the 60’s? And what’s a better goodbye than Joni Mitchell singing about Woodstock with the same fevered devotion as all the other kids across the country, watching the show through their TV sets? Mitchell missed Woodstock, and based her iconic lyrics on stories from her then boyfriend Graham Nash and TV footage she watched in her hotel room. It’s wistful, pining for something so close that was gone forever. Joni Mitchell, who spent the previous decade discarding her art dreams in favor of writing songs, would go on to own the decade, releasing both Blue and Court and Spark in subsequent years.
“Just Like A Woman” cover by Roberta Flack
A lovely cover that makes you forget Bob Dylan—a difficult feat in 1970, when Dylan was still omnipresent, and a difficult feat for this particular listener since “Just Like A Woman” is one of my favorite Dylan songs. But I love this—the slow pacing, Flack’s flipped point of view, her warm vocals that expand and contract, vowels pulled like taffy and soaring moments framed in a whisper. It’s such a different song in Flack’s hands, and so independent from the original. After a month of cover songs on this blog, I was half done with them. Roberta Flack roped me back in.