The 80s and 90s were filled with Best Original Song winners that were both iconic and wildly popular, and while the 1970s had some songs that fit that bill most of them haven’t aged well. In fact, a large percentage of them are extremely saccharine. So take some insulin and let’s dive in.
10. “Evergreen,” A Star is Born (1976)
I’d love to tell you about this song but I literally black out every time I try to listen to it.
9. “For All We Know,” Lovers and Other Strangers (1970)
I imagine brides all over the country rejoiced when this song was released so they could use it as their shitty first dance music, because that’s exactly what it sounds like this song was intended for.
8. “The Way We Were,” The Way We Were (1973)
Streisand’s voice is always impeccable and this song is pretty flawless in technical terms, but there’s no denying how saccharine it is overall. Other songs on this list commit that same crime, but “The Way We Were” takes itself too seriously to be any fun.
7. “The Morning After,” The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
Disaster movies were the shit in the early seventies, and with The Poseidon Adventure they made a surprisingly strong move into the world of music. All star casts and explosive action just wasn’t enough, I guess. Is it a great song? No. Is it so bad it’s good? Absolutely.
6. “We May Never Love Like This Again,” The Towering Inferno (1974)
Continuing the trend of disaster movie songs hitting it big, this gloriously cheesy ditty warns The Towering Inferno‘s Paul Newman and Faye Dunaway not to take each other for granted as they battle for their lives at the top of a skyscraper on fire.
5. “You Light Up My Life,” You Light Up My Life (1977)
“You Light Up My Life” is the undisputed queen of 70s so-bad-it’s-good music. Maybe it’s the gay man in me, but I adore this song precisely because it’s so awful. I used to sing this to my sister to irritate the hell out of her (it worked every time). PS: Did you know Debby Boone pretended she was singing this song to Jesus every time she sang it? It’s true. PPS: I had to choose the video from the movie with Didi Conn lip syncing because conductor bear’s jumpsuit is on point. Sorry, Debby.
4. “I’m Easy,” Nashville (1975)
Did you know Keith Carradine won an Oscar for Best Original Song? It’s true. And it’s really good–especially when heard in the context of the movie. Lily Tomlin should have won an Oscar for her haunted look in that scene alone. Removed from the movie, the song unfortunately loses a lot of its impact (maybe it’s a little too subdued), but in context it’s quite powerful.
3. “It Goes Like It Goes,” Norma Rae (1979)
It may seem shocking that this folk-inspired song beat “The Rainbow Connection” from The Muppet Movie, but I don’t think anyone could have predicted what a phenomenon that song would turn out to be. There are a lot of simple songs on this list but something about the tone and feel of this one just works for me. “Bless the child of the working man, she knows too soon who she is, and bless the hands of the working man, he knows his soul is his” seems just perfect for Norma Rae. It’s hopeful, melancholy, and beautiful.
2. “Last Dance,” Thank God It’s Friday (1978)
You didn’t know this came from a movie, did you? Truth be told, neither did I. Thank God It’s Friday may have completely faded from the pop culture landscape but the song lives on as one of the best disco hits ever recorded.
1. “Theme from Shaft,” Shaft (1971)
If you’re thinking that a soulful, disco-tinged epic jam from a blaxploitation film seems out of left field on this list, you’re right. “Theme from Shaft” is a refreshing change of pace that perfectly represents its movie: sleek, catchy, and damn cool. No other song on this list is so perfectly tied to its movie.
Next, we’ll go back to the Best Original Song winners of the 1960s, but in the meantime, you can also look at my Academy Awards page for much more content.