1978 was the year of the 50th Academy Awards, and Annie Hall beat out Star Wars for Best Picture; The Doobie Brothers make a guest appearance on ABC’s What’s Happening!!, and The Blues Brothers made their first appearance on Saturday Night Live. A host of iconic television shows made their debut in 1978, like Fantasy Island, Dallas, The Incredible Hulk, 20/20, Taxi, Mork & Mindy, WKRP in Cincinnati, Diff’rent Strokes and Battlestar Gallactica, while other 70s classics like The Six Million Dollar Man, Maude and Columbo came to an end.
In music, Saturday Night Fever became a cultural phenomenon; Grace Slick leaves Jefferson Starship and Van Halen released their debut self-titled album. The film Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band featuring The Bee Gees and Peter Frampton bombed at the box office in 1978, while the movie-musical Grease became the highest grossing film of the year.
Below are twelve of the best love songs of 1978, most by artists that had no footprint a decade earlier. Half of the love songs on the list were released in August of that year. Scroll to the bottom of the list, click play, and re-live the love of 1978.
“Just The Way You Are” by Billy Joel
Rumor has it that this classic love song – written by Billy Joel himself – was not a personal favorite, and it was at the urging of Linda Ronstadt – who happened to be in the studio at the time – that Billy recorded it at all.. Lucky she did, as it was to be Billy Joel’s first Top 10 hit. Initially reaching the Top 40 in December of 1977, it climbed to #3 in early 1978 and held that position for two weeks.
“Always And Forever” by Heatwave
Perhaps one of the most popular slow dance songs of the late 1970s and the 1980s at proms and weddings, it never actually scratched the Top 10 although it is still one of the most recognizable ballads of the era. “Always And Forever” stalled at #18 on the Billboard Pop Top 40 charts and #16 on the R&B charts.
“The Closer I Get To You” by Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway
The first of three duets on this list, “The Closer I Get To You” is a tender and romantic ballad, bordering on sexy-time. Flack and Hathaway are well matched, and the chemistry is undeniable, making the lyrical dialogue believable and beautiful. This tune came one short of the top spot, peaking at #2 on the Billboard Top 40.
“Count On Me” by Jefferson Starship
“Count On Me” is the most notable song of the Jefferson Starship album Earth, released in 1977. The single reached the Top 40 on March 25 of 1978, reaching #8. This piano driven song features Marty Balin on lead vocal, and as the title suggests, has the singer pledging that his love can count on him and his love.
“You’re The One That I Want” by John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John
This duet from the motion picture soundtrack of Grease is pure fun. It is a playful love song which makes an innocuous jest at the “shape up or ship out” theme, while, being a duet, has the back-and-forth of John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John joining in unison at the end, reassuring “you’re the one that I want”. This upbeat sing-along classic topped the charts at #1 in 1978.
“Love Is In The Air” by John Paul Young
Disco, disco, disco! This 1978 one-hit-wonder might just make you spontaneously start dancing to its infectious electro tambourine rhythm in a Carlton Banks kind of way (it was later actually covered by Tom Jones). It’s 1970s cheese at its best, fun and danceable and a true hustle song, while its lyrics rejoice in love. “Love Is In The Air” made it into the Top 10, reaching #7 on the Pop charts.
“Got To Get You Into My Life” by Earth, Wind & Fire
This funked-up love song was written by Paul McCartney and originally recorded by The Beatles in 1966, and although never released as a single, remained a standard on the McCartney touring set list. The 1978 Earth, Wind & Fire version was featured in the flop film Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band that same year, but was so awesome it reached #9 on the Pop chart and #1 on the R&B chart. In spite of the awful movie from whence it came, this is a powerful, semi-danceable mega-hit, and a lyrically perfect love song.
“Kiss You All Over” by Exile
A number one single in the United States for four weeks, “Kiss You All Over” is a 70s Soft Rock classic, and as the title suggests, it promises a shower of kisses amongst other things. Certainly one of the sillier songs on this list, it is nonetheless an undeniably loving-sentiment love song, and its chart position clearly reflects the music tastes of 1978.
“Whenever I Call You “Friend”” by Kenny Loggins (with Stevie Nicks)
The third duet on this list, the unlikely one-time teaming of Kenny Loggins and Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks created an upbeat fun and super happy love song. Stevie was never actually credited on the single, which reached #5 on the Pop Top 40, making this Kenny Loggins first solo appearance on the Billboard Top 40 charts. The back and forth lyrical dialogue is bouncy and uplifting, especially the catchy chorus. This one is easily one of my personal favorites, and about as 1978 as you can get.
“You Needed Me” by Anne Murray
Another number one hit from 1978, “You Needed Me” is a bit more melancholy, with its theme being that of unconditional undeserved love. At the same time, from the side of the subject, it sure is nice to be appreciated. This would prove to be the last tune from Canadian songstress Anne Murray to break the Top 10 on the U.S. Top 40 Billboard charts.
“Right Down The Line” by Gerry Rafferty
This 1978 love song from former Stealers Wheel front man Gerry Rafferty is really a hidden gem. It is certainly steeped in a very 70s sound, while its lyrics speak to an unending and unwavering love that will, as the tile states, remain right down the line. One of the more clever love songs ever written, it makes for a great dedication, and rightfully reached #12 in late 1978.
“I Just Wanna Stop” by Gino Vannelli
A great slow dance, and a great love song, with this disclaimer; the opening line sings “When I think about those nights in Montreal”, alluding to a specific experience with a proper noun named city. I’ve avoided this scenario in all of the previous love songs, but let this one slip because – aside from affairs in Montreal – this is a classic 1978 love song. Vanelli happened to be born in Montreal, Quebec, which is perhaps why this tune soared to #1 on the Canadian charts, while stalling at #4 in the U.S.
So there you have it, a dozen of the greatest love songs of 1978. Each song has been sifted with care, listening to the lyrics again and again to ensure they sang of only the best kind of feel-good fuzzy love. The songs are listed in the order of their appearance on the U.S. Billboard Top 40 chart, and are among some of the best love songs of the 1970s.
Love the love…
Sources: The Billboard Book of Top 40 [Pop] Hits and The Billboard Book of Top 40 R&B Hits by Joel Whitburn and Billboard’s Hottest Hot 100 Hits by Fred Bronson.