Whether you were a disco dancer or a punk rocker, the 1970s was a glorious time to be a music fan. But how many of the icons that soundtracked the era managed to sustain their success long after the decade drew to a close, and how many disappeared back into obscurity? Here’s a look at where 40 of the era’s biggest stars are now.
40. Joan Jett
Joan Jett shot to fame as a member of The Runaways before fronting her own band The Blackhearts. She’s since continued to inspire and support generations of female musicians. Alongside launching her own label, Jett has worked with artists as diverse as riot grrrl pioneers Bikini Kill and American Idol’s Carrie Underwood. In 2018 she recorded a new track, “Fresh Start,” for a documentary about her life, Bad Reputation.
39. Paul McCartney
The most successful solo Beatle with the help of longevity, Paul McCartney kicked off the 1980s by twice duetting with another superstar, Michael Jackson. Following return-to-form with Flowers in the Dirt, the Liverpudlian established a pattern of launching mammoth world tours. He’s also explored several other eclectic musical avenues including electronic duo The Fireman and an album full of classical works. In 2020 McCartney reached number two in the United States with his third eponymous LP.
38. Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen is one of those 1970s’ stars who remains just as vital today. The Boss enjoyed monster success in the early MTV era with Born in the USA. And in 2002 he perfectly judged the post-9/11 mood of the nation with The Rising. More recently Springsteen has joined his regular E Street Band on stage for a Broadway show which, thanks to a Netflix screening, later won an Emmy.
37. Elton John
From singing at Princess Diana’s funeral to composing a multiple Tony-winning musical, Elton John has had quite the eventful career since his 1970s’ commercial heyday. The Rocket Man has also achieved success with The Lion King soundtrack and been given the big screen biopic treatment where he was portrayed by Taron Egerton. And John continues to sell out stadiums with his anthemic piano-pop today.
36. Bob Dylan
Although Bob Dylan will always be associated with the swinging sixties, he actually enjoyed big chart success in the 1970s, too. His reputation as one of his generation’s finest singer-songwriters has only continued to grow in the decades since. In fact, in 2016 Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature thanks to his expressive way with words. The legend’s 39th LP, Rough and Rowdy Ways, arrived four years later.
35. Billy Joel
Billy Joel became one of New York’s most celebrated musicians in the 1970s thanks to his Broadway-inspired style of piano pop. He continued to rack up the hits in the 1980s with the likes of “Uptown Girl” and “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” And although Joel hasn’t released a pop LP since 1993, he remains a major live draw, regularly selling out Madison Square Garden.
34. Linda Ronstadt
Renowned for making various classic songs of her own, Linda Ronstadt hasn’t released an album since 2006’s Adieu False Heart. And she announced her retirement from the stage and studio five years later. But the master song interpreter has still been kept in the public eye thanks to a best-selling memoir and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
33. Barry Manilow
Barry Manilow might not have been the most fashionable singer-songwriter of the 1970s. But he’s proven to be one of the most enduring. The crooner can still sell out arenas with his adult contemporary sound. And recent successes include a return to the Broadway stage, a Big Apple tribute and 2020’s Night Songs II. In 2017 Manilow came out as gay, three years after marrying manager Garry Kief.
32. Carly Simon
Carly Simon is best-known for keeping everyone guessing with the 1972 smash “You’re So Vain.” But her biggest critical hit came 16 years later when she picked up a Grammy, Golden Globe and Oscar for song, “Let the River Run.” Simon’s last studio album, Never Been Gone, hit the shelves in 2009, although she’s since published a musical memoir, Songs from the Trees.
31. Barbra Streisand
Equally successful in the movie and music worlds of the 1970s, Barbra Streisand has remained a double threat. In 1980 she scored a massive hit with the Barry Gibb-produced LP Guilty. And five years later she became the first ever female Golden Globe-winning best director thanks to Yentl. Streisand has also been awarded the Kennedy Center Honors and a Presidential Medal of Freedom and runs her own eponymous foundation, too.
30. Alice Cooper
Forget Marilyn Manson. Alice Cooper was the original and, for many, still the ultimate shock rocker. The man famous for performing all kinds of macabre feats on stage initially struggled to sustain his notoriety in the 1980s. But at the tail end of the decade, he enjoyed a career renaissance with the album Trash. Cooper has continued to delight and terrify large audiences in equal measure ever since.
29. Gloria Gaynor
Gloria Gaynor’s signature hit, “I Will Survive” certainly proved to be prophetic. The disco queen has been a fixture of the Billboard dance charts ever since she first belted out that self-empowering classic. But there’s more to Gaynor’s talents than dancefloor anthems. In 2019 she released Testimony, an album which drew upon her love of gospel music.
28. Joni Mitchell
Seminal singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell hasn’t always been the most prolific recording artist since her early 1970s’ commercial heyday. But the musical icon sure makes it count whenever she does hit the studio. Because 1994’s Turbulent Indigo won Pop Album of the Year at the Grammys, while 2007’s Shine introduced her immeasurable talents to a whole new generation.
27. Stevie Nicks
Stevie Nicks was undoubtedly integral to the mammoth success that Fleetwood Mac enjoyed in the 1970s. And the raspy-voiced singer proved she could cut it as a solo artist, too, with a string of hit singles including the often-sampled “Edge of Seventeen.” Recently Nicks has guested on American Horror Story and in 2020 she collaborated with Dave Grohl on the single “Show Them the Way.”
26. Olivia Newton-John
For many of us, Olivia Newton-John will always be Sandy in Grease. But the Aussie also enjoyed more hits away from the musical phenomenon including the Xanadu theme and 1981’s ten-week chart-topper “Physical.” Sadly, Newton-John’s private life has overshadowed her personal achievements in recent years. In 2005 her partner of nine years went missing off the coast of California. And in 2017 she was again diagnosed with breast cancer.
25. Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder’s post-1970s’ efforts might not have been as critically-acclaimed but they were no less successful. In the 1980s the soul legend reached number one with “I Just Called To Say I Love You” and Paul McCartney duet “Ebony and Ivory.” And in the 1990s he won two Grammys for Conversation Peace. Songs recorded with Ariana Grande and for TV’s Scandal have proven Wonder still knows how to craft a tune.
24. Al Green
Al Green surprised everyone in the mid-1970s when he became a reverend at the height of his musical career. The singer continued to hit the studio, but since the early 1980s his material has been more gospel-focused than the R&B he shot to fame with. Green has still occasionally embraced the mainstream, duetting with Annie Lennox and guesting on Ally McBeal. His last album, Lay It Down, arrived in 2008.
23. Eric Clapton
Formerly with Cream and The Yardbirds, Eric Clapton has had quite the turbulent life since forging a solo career in the 1970s. After years of alcohol abuse, he gave up drinking in the late 1980s and later founded his own rehab center. In 1991 the guitarist suffered unspeakable tragedy when son Conor fell to his death from an apartment window. Clapton’s last studio LP, Happy Xmas, arrived in 2018.
22. Gladys Knight
Gladys Knight and her backing band The Pips continued to rack up R&B hits in the 1980s. But the soul legend eventually launched a solo career, with the James Bond theme “Licence to Kill” and 2001 Grammy winner At Last some of her more notable efforts. Knight returned to the gospel charts in 2014 with her last LP, Where My Heart Belongs, and remains a regular touring artist.
21. Neil Young
Formerly of folk-rockers CSNY, Neil Young has continued pushing boundaries throughout his enduring career. In the 1980s he co-founded the charity concert series Benefit for Farm Aid. Then in the 1990s the musician was hailed the “Godfather of Grunge” for influencing bands like Nirvana. Young later created his own superior audio quality format, Pono Music. And in 2020 he released a collection of protest anthems to coincide with the presidential election.
20. Rod Stewart
Rod Stewart dominated the charts of the 1970s with the likes of “Maggie May” and “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” The following two decades weren’t as responsive to his brand of raspy-voiced pop/rock. But the Londoner enjoyed a significant career revival in the new millennium with a series of LPs celebrating the Great American Songbook. Stewart’s last album of original material, 2018’s Blood Red Roses, hit the U.K. top spot.
19. Jackson Browne
Jackson Browne was part of the early 1970s’ Laurel Canyon scene that spawned numerous introspective singer-songwriters. In the following decade, he got a little more political with various protest records that achieved critical kudos but little sales. Browne won back some of his audience with 1993’s return to more familiar territory, I’m Alive. And 2014’s Standing in the Breach also proved plenty were still interested in his sensitive sound.
18. Patti Smith
CBGB regular Patti Smith looked set to embrace the mainstream with Bruce Springsteen-penned 1978 hit “Because the Night.” Instead, the punk icon retreated from the spotlight for the next two decades to look after her family. Smith returned with a vengeance in the 2000s, picking up a Grammy nod for Gung Ho and publishing a critically-acclaimed autobiography. In 2020 she once again collaborated with the experimental Soundwalk Collective on Peradam.
17. Van Morrison
One of his generation’s most eclectic singer-songwriters, Van Morrison continued to explore everything from jazz and blues to pop and folk in the 1980s. The Belfast native also celebrated both his heritage and his spirituality on albums including Irish Heartbeat and Too Long in Exile. Morrison entered the most prolific phase of his career in his 70s, releasing six albums in the space of just three years.
16. Iggy Pop
Iggy Pop, aka the Godfather of Punk, somehow remains just as energetic and chaotic in his 70s as he was back in the 1970s. The man who doesn’t appear to own a shirt reunited with his iconic New York band The Stooges in 2007. Pop’s since released records with Underworld and Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme, and in 2017 he was Grammy nominated for solo effort Post-Pop Depression.
15. Diana Ross
Diana Ross had already achieved legendary status by the end of the 1970s thanks to her time in The Supremes and subsequent solo endeavors. She added to her legacy with albums such as 1989’s Workin’ Overtime and 1991’s The Force Behind the Power. And in 2012 Ross finally won her first ever Grammy, a Lifetime Achievement. Her remarkable career was documented in 2019’s Diana Ross: Her Life, Love and Legacy.
14. Dolly Parton
Dolly Parton has become an American national treasure thanks to her songwriting abilities, charitable endeavors and self-deprecating streak. She scored massive hits in the 1980s with “Islands in the Stream” and the theme to box office hit 9 to 5 before opening up her very own theme park, Dollywood. In 2020 Parton challenged Mariah Carey as the new Queen of Christmas with a festive album and Netflix special.
Few pop stars have managed to reinvent themselves like Cher. After embracing everything from folk and disco in the 1970s, she ventured into Album-orientated rock in the 1980s and then Autotuned dance-pop in the 1990s with the megahit “Believe.” Cher also enjoyed Hollywood success, winning an Oscar for her turn in Moonstruck. More recently she graced the Mamma Mia! sequel and subsequently released an ABBA covers album.
12. Neil Diamond
Best-known for hit “Sweet Caroline,” Neil Diamond kicked off his post-1970s’ career in style thanks to a compelling performance in The Jazz Singer. Although his popularity waned over the next two decades, the singer-songwriter still constantly toured and performed. And in the 2000s he enjoyed a commercial renaissance with two Rick Rubin-produced LPs. Sadly, Diamond’s battle with Parkinson’s Disease forced him to withdraw from the live stage in 2018.
11. Carlos Santana
Legendary guitarist Carlos Santana’s best days were presumed to be behind him as the new millennium approached. Yet the leader of 1970s’ Latin rockers Santana then achieved the biggest hit of his career. Yes, 1999’s Supernatural spawned two chart-toppers and picked up eight Grammys! Santana has stuck to its duet-heavy approach for the majority of his albums since. His last release, Africa Speaks, arrived in 2019.
10. Paul Simon
Paul Simon had already proved in the 1970s that he could make it without Art Garfunkel. But his solo career reached even greater heights in the following decade with Graceland. Crowned the Grammys’ Album of the Year, the 1986 release was credited with popularizing world music. In the 2000s Simon reunited with his old partner-in-crime, and in 2018 he staged a farewell tour which coincided with LP In the Blue Light.
9. Carole King
Having penned countless hits for other acts, Carole King became an artist in her own right with 1971’s seminal Tapestry. The native New Yorker hasn’t been quite as prolific in recent years. She’s only released three LPs in the last three decades. But King’s incredible songwriting talents have still continued to delight a whole new generation thanks to the success of the autobiographical Broadway musical, Beautiful.
8. Leif Garrett
Blessed with puppy dog eyes and flowing blonde locks, Leif Garrett was one of the late 1970s’ biggest teen pin-ups. Sadly, like many who find fame so young, the Californian struggled to cope with adulthood. Over the next three decades, Garrett battled various substance abuse problems. In the 2000s he played on his washed-up persona in Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star, and in 2019 he published memoir, Idol Truth.
7. James Taylor
James Taylor is synonymous with the sensitive singer-songwriter scene of the early 1970s. But the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer achieved gold status with all bar one of his LPs over the next three decades, too. Taylor had to wait until 2015 to get his first chart-topping album, though, with Before This World. The troubadour followed it up five years later with a collection of Great American Songbook standards.
6. Chaka Khan
Formerly the frontwoman of Rufus, Chaka Khan became one of the 1980s’ ultimate divas thanks to dancefloor hits “I Feel for You” and “Ain’t Nobody.” The big-haired star went on to pick up two Grammy Awards in 2007 for the covers-heavy Funk This. And after a 12-year recording hiatus, she returned in style with 2019’s eclectic EP, Hello Happiness and a live album recorded at her native Chicago’s Harris Theater.
5. Donny Osmond
Perhaps the 1970s’ ultimate pop idol, Donny Osmond shot to fame as a member of his family group The Osmonds before carving out an equally successful solo career. As well as recording several studio albums, the clean-cut star went on to host Pyramid, take the lead in Joseph… and win Dancing with the Stars. Best of One Night Only, a 2017 live album, remains Osmond’s last release.
4. Roberta Flack
Best-known for her 1970s’ soul ballad “Killing Me Softly,” Roberta Flack also enjoyed chart success in the early 1980s thanks to a long-running partnership with Peabo Bryson. The singer/pianist also found another hit collaborator in the shape of Maxi Priest in 1991. Flack went on to tackle her favorite The Beatles songs, release a Christmas album and pay tribute to Japanese vocalist Mariko Taka.
3. Debbie Harry
The undisputed breakout star of the Big Apple’s punk scene, Debbie Harry guided Blondie to yet more success in the early 1980s before the iconic group split. Several solo albums followed including Rockbird and Def, Dumb and Blonde. Harry also ventured on to the big screen in Videodrome and Hairspray before reuniting with her former bandmates in 1997. In 2019 she released a tell-all memoir, Face It.
After reinventing himself as a serious singer-songwriter in the 1970s, Dion once again took a new musical path in the following decade. Yes, the ex-child star released a series of Christian albums before returning to the bluesy R&B sound he first shot to fame with. In 2020 the man born Dion DiMucci invited several other 1970s’ legends including Paul Simon and Van Morrison to appear on LP Blues with Friends.
1. Tina Turner
One of pop music’s true survivors, Tina Turner proved in the 1980s that she could make it without her former abusive partner Ike. Comeback album Private Dancer achieved sales of 20 million and won four Grammys. And Turner continued to rack up the hits in the 1990s thanks to the likes of Bond theme “Goldeneye.” In 2018 the now-retired star published her autobiography, My Love Story.