Best #1 single of the year retrospective: 1971

Our survey brings us now to 1971, which, despite some of you nay-sayers, was a pretty good year for music. (I mean, we haven’t even gotten NEAR the Age of Disco yet.) 22 songs made it to #1 this year, including three double A-sides and “My Sweet Lord / Isn’t It A Pity” continuing on from the end of 1970. After the success of the Partridge Family and the Jackson 5 last year, we see two more family bands reach the top of the charts, another ex-Beatle making it to the top, Cher returning to the #1 spot after 7 years, and a surprising number of rare gems.

You know the drill. What’s your fave?

  • denotes one half of a double A-side

Previous polls:
1955-56 1957 1958 1959 1960 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969 1970 2012 2013

Agreed; surprisingly not bad. I ended up going with I Feel the Earth Move, because the emergence of Carole King/singer-songwriter feels like the watershed trend showing up here, and that is a great example of it. But there’s a lot of good stuff on the list.

It’s late September…

Yeah, some good stuff. It’s easy to dismiss James Taylor’s effort as fluff, but the man’s guitar work is very complex (“orchestral”, in the words of my teacher). I like The Temptations for best ballad, but I’m going with Maggie May as best all around. I like the story it tells and the way it’s written.

Tempted to give some love to Indian Reservation because I think it will need it, but with the likes of Shaft and It’s Too Late on the list, it just didn’t make it. I’m voting for Maggie.

It was a toss up among “Brown Sugar”, “Me and Bobby McGee”, “Maggie May”, and “Theme from Shaft”.

I went with “Maggie May”.

Brown Sugar. The opening guitar chords are my ringtone.

I went with Bobby McGee, not necessarily because it’s the best song - although it’s a very good song - but because Janis’s performance is, to me, enough to make a good song great.

Plenty of competition here, though.

I may end up being the only one to vote for it, but I have an irrational like of “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” (both the Bee Gees version listed here and the Al Green one). There are several contenders for the dead-ass last spot, but I hate “Brand New Key” more than any of the other piles of dung on this list.

I just barely voted for “Me and Bobby McGee” over Indian Resveration, which is really a good song that had the misfortune of being released in a year with several great songs.

George Harrison - My Sweet Lord

First because I love this song. Yes, I know about its shady origins. I don’t care it’s a wonderful song. And the things that Harrison added to the original (slide guitar, back-up singers) change a good song into a great one.

Then because I’m pretty sure that it’s one of my earliest musical memories. So on top of being great, it also one of the very few that conjures up vague feelings and images hidden in the deepest recesses of my mind.

Amazingly bad list, considering this was the greatest year for rock albums in the history of the universe (Sticky Fingers, Zep IV, Aqualung, Who’s Next…) Or maybe that’s the point: great albums do not great singles make.
I decided I couldn’t vote. Tempted to go with Sly and the Family Stone (impressive they scored another #1 in '71), but already gave Sly the love in '69.
Yes, “Brown Sugar” is on Sticky Fingers, but I already did the Stones. (Plus, it has kind of racist lyrics).

Of course, were it not for Melanie, the Wurzels would never have made it to #1 five years later (albeit only in the UK, so sadly this song won’t be eligible for our poll that year.)

I agree with every word of this.

This isn’t an easy task from 43 years in the future. Most of the truly good songs in 1971 have since been moved to the “Oh come on not again” list of “classic rock radio”, television show theme songs and advertising overload. I’ve reach a point where I almost hurt myself in my rush to stop hearing anything by The Who. And when you hear Janis on the radio there’s a 98% chance it’s Bobby McGee or Mercedes Benz. Jimi? Here comes Foxy Lady or Purple Haze. The Eagles get you a little larger selection, Hotel California, Take It Easy or Desperado.
I realize these people are not making new music but every album they did put out had more then one or two cuts worthy of a listen now and then.

I’m torn in these polls between acknowledging undeniably great songs (e.g. “Brown Sugar,” “Just My Imagination”) and ones that I’m still glad to hear — that is, that haven’t been run into the ground via overplay.

I thought I would be the only one, but I’m pleased to see that two have joined me so far in voting for “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey.” I’ve said that I’m much more of a John person than a Paul one (though, outside of John’s first solo album, this applies more to the Beatle years).

But Ram is my favorite Paul album…I somehow never graduated to Red Rose Speedway and Band on the Run as most did. And UA/AH is the most delicious piece of ear candy. Artists often get credit for “deep” songs, and excoriated for frivolous ones. But the fact is, there’s a LOT going on musically in this song…and too, where in the heck does an idea for a song such as this come from? It’s kind of out there, isn’t it?

And you don’t hear it much on the radio these days, so it hasn’t been ruined for me.

I am 42 years old and have never met a single person in my life who described themselves as a Rod Stewart fan. Absolutely the most bafflingly famous person in music history, IMHO. Who the hell likes his songs?

So I voted for “Shaft.”

I love Ram, too. I adored John’s brashness and subversive lyrics with the Beatles, but Paul always had my musical heart. That being said, I voted for George’s “Isn’t It A Pity” because that song is just heartbreakingly beautiful to me.

FWIW, I love the stuff he did with the Jeff Beck Group, but never cared much for his solo catalogue.

He’s sold hundreds of millions of albums - I am not sure I follow you.

Maggie May is a great song.