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10 Legendary Blues Rock Songwriters of the 1970s

If the 1960s was the decade when rock music came of age, the 1970s was the decade that it reached adulthood. It was a decade that began to differentiate between genres giving them specific names like hard rock, soft rock and blues rock. Blues rock emerged as a powerful force by blending the raw emotion of the blues with the electrifying energy of rock. The fusion resulted in a sound that captured the hearts of millions with bands like ZZ Top and Led Zeppelin. However, one of the most important components involved was the song itself. Often covers of previous blues songs were electrified and even performed psychedelically but eventually the genre produced its own songwriters who also performed the songs.

Here are 10 legendary blues rock songwriters of the 1970s.

Eric Clapton

Eric Clapton began his professional career with the Yardbirds in 1963, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers in 1965, Cream in 1966, Blind Faith in 1969 and Derek and the Dominoes in 1970, the same year that he released his eponymous first solo album. Over 60 years, Clapton has released nearly two dozen solo albums and another couple dozen albums with other bands and collaborations with other musicians. Throughout his career, Clapton has written and co-written dozens of hit songs. Some examples of hit compositions over the years are “In the Presence of the Lord,” “Let it Grow,” “White Room,” “Layla” and “Let it Rain” to name some.

Rory Gallagher

Rory Gallagher was a legendary Irish blues rock artist with a reputation for amazing energetic performances as a virtuoso guitarist who wrote equally impressive songs. His successful musical career began after he formed the band Taste in 1965 which released two albums and disbanded in 1970 after their successful performance at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1971 between Jimi Hendrix and the Who. Gallagher began a solo career in 1971 that lasted until his death in 1995. During that interim, he wrote and recorded songs for over a dozen solo albums that include classics like “A Million Miles Away,” “Tattoo’d Lady,” “Moonchild” and “Pilby” along with dozens of others.

Billy Gibbons

Billy Gibbons is the lead guitarist and singer of the Texas blues rock band ZZ Top. The band was formed in 1969 and quickly gained a reputation for its powerful blend of blues and rock. Gibbons stratospheric guitar skills combined with his gritty vocals melded traditional blues elements with rock’s energy and innovation. His charismatic stage presence and creative songwriting skills helped to propel the band to a legendary status. Gibbons wrote or co-wrote all of ZZ Top’s hits along with bassist Dusty Hill and drummer Frank Beard. Songs like “Brown Sugar,” “Just Got Paid,” “Heard it on the X,” “Legs” and “Sharp Dressed Man” are some of the many tunes that made ZZ Top famous.

John Lee Hooker

John Lee Hooker was an iconic American blues singer, songwriter, and guitarist deeply influenced by the Delta blues. Hooker developed his own unique style comprised of rhythmic guitar boogie and his deep gravely vocals. Hooker’s songs were often about the hardships and raw emotions of everyday life on a personal level. After a successful career as a blues artist beginning in the 1940s that resulted in charting songs like “Crawling King Snake,” “Boom Boom”  and “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” he recorded an album with the rock band Canned Heat”in 1971. The album titled Hooker ‘n Heat is considered to be the first time that a major electric blues artist collaborated with a contemporary rock band. The collaboration resulted in broadening Hooker’s fan base with blues rock versions of songs like “Burning Hell” and “Whiskey and Wimmen.”

Taj Mahal   

Taj Mahal grew up in a musical environment since his father was a musician and sometimes hosted musicians from the Caribbean and Africa at his home. He became known for his eclectic blending of various styles of world music that originated in Africa, the Caribbean, and Hawaii with traditional American blues over his six-decade musical career. He’s a multi-instrumentalist and a prolific songwriter having released over 30 studio albums and written a myriad of original compositions as well as uniquely performing covers of classic blues. Some of his most popular songs are “Cakewalk into Town,” “Corina,” “Fishing Blues” and “Queen Bee.”

Robert Plant and Jimmy Page

Robert Plant and Jimmy Page were the primary songwriters for Led Zeppelin’s eight studio albums. Band members John Bonham and John Paul Jones helped to co-write some of the songs as well. Page provided the music and Plant provided the lyrics for songs that blended blues, folk, rock, and various other genres. Their experimental approach incorporated elements of world music, mythological themes, and complex song structures. Songs like “Immigrant Song,” “Ramble On” and “Stairway to Heaven” are a few examples of their collaborations. Page’s complex guitar riffs and Plant’s evocative lyrics delivered by his unique and powerful voice cemented their legendary status in music history.

Boz Scaggs

Boz Scaggs recorded and released his first album in Sweden in 1965 but it wasn’t until after he moved back to the USA to join the Steve Miller Band for two albums in 1968 that his career took off. In 1969 he released his eponymous second album which featured a blistering cover of Fenton Robinson’s 1967 signature song. It was after Scaggs released his sventh album “Silk Degrees” in 1976 that his popularity increased exponentially after the album reached five times platinum by RIAA. Some of his most popular original songs are “Breakdown Dead Ahead,” “Jo Jo,” “Lido Shuffle,” “Some Change” and “We’re All Alone” to name some.

Robin Trower and James Dewar

Robin Trower and James Dewar came together to form a trio with Reg Isidore in 1973. Trower had been in Procol Harum and Dewar was in other bands including “Stone the Crows” and the “Luvvers.” Together the trio recorded and released landmark blues rock albums like Twice Removed from Yesterday, Bridge of Sighs and For Earth Below. Some of the indelible songs that Dewar and Trower co-wrote were “Bridge of Sighs,” “Day of the Eagle” and “Too Rolling Stoned.”

Johnny Winter

Johnny Winter is from Beaumont, Texas, and began his musical career as a teenager in the late 1950s. He was heavily influenced by listening to the blues on the radio and got his big break in 1968 when he signed a record deal with Columbia Records. He played at major festivals from Woodstock in 1969 to Cal Jam in 1974 and released six studio albums during the 1970s.  Albums like 1973’s Still Alive and Well and 1974’s Saints and Sinners included a couple of his songs but when he recorded Nothin’ but the Blues in 1977 with Muddy Waters he wrote them all except for Muddy’s “Walkin’ Thru the Park.” Songs like “Dallas,” “Drinkin’ Blues,” “Illustrated Man,” “Mean Town Blues” and “Self Destructive Blues” are but a few of the dozens that he penned during the 1970s.

Frank Zappa  

Frank Zappa began his musical career in Los Angeles in the early 1960s when he played in experimental blues rock bands like the Blackouts and The Soul Giants, who eventually became the Mothers of Invention. Zappa’s innovative fusion of blues rock elements with other styles and his unique approach to guitar playing pushed the boundaries and expanded the possibilities for the genre. His collaborations with other influential musicians in the blues rock scene and his ability to blend blues rock with other styles made his music influential regardless of the genre. Some of the best blues rock influenced songs are “Advance Romance,” “Cosmik Debris,” “My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama,” “Willie the Pimp” and “Wino Man.”

Bob Gersztyn

As a teenager in Detroit, Michigan during the early 1960’s Bob Gersztyn saw many Motown and other R&B artists including Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder. After his discharge from the army in 1968 he attended school on the GI Bill and spent the next 3 years attending concerts and festivals weekly. It was the seminal period in Detroit rock & roll that Bob witnessed spawning the MC5 and Stooges along with shows featuring everyone from Jimi Hendrix and the “Doors” to B. B. King and John Lee Hooker. In 1971 He moved to Los Angeles, California to finish his schooling where he became an inner city pastor promoting and hosting gospel concerts. He moved to Oregon in 1982 and began photographing and reviewing concerts for music publications. Since that time he has published myriads of photographs, articles, interviews, and contributed to 2 encyclopedias and published 6 books on everything from music to the military. https://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/Bob%20Gersztyn His rock & roll photo art is available for sale on Etsy @: https://www.etsy.com/shop/ConcertPhotoImages?ref=seller-platform-mcnav Bob may be contacted personally at bobgersztyn@gmail.com

23 thoughts on “10 Legendary Blues Rock Songwriters of the 1970s

  • Finally, some recognition of the great Boz Scaggs! He is the best

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  • Zappa and Scaggs but no Jagger/Richards?

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    • And no Robert Ward founder of The Ohio Untouchables/Players?

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  • I would have mentioned Greg Allman before Frank Zappa or Boz Scaggs.

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    • I would pick Dickie over Greg.

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  • You failed to mention Alvin Lee who some considered the fastest guitarist in the West. Jagger/ Richards shouldn’t be list. Page and Plant on the list makes me laugh. Gave all my Zeppelin albums away after Houses of the Holy came out, and haven’t listened to them since. At least you included Johnny Winter and Billy Gibbons. What about William Clark, the great harmonica player? Zappa doesn’t fit the bill of blues rock.

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  • Robin Trower is on the list. I can overlook anything else.

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  • I guess blues rock is just rock. .ost of those listed don’t play Blues. .

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  • Why no Bonnie Raitt?

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  • Gregg Allman should be included.

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  • Where’s Peter Green?

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  • No BB Ling, Buddy Guy , Albert Collins? Really. Who made this list?

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  • What about John Kay from Steppenwolf.

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  • A great blues man still going today is Steve Nardella out of Detroit’ he has played with all the greatest blues men of all time check out his profile on Facebook. He’s getting up in age but people in Detroit still line up for blocks to see him.

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  • are …you …sober? what a… unique….listing .

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  • Paul Rodgers Free ????????‍♂️

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  • Frank Zappa is a great Composer but that’s definitly no Blues Rock.
    Jazz Rock Classic Fusion (Doo Wop Ruben & The Jets) etc. I heard a great Live Version Of Gregg Allman’s Whipping Post.

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  • Johnny king of rock blues

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  • No mention of Jorma Kaukonen? Stevie Ray Vaughan?

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    • Stevie Ray Vaughn did not release an album until 1983’s “Texas Flood”.
      He would certainly be in a listing of 1980s blues-rock songwriters.

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  • Yes, didn’t think about the dating for SRV.

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