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In a sense, soft rock originated in the late 1950s when pop singers began employing arrangements which incorporated elements of rock 'n' roll. Andy Williams, Guy Mitchell, and Tab Hunter all achieved notable success aiming their releases at a teen audience. The genre gained more widespread recognition, however, following the rise of folk rock and the singer/songwriter tradition in the mid-1960s. These two styles, both based in the Los Angeles recording scene, ushered in a softer form of rock music which made a significant dent in the singles and album charts.

Soft rock had the following identifying features: (1) the rock beat and other abrasive coloring (e.g., intense electric guitar lines, harsh vocalizing) were de-emphasized, and (2) song lyrics tended to be upbeat and/or introspective rather than rebellious in nature. The factors guaranteeing its success included the personal music preferences of the power brokers within the music businesses, the efforts of both artists and record company executives to broaden rock's appeal, and the aging of the first generation of rock fans.

The ongoing maturation of the baby boomers--whose concert-going and record buying habits tended to remain at a much higher level than that of their parents and grandparents--ensured the long-term popularity of the various soft rock styles. Many rock artists would employ an increasingly middle-of-the-road approach as their careers evolved in direct response to the perceived shift of their core audience. Chicago, Dr. Hook, and the Doobie Brothers were all examples of artists whose music became softer and acquired greater polish over time.


Top Artists and Their Recordings

America--"A Horse With No Name" (1972); "I Need You" (1972); "Ventura Highway" (1972); "Tin Man" (1974); "Lonely People" (1974/5); "Sister Golden Hair" (1975)

The Association--"Along Comes Mary" (1966); "Cherish" (1966); "Windy" (1967); "Never My Love" (1967); "Everything That Touches You" (1968)

Bread--"Make It With You" (1970); "It Don't Matter to Me" (1970); "If" (1971); "Baby I'm-A Want You" (1971); "Everything I Own" (1972); "Diary" (1972); "The Guitar Man" (1972); "Sweet Surrender" (1972); "Aubrey" (1973); "Lost Without Your Love" (1976/7)

The Carpenters--"Close to You" (1970); "We've Only Just Begun" (1970); "For All We Know" (1971); "For All We Know" (1971); "Rainy Days and Mondays" (1971); "Superstar" (1971); "Hurting Each Other" (1972); "It's Going to Take Some Time" (1972); "Goodbye to Love" (1972); "Sin" (1973); "Yesterday Once More" (1973); "Top of the World" (1973); "I Won't Last a Day Without You" (1974); "Please Mr. Postman" (1974/5); "Only Yesterday" (1975); "Solitaire" (1975); "There's a Kind of a Hush" (1976); "Touch Me When We're Dancing" (1981)

The Cowsills--"The Rain, the Park and Other Things" (1967); "Indian Lake" (1968); "Hair" (1969)

Crosby, Stills and Nash (and Young)--"Marrakesh Express" (1969); "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" (1969); "Woodstock" (1970); "Teach Your Children: (1970); "Ohio" (1970); "Our House" (1970); "Just a Song Before I Go" (1977); "Wasted on the Way" (1982); "Southern Cross" (1982)

Christopher Cross--"Ride Like the Wind" (1980); "Sailing" (1980); "Never Be the Same" (1980); "Say You'll Be Mine" (1981); "Arthur's Theme" (1981)

The 5th Dimension--"Go Where You Wanna Go" (1967); "Up-Up and Away" (1967); "Stoned Soul Picnic" (1968); "Sweet Blindness" (1968); "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In" (1969); "Workin' on a Groovy Thing" (1969); "Wedding Bell Blues" (1969); "One Less Bell to Answer" (1970); "Love's Lines, Angles, and Rhymes" (1971); "Never My Love" (1971); "(Last Night) I Didn't Get to Sleep at All" (1972); "If I Could Reach You" (1972)

Art Garfunkel--"All I Know" (1973); "I Only Have Eyes For You" (1975)

Bobby Goldsboro--"See the Funny Little Clown" (1964); "Little Things" (1965); "It's Too Late" (1966); "Honey" (1968); "Autumn of My Life" (1968); "Watching Scotty Grow" (1970/1); "Summer (The First Time)" (1973)

The Grass Roots--"Where Were You When I Needed You" (1966); "Let's Live For Today" (1967); "Things I Should Have Said" (1967); "Midnight Confessions" (1968); "Bella Linda" (1968/9); "I'd Wait a Million Years" (1969); "Heaven Knows" (1969); "Sooner or Later" (1971); "Two Divided By Love" (1971)

Harpers Bizarre--"The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)" (1967)

Nicolette Larson--"Lotta Love" (1978/9)

Little River Band--"Reminiscing" (1978); Happy Anniversary (1978)

Dave Loggins--"Please Come to Boston" (1974)

Loggins and Messina--"Your Mama Don't Dance" (1972/3); "Thinking of You" (1973); "My Music" (1973)

The Mamas and the Papas--"California Dreamin'" (1966); "Monday, Monday" (1966); "I Saw Her Again" (1966); "Look Through Any Window" (1966); "Words of Love" (1966/7); "Dedicated to the One I Love" (1967); "CreequeAlley" (1967); "Twelve Thirty" (1967); "Glad to Be Unhappy" (1967)

Gary Puckett and the Union Gap--"Woman, Woman" (1967/8); "Young Girl" (1968); "Lady Willpower" (1968); "Over You" (1968); "Don't Give In to Him" (1969); "This Girl Is a Woman Now" (1969)

Seals and Crofts--"Summer Breeze" (1972); "Hummingbird" (1973); "Diamond Girl" (1973); "We May Never Pass This Way (Again)" (1973); "I'll Play For You" (1975); "Get Closer" (1976); "My Fair Share" (1977); "You're the Love" (1978)

Three Dog Night--"Try a Little Tenderness" (1969); "One" (1969); "Easy to Be Hard" (1969); "Eli's Coming" (1969); "Celebrate" (1970); "Mama Told Me (Not to Come)" (1970); "Out in the Country" (1970); "One Man Band" (1970/1); "Joy to the World" (1971); "Liar" (1971); "An Old Fashioned Love Song" (1971); "Never Been to Spain" (1971/2); "The Family of Man" (1972); "Black and White" (1972); "Pieces of April" (1972/3); Shambala" (1973); "Let Me Serenade You" (1973); "The Show Must Go On" (1974); "Sure as I'm Sittin' Here" (1974)




While as stylistically varied as soft rock, its practitioners tended to be even more homogenized than artists within the latter category. MOR, or AC--a less prejorative term widely employed by the early 1980s--represented a particular cross-section of the radio listening audience which possessed its own clearly defined lifestyle and product loyalties (a vital consideration to brand name advertisers) combined with substantial purchasing power.


Top Artists and Their Recordings

Stephen Bishop--"Save It For a Rainy Day" (1976/7); "On and On" (1977)

Michael Bolton--"When a Man Loves a Woman" (1987)

Debby Boone--"You Light Up My Life" (1977)

Glen Campbell--"By the Time I Get to Phoenix" (1967); "Wichita Lineman" (1968/9); "Galveston" (1969); "Where's the Playground Suite" (1969); "Try a Little Kindness" (1969); "Honey Come Back" (1970); "It's Only Make Believe" (1970); "Rhinestone Cowboy" (1975); "Country Boy" (1975/6); "Don't Pull Your Love/Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye" (1976); "Southern Nights" (1977)

Rita Coolidge--"(Your Love Has Lifted Me) Higher and Higher" (1977); "We're All Alone" (1977); "The Way You Do the Things You Do" (1978); "You" (1978)

Mike Curb Congregation--"Burning Bridges" (1970/1)

Dawn (featuring Tony Orlando)--"Candida" (1970); "Knock Three Times" (1970/1); "I Play and Sing" (1971); "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree" (1973); "Say, Has Anybody Seen My Sweet Gypsy Rose" (1973); "Who's in the Strawberry Patch With Sally" (1973); "Steppin' Out (Gonna Boogie Tonight)" (1974); "Look in My Eyes Pretty Woman" (1974/5); "He Don't Love You (Like I Love You)" (!975); "Mornin' Beautiful" (1975); "Cupid" (1976)

John Denver--"Take Me Home, Country Roads" (1971); "Rocky Mountain High" (1972/3); "Sunshine on My Shoulders" (1974); "Annie's Song" (1974); "Back Home Again" (1974); "Sweet Surrender" (1974/5); "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" (1975); "I'm Sorry" (1975); "Fly Away" (1975/6); "Looking For Space" (1976)

Sheena Easton--"Morning Train" (1981); "Modern Girl" (1981); "For Your Eyes Only" (1981); "You Could Have Been With Me" (1981/2); "When He Shines" (1982)

Rupert Holmes--"Escape (The Pina Colada Song)" (1979); "Him" (1980)

Mary MacGregor--"Torn Between Two Lovers" (1976/7)

Manhattan Transfer--"Operator" (1975); "Boy From New York City" (1981)

Barry Manilow--"Mandy" (1974/5); "It's a Miracle" (1975); "Could It Be Magic" (1975); "I Write the Songs" (1975/6); "Tryin' to Get the Feeling Again" (1976); "Weekend in New England" (1976/7); "Looks Like We Made It" (1977); "Can't Smile Without You" (1978); Even Now" (1978); "Copacabana" (At the Copa)" (1978); "Ready to Take a Chance Again" (1978); "Somewhere in the Night" (1978/9); "Ships" (1979); "When I Wanted You" (1979/80); "I Made It Through the Rain" (1980/1); "The Old Songs" (1981)

Anne Murray--"Snowbird" (1970); "Danny's Song" (1973); "Love Song" (1973/4); "You Won't See Me" (1974); "You Needed Me" (1978); "I Just Fall in Love Again" (1979); "Broken Hearted Me" (1979); "Daydream Believer" (1979/80)

Olivia Newton-John--"If Not For You" (1971); "Let Me Be There" (1973/4); "If You Love Me (Let Me Know)" (1974); "I Honestly Love You" (1974); "Have You Ever Been Mellow" (1975); "Please Mr. Please" (1975); "Something Better to Do" (1975); "Come on Over" (1976); "Sam" (1977); "Hopelessly Devoted to You" (1978); "A Little More Love" (1978/9); "Deeper Than the Night" (1979); "Magic" (1980); "Physical" (1981); "Make a Move On Me" (1982); "Heart Attack" (1982)

Helen Reddy--"I Don't Know How to Love Him" (1971); "I Am Woman" (1972); "Peaceful" (1973); "Delta Dawn" (1973); "Leave Me Alone" (1973); "Keep on Singing" (1974); "You and Me Against the World" (1974); "Angie Baby" (1974); "Ain't No Way to Treat a Lady" (1975); "Somewhere in the Night" (1975/6); "You're My World" (1977)

B.J. Thomas--"I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" (1966); "Mama" (1966); "The Eyes of a New York Woman" (1968); "Hooked on a Feeling" (1968/9); "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" 1969/70); "Everybody's Out of Town" (1970); "I Just Can't Help Believing" (1970); "No Love at All" (1971); "Rock and Roll Lullaby" (1972); "(Hey Won't You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song" (1975); "Don't Worry Baby" (1977)

Bonnie Tyler--"It's a Heartache" (1978)



This subgenre owed more to the Tin Pan Alley tradition than it did to rock music. The impact of rock--both in terms of stylistic touches and performing flair--is obvious when those pop singers whose careers began after the mid-1950s are compared with their stylistic ancestors such as Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, and Doris Day.


Top Artists and Their Recordings

Engelbert Humperdinck--"Release Me" (1967); "There Goes My Everything" (1967); "The Last Waltz" (1967); "Am I That Easy to Forget" (1967/8); "A Man Without Love" (1968); "Winter World of Love" (1969/70); "After the Lovin'" (1976/7)

Tom Jones--"It's Not Unusual" (1965); "What's New Pussycat?" (1965); "With These Hands" (1965); "Thunderball" (1965/6); "Green, Green Grass of Home:" (1966/7); "Detroit City" (1967); "Delilah" (1968); "Love Me Tonight" (1969); "I'll Never Fall in Love Again" (1969); "Without Love" (1969/70); "Daughter of Darkness" (1970); "I (Who Have Nothing)" (1970); "Can't Stop Loving You" (1970); "She's a Lady" (1971); "Puppet Man"/"Resurrection Shuffle" (1971); "Say You'll Stay Until Tomorrow" (1977)

Bette Midler--"Do You Want to Dance?" (1972/3); "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" (1973); "The Rose" (1980)

Charlie Rich--"Behind Closed Doors" (1973); "The Most Beautiful Girl" (1973); "There Won't Be Anymore" (1974); "A Very Special Love Song" (1974)"; "I Love My Friend" (1974); "Every Time You Touch Me" (1975)

Barbra Streisand--"People" (1964); ""Stoney" (1970/1); "The Way We Were" (1973/4); "Evergreen" (1976/7); "My Heart Belongs to Me" (1977); "Songbird" (1978); "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" (w/Neil Diamond) (1978); "The Main Event/Fight" (1979); "No More Tears" (w/Donna Summer) (1979); "Woman in Love" (1980); "Guilty" (w/Barry Gibb) (1980/1); "What Kind of Fool" (w/Barry Gibb) (1981); "Comin' in and Out of Your Life" (1981/2)

Dionne Warwick--"Don't Make Me Over" (1962/3); "Anyone Who Had a Heart" (1963/4); "Walk on Bn" (1964); "Reach Out For Me" (1964); "Message to Michael" (1966); "Train and Boats and Planes" (1966); "I Just Don't Know What to Do With Myself" (1966); "Alfie" (1967); "I Say a Little Prayer" (1967); "(Theme From) Valley of the Dolls" (1968); "Do You Know the Way to San Jose" (1968); "Promises, Promises" (1968); "This Girl's in Love With You" (1969); "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" (1969); "I'll Never Fall in Love Again" (1969/70); "Then Came You" (w/The Spinners) (1974); "I'll Never Love This Way Again" (1979); "No Night So Long" (1980); "Heartbreaker" (w/Barry Gibb) (1982/3)

Andy Williams--"Canadian Sunset" (1956); "Butterfly" (1957); "I Like Your Kind of Love" (w/Peggy Powers) (1957); "Lips of Wine" (1957); "Are You Sincere" (1958); "Promise Me, Love" (1958);"The Hawaiian Wedding Song" (1958/9); "Lonely Street" (1959); "The Village of St. Bernadette" (1959/60); "Can't Get Used to Losing You" (1963); "Days of Wine and Roses" (1963); "Hopeless" (1963); "A Fool Never Learns" (1964); "On the Street Where You Live" (1964); "Dear Heart" (1964); "Happy Heart" (1969); "Love Story" (1971)



These artists generally began their careers after the first wave of soft rock in the 1960s. Like such genre trailblazers as the Mamas and the Papas and the Association, rock arrangements are front-and-center. However, pop rockers also exhibit strong MOR leanings. If active in the pre-rock era, they might well have taken on more characteristics of the pop stylists.


Top Artists and Their Recordings

Toni Basil--"Mickey" (1982)

Laura Branigan--"Gloria" (1982)

The Captain and Tennille--"Love Will Keep Us Together" (1975); "The Way I Want to Touch You" (1975); "Lonely Night" (1976); "Shop Around" (1976); "Muskrat Love" (1976); "Can't Stop Dancin'" (1977); "You Never Done It Like That" (1978); "Do That to Me One More Time" (1979/80)

Mariah Carey--"Vision of Love" (1990); "Love Takes Time" (1990); "Someday" (1991); "I Don't Wanna Cry" (1991); "Emotions" (1991); "Can't Let Go" (1991/2); "Make It Happen" (1992); "I'll Be There" (1992); "Dreamlover" (1993); "Hero" (1993)

Eric Carmen--"All By Myself" (1975/6); "Never Gonna Fall in Love Again" (1976; "She Did It" (1977); "Change of Heart" (1978); "Hungry Eyes" (1987/8); "Make Me Lose Control" (1988)

Kim Carnes--"More Love" (1980); "Bette Davis Eyes" (1981); "Draw of the Cards" (1981); "Voyeur" (1982); "Crazy in the Night" (w/Kenny Rogers) (1985)

Celine Dion--"Where Does My Heart Beat Now" (1991); "Beauty and the Beast" (w/Peabo Bryson) (1992); "If You Asked Me To" (1992)

Dr. Hook (and the Medicine Show)--"Sylvia's Mother" (1972); "The Cover of 'Rolling Stone'" (1972/3); "Only Sixteen" (1976); "A Little Bit More" (1976); "Sharing the Night Together" (1978/9); "When You're in Love With a Beautiful Woman" (1979); "Better Love Next Time" (1979/80); "Sexy Eyes" (1980); "Baby Makes Her Blue Jeans Talk" (1982)

Fleetwood Mac--"Over My Head" (1975/6); "Rhiannon" (1976); "Say You Love Me" (1976); "Go Your Own Way" (1977); "Dreams" (1977); "Don't Stop" (1977); "You Make Loving Fun" (1977); "Tusk" (1979); "Sara" (1979/80); "Think About Me" (1980); "Hold Me" (1982); "Gypsy" (1982); "Love in Store" (1982/3)