Great Instrumentals of the '70s & '80s

Updated July 19, 2017

The Instrumental hits of the '70s and '80s are replete with disco, funk and hip-hop elements. The music is comparatively different from the hits of '50s and '60s. The '70s saw the dawning of a new genre -- electronic music. By the 1980s, the synthesised sound dominated the radio airwaves. Gone were the days of traditional orchestras; orchestral traditions now merged with rock traditions. Electric guitars with wah-wah pedals, electric keyboards and synthesizers now played a prominent role in symphonic arrangements.


"Love's Theme," by Barry White's Love Unlimited Orchestra

The distinct, and at times, comical wacka-wacka sound of the wah-wah pedal gives "Love's Theme" a disco flavour. The song was released by 20th Century in 1973, and in 1974, it peaked at number one on the Billboard Top 40 chart. It is a full orchestral piece, complete with lush strings that hum the melody. "Love's Theme" ignited the disco movement, which exploded around 1975. Since its release, artists such as Andy Williams have recorded vocal versions of the song.

"Axel F," by Harold Faltermeyer

"Axel F" is the theme song for the 1985 comedy "Beverly Hills Cop," starring Eddie Murphy. Songwriter Harold Faltermeyer, who penned the hits for the 1984 film "Thief of Hearts," recorded the song using five electronic instruments, most notably the Moog synthesizer. The song was a synth-pop success, and in 1984, it reached number three on the Billboard 100. Several television shows, movies and video games have included "Axel F" on their soundtracks. In 2009, it appeared in the animated film "Monsters vs. Aliens." Music artists such as Hyper Crush have sampled the '80s anthem, and in 2005, the fictional band Crazy Frog covered it.

"Rockit," by Herbie Hancock

The B-boy anthem "Rockit" debuted in 1983. Turntable master GrandMixer D.ST and producer/bass player Bill Laswell added their hip-hop audacity to Hancock's jazz wizardry. "Rockit" was the first hit song to feature scratching, a technique used to manipulate a turntable resulting in a scratching sound effect. Turntables have since become a standard instrument in hip-hop music. The "Rockit" music video garnered five MTV Music Awards, including Most Experimental Video, Best Concept and Best Special Effects.

"Gonna Fly Now (Theme From Rocky)," by Bill Conti

"Gonna Fly Now" is a perfect blend of melodic strings, heroic horns, rock guitars and funky drums. It is hard to hear this piece and not envision Sylvester Stallone, as boxer Rocky Balboa, sprinting up and down the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Prolific TV and film composer Bill Conti wrote the song for the 1973 classic movie "Rocky"; it has become the quintessential inspirational song, symbolising courage and strength.

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About the Author

Ebony Haywood began writing professionally in 2009. Her work has appeared on eHow. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in music from California State University in Dominguez Hills.