Popular music was splintering in about a dozen directions as the '70s came to an end. The previous years' buildups of pop, rock, new wave, punk, disco, soul and any number of variations on those genres finally collided in a burst of new collaborations and spinoffs as the 1980s loomed.

As you'll see in the below list of the Top 50 Songs of 1979 - voted on by the UCR staff - the year was marked by several key artists from the decade making their last stands while fresh voices from the outside came knocking more forcefully than ever. By the time the '80s got in full swing, the implications of the final years of the previous decade became more clear.

You'll find plenty of old favorites: EaglesLed ZeppelinPaul McCartneyPink Floyd and Neil Young put out records in 1979 that were just as relevant and as good as the ones they released earlier in the decade. And rookies from just a year or two earlier - the CarsElvis CostelloTom Petty and the Heartbreakers - made good on their initial promises. All in all, a pretty good year for music.

50. Lipps Inc., "Funkytown"

As their name winkingly implied, Lipps Inc. wasn't a real band. The Minneapolis-based project was the brainchild of Steven Greenberg, who recruited a rotating group of singers and musicians to flesh out his songwriting and production compositions. "Funkytown" was their only Top 40 hit - No. 1 for four weeks - and was sung by Cynthia Johnson, one of Lipps Inc.'s few stable members during their brief career.


49. Joy Division, "She's Lost Control"

There are probably good reasons why songs about people having epileptic seizures aren't all that common. Joy Division singer Ian Curtis found inspiration for "She's Lost Control" from a woman he knew who died after a seizure (Curtis himself also had epilepsy). The band recorded the song twice: first in 1979 on their debut album, Unknown Pleasures, and again in 1980 as a single. Curtis died two months later.


48. Donna Summer, "On the Radio"

Few artists were as big as Donna Summer at the end of the '70s. Despite a growing "disco sucks" backlash, the Queen of Disco kept charting hits during the last two years of the decade, including four No. 1 singles and three No. 1 albums. "On the Radio" was the one new song on 1979's chart-topping On the Radio: Greatest Hits Volumes I & II, also included as part of the soundtrack to the film Foxes, starring Jodie Foster.


47. Funkadelic, "(Not Just) Knee Deep"

The glory years of George Clinton's Parliament-Funkadelic collective were coming to an end as the '70s closed out, but the latter's 1979 album, Uncle Jam Wants You, featured a bona fide classic in "(Not Just) Knee Deep," a 15-and-a-half-minute funk attack based on squiggly synths arranged by P-Funk member Walter "Junie" Morrison. The song took on new life as a heavily sampled favorite in the next decade.


46. Paul McCartney and Wings, "Goodnight Tonight"

Released in March 1979, three months before the final Wings album Back to the Egg, but not included on it, "Goodnight Tonight" dipped into the disco sounds all over pop radio at the time. Better and more memorable than anything on the album, the song continued Paul McCartney's experimental streak that started with the Beatles and wove its way through his solo career. The extended 12" version piles on even more.


45. Elvis Costello and the Attractions, "Oliver's Army"

Elvis Costello had released three albums over 18 months starting in mid-1977. By the time Armed Forces arrived in early 1979, he and returning producer Nick Lowe had smoothed out a working relationship emphasizing the now-permanent backing band the Attractions. "Oliver's Army" was the first single and addressed some very British political issues that didn't prevent the album from becoming Costello's only U.S. Top 10.


44. Chic, "Good Times"

The foundation of songs from "Rapper's Delight" to "Another One Bites the Dust," Chic's "Good Times" boasts one of pop music's all-time greatest bass lines. Bernard Edwards' bottom end supplies the disco classic with its core, but Nile Rodgers' funk-inflected guitar and the shimmering piano and vocals pulled together by Edwards and Rodgers made this an endless summer (and now timeless) hit in 1979.


43. Supertramp, "Take the Long Way Home"

Supertramp had already released two Top 15 singles from their sixth album, 1979's No. 1 Breakfast in America, when "Take the Long Way Home" was issued in October. It shot to No. 10, putting a stamp on a breakthrough year for the English group. By the time they released a follow-up LP in 1982, the classic lineup was splintering and the band never reached the Top 10 in the States again.


42. Michael Jackson, "Rock With You"

In the lead-up to Thriller, Michael Jackson was already showing what he was capable of as a hitmaking solo artist. The lead single from the first album of his adult era, "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough," was a beat-driven dance track; its follow-up was a bit more grounded in the melodic soul music of his youth. Like its predecessor, "Rock With You" went to No. 1, as did Off the Wall, priming Jackson for the reign to come.

READ MORE: Top 50 Albums of 1984


41. Gary Numan, "Cars"

Gary Numan's "Cars" sounded like the future in 1979. A synth-driven slice of robotic pop coupled with an eerily disengaged vocal about the comforting nature of automobiles, the song just missed the Top 10 in the U.S., a rarity in 1979 when synthesizers, new wave music and something as foreign sounding as "Cars" weren't exactly Top 40 staples. In a couple of years, MTV - which embraced Numan's solo debut - would change all that.


40. The Cars, "Let's Go"

The Cars wasted little time striking after the runaway success of their self-titled debut in 1978. Released almost a year to the day after The Cars, "Let's Go" announced the band's second album, Candy-O. Written by Ric Ocasek but sung by Benjamin Orr, the song's bouncy new wave connected with fans, peaking at No. 14, their biggest chart hit until 1981's "Shake It Up" took them to the Top 10 for the first time.


39. Motorhead, "Overkill"

At more than five minutes, the title track and first single from Motorhead's second LP Overkill ran two or more minutes longer than the average track by Lemmy Kilmister's speed-enhanced band. An instant favorite with the band and its fans, "Overkill" rarely left the group's set lists since its debut in 1979. It was the last song played onstage by Motorhead before Kilmister's 2015 death.


38. Led Zeppelin, "All My Love"

Written for Robert Plant's son Karac, who died at the age of 5 of a stomach illness while Led Zeppelin was on tour in 1977, "All My Love" wasn't released as a single from the band's final album, In Through the Out Door, but quickly became a fan favorite. A widely bootlegged and extended version of the track omits the fade heard on the LP and adds a weeping guitar solo by Jimmy Page, who didn't take part in the song's writing.


37. The Buggles, "Video Killed the Radio Star"

Best known as the first song and video played on MTV in August 1981, "Video Killed the Radio Star" got its start a couple of years earlier when the song's co-writers each released separate versions. Bruce Woolley's version arrived first, in June 1979, followed by Geoff Downes and Trevor Horn's (as the Buggles) take. Not long after, the pair joined Yes for their Drama album and tour. A second Buggles album followed in 1981.


36. Led Zeppelin, "In the Evening"

The opening song on Led Zeppelin's last album as a band - the outtakes collection Coda arrived in 1982, two years after they broke up - sounds like a leftover from their prog-influenced 1976 LP Presence. Running almost seven minutes and heavier than some of the more experimental tracks on In Through the Out Door, the slow-starting "In the Evening" is the perfect introduction to the band's career-closing statement.


35. The Knack, "My Sharona"

The Knack's massive hit stayed at No. 1 for six weeks in 1979, becoming one of the biggest songs of the year and guaranteeing the Los Angeles band eternal "One-Hit Wonder" status when they failed to score a follow-up. Bridging power pop, new wave and classic rock 'n' roll going back to 1960s garages, "My Sharona" found footing in a dirty three-chord guitar riff that mirrored the song's lusty appeal.


34. Journey, "Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'"

By 1979's Evolution, their fifth album, Journey had completely evolved from the jazz fusion from which the band started just a half-decade earlier. Part of this was to accommodate new singer Steve Perry, whose big pipes begged for solid pop and rock hooks to wrap themselves around. But some of this shift came from the band's growing comfort with mainstream music. "Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'" was their first Top 40 hit.


33. Jefferson Starship, "Jane"

Jefferson Starship had long abandoned its origins as the pioneering psychedelic band Jefferson Airplane from more than a decade earlier. They weren't even the same Starship of the preceding year. With the release of Freedom at Point Zero in 1979 came new singer Mickey Thomas, taking over for the departing Marty Balin and Grace Slick, both vets from the Airplane days. "Jane" was the start of a new era.


32. Christopher Cross, "Sailing"

Texas singer-songwriter Christopher Cross was on his way to having a huge upcoming decade as the '70s wound down. His self-titled soft-rock debut album was a Top 10 smash and its first single - the Michael McDonald-assisted "Ride Like the Wind" - peaked at No. 2. "Sailing" was released as the follow-up and went straight to No. 1; before long the album was winning Grammys. But Cross' career stalled in the '80s.


31. Prince, "I Wanna Be Your Lover"

Prince was still a few years away from turning into one of the 1980s' biggest artists with a string of records starting with the epochal 1999. But those seeds were planted on "I Wanna Be Your Lover," the first single from his second album and the first of his songs to gather significant airplay. It just missed the Top 10, stopping at No. 11, but all that changed within a few years. This is where it all started.


30. Joe Jackson, "It's Different for Girls"

Joe Jackson's first two albums are filled with songs about the differences between men and women, in particular the divide that develops in relationships. The second single from his sophomore album I'm the Man goes straight to the heart while admitting the divide often stems from misunderstandings. The midtempo ballad "It's Different for Girls" reached the Top 5 in the U.K., Jackson's all-time biggest hit in his homeland.


29. Blondie, "Dreaming"

After two albums of girl-group-inspired '60s rock touched by a hint of new wave, New Yorkers Blondie embraced the downtown club aesthetic of their city on Parallel Lines and became a No. 1-selling band with "Heart of Glass" in 1978. A year later they returned with an even more future-forward record in Eat to the Beat. The lead single, "Dreaming," was two parts power pop, one part new wave and topped off with '60s pop.


28. Neil Young & Crazy Horse, "Powderfinger"

Neil Young first took a turn at "Powderfinger" in 1975 during the acoustic sessions for the shelved Chrome Dreams album. He then passed it on to Lynyrd Skynyrd, who never got a chance to record it because of the plane crash that claimed several band members' lives. Young eventually recorded the definitive, electric version of the song for 1979's Rust Never Sleeps as a Southern Gothic tale of violence and death.


27. Patti Smith Group, "Dancing Barefoot"

"Dancing Barefoot" has taken on a life of its own since its debut on the Patti Smith Group's fourth album, Wave, in 1979. Released as the second single from the Todd Rundgren-produced record, the song didn't chart. But it's become an often-covered favorite (U2 and Pearl Jam are among the artists who've put their spin on "Dancing Barefoot") and a go-to song on movie and television soundtracks.

READ MORE: 30 Albums With Four or Less Songs


26. Nick Lowe, "Cruel to Be Kind"

After a dozen years in the business, Nick Lowe was finally having his moment in 1979. His celebrated work on records by Elvis Costello, the Damned and Pretenders made him an in-demand producer, and his solo career was taking off. The first single from his second album, Labour of Lust, was his only U.S. hit, but its success provided Lowe with instant name recognition for decades to come.


25. Electric Light Orchestra, "Don't Bring Me Down"

Few artists were immune to the draw of disco by the end of the '70s. Everyone from the Rolling Stones to Pink Floyd to Rod Stewart incorporated 4/4 beats into their music, often with career-boosting results. Electric Light Orchestra tried their hand at it on their 1979 album Discovery. Jeff Lynne said he put this song together at the last second and, for the first time on a single, without a string section. It became their biggest U.S. hit.


24. Fleetwood Mac, "Tusk"

One of the weirdest singles released by a major artist, "Tusk" was the first offering from Fleetwood Mac following the relatively long gap between 1977's mammoth Rumours album and the ambitious double LP with which the song shared its name. Beginning with a low-hum murmur that erupts into a full-blown marching band parade by the song's end, "Tusk" nonetheless was pushed into the Top 10 by fans eager for music.


23. Eagles, "The Long Run"

The title track from the Eagles' sixth album was a swipe at critics who labeled the band inconsequential and empty hitmakers with no real substance or conscience. They certainly weren't silenced by the spotty The Long Run, the group's last album before infighting split them apart for more than a decade. No matter, fans sent the song into the Top 10, their ninth single to do so since 1972's "Witchy Woman."


22. Christopher Cross, "Ride Like the Wind"

With the Doobie Brothers at the peak of their popularity in 1979 following a No. 1 album and single (Minute by Minute and "What a Fool Believes") and a Grammy sweep, their golden touch helped newcomer Christopher Cross' debut single soar to the Top 10. Doobies singer Michael McDonald's unmistakable vocal is prominently featured in "Ride Like the Wind"'s chorus, a key part of the song's appeal and popularity.


21. Kiss, "I Was Made for Lovin' You"

There's some kind of odd twist of fate that the two best-known songs from costumed hard-rock purveyors Kiss in their first decade sound nothing like the music on which they built their reputation. 1976's "Beth" was a string-embellished ballad sung by their drummer that was the band's only Top 10 hit until 1990; "I Was Made for Lovin' You" was a glam-disco hit co-written with budding pop songwriter Desmond Child.


20. The Clash, "Train in Vain (Stand by Me)"

Tacked onto the Clash's London Calling album at the last minute - such that the song wasn't even listed in the credits - "Train in Vain (Stand by Me)" added another element to the LP's flipbook of popular music styles. A straightforward pop song in a mix of reggae, punk, jazz and '50s rock 'n' roll, it became the Clash's first hit in the States, a hooky, chugging number at odds with the band's inflated punk reputation.


19. Donna Summer, "Hot Stuff"

While seemingly everyone else was adding disco to rock, Donna Summer steered in the other direction. "Hot Stuff," the lead single from her hit double album Bad Girls, included a guitar solo by Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan member Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, and a more forceful vocal from Summer. It became her second No. 1 and helped send the LP to the top. A Grammy win for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance followed.


18. Cheap Trick, "Dream Police"

Cheap Trick was set to release their fourth album when a live record originally intended for the Japanese audience began selling overseas. Before long the band scored its first big hit and Dream Police was pushed back to give space to a rushed-out domestic version of Cheap Trick at Budokan. As the first single from the LP released in September 1979, "Dream Police" became the band's first Top 40 studio single.


17. The Cure, "Boys Don't Cry"

The Cure mapped out their strategy early on, with the first two singles showing their two sides. "Killing an Arab," their debut, was a moody post-punk track based on Albert Camus' The Stranger; the follow-up, "Boys Don't Cry," was a poppier new wave song with springy verses and chorus. In their native England, the song was a stand-alone single, but it was released as the title track to their first album in the States.


16. ZZ Top, "Cheap Sunglasses"

Deguello helped put ZZ Top back on track in 1979. Their sixth album fine-tuned the blues-rock boogie they'd been playing since their formation in 1969 while adding a sizable boost to their growing arsenal of pop hooks. "Cheap Sunglasses," written by the Texas band's three members, was the album's second single following a cover of the Sam & Dave soul burner "I Thank You." It set the stage for their MTV takeover in 1983.


15. Pat Benatar, "Heartbreaker"

Along with Heart, Pat Benatar helped break down the boys-club mentality of late-'70s rock 'n' roll. Even though her cover of John Cougar Mellencamp's "I Need a Lover" received some radio play, the first single from Benatar's debut album - "If You Think You Know How to Love Me" - failed to make any headway; the release of "Heartbreaker" not long after changed her fortunes: the first of 15 Top 40 singles.


14. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, "Don't Do Me Like That"

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers had fooled a lot of people with their first two albums, which glided the line between '60s jangle pop and spiky mid-'70s rock. With their third album, Damn the Torpedoes, they made it clear they were foremost a rock 'n' roll band, shoving aside any doubts they may be affiliated with the punk or new wave scenes. "Don't Do Me Like That" was the lead single and their first Top 10.


13. Talking Heads, "Life During Wartime"

By 1979 Talking Heads began expanding their angular, minimalist approach to art-pop to include more universal music. Their third album, Fear of Music, included forays into funk, world and, on "Life During Wartime," disco. Complete with chorus sloganeering ("This ain't no party, this ain't no disco, this ain't no fooling around"), the song turned into one of the still-growing group's most popular songs and heralded a new era.


12. Michael Jackson, "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough"

As a solo artist, Michael Jackson was having trouble shaking his association with his brothers in the Jackson 5. Early hit singles were half-baked covers and songs written about pet rodents. Then Off the Wall arrived in 1979. Its lead single and opening cut gave a glimpse at what was to come. Now 20 and free to call the shots, "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" paved the way for the Thriller juggernaut three years later.

READ MORE: The Best Albums of 1983


11. Pink Floyd, "Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2"

How exactly did the second part of a trilogy of tracks that served as the foundation of a sprawling and personal double album about isolation and withdrawal from society become Pink Floyd's only No. 1 song? Let's chalk it up to a fashionable disco backbeat and a sing-song chorus ("We don't need no education") that connected with youths across the world. "Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2" still resonates decades later.


10. The Clash, "London Calling"

The opening track from the Clash's third album rang like a war cry from its opening attack chords. The album - also titled London Calling and an hour-long road trip through the history of rock 'n' roll, from rockabilly to ska to punk - was a celebration of life and music at the decade's end that laid claim to the band's self-exaggerated declaration as the only group that matters. By the end of the LP, they sounded like they truly were.


9. Eagles, "Heartache Tonight"

Eagles were living the lifestyles of debauched rock 'n' roll royalty after the overwhelming success of 1976's Hotel California. By the end of the decade, they were barely keeping it together as they completed their sixth album, The Long Run. They'd break up for more than a decade following the tour in support of the album, another huge hit led by "Heartache Tonight," their fifth No. 1 and a Grammy winner.


8. Led Zeppelin, "Fool in the Rain"

Led Zeppelin released only a handful of singles during their decade-long career. "Fool in the Rain," from their final album, was the last and only single from In Through the Out Door. Inspired by the samba they heard during the 1978 World Cup, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones constructed a midsong breakdown that gave John Bonham one of his most beloved percussive showcases. The rest of the song is pretty good, too.


7. Van Halen, "Dance the Night Away"

Eddie Van Halen would fully embrace his pop tendencies on his band's 1984 album and, particularly, on "Jump." But he was already hinting at his aspirations beyond the volume-cranked hard rock his band perfected on their 1978 debut when they released "Dance the Night Away" as the lead single from their second album. It's been noted that this was the only song specifically written for the leftover-heavy Van Halen II. A sign.


6. The Police, "Message in a Bottle"

Outlandos d'Amour and "Roxanne" made the Police one of the most buzzed-about bands in 1978 thanks to their savvy mix of pop, reggae, new wave and jazz-inflected rock 'n' roll. Follow-up LP Reggatta de Blanc upped the sophistication factor and highlighted the trio's tricky and often complex instrumental skills. "Message in a Bottle" led the charge by distilling its strengths into less than five showcasing minutes.


5. Queen, "Crazy Little Thing Called Love"

The first tease from Queen's 1980 album The Game was a throwback rockabilly song written by Freddie Mercury in tribute to Elvis Presley and Cliff Richard. "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" quickly became the group's biggest hit on both sides of the Atlantic, reaching No. 1 in the U.S. and No. 2 in the U.K. It also helped send the album, Queen's eighth LP, to the top of the chart in both regions.


4. Pretenders, "Brass in Pocket"

Pretenders were two singles into their brief career when their third, "Brass in Pocket," catapulted them to new levels of success. No. 1 in the U.K., where the quartet led by American Chrissie Hynde got its start, the song found its way into the U.S. Top 20. A self-titled debut album followed soon after, shooting straight to the top at home and into the Top 10 in the States. A cornerstone moment in their career.


3. Pink Floyd, "Comfortably Numb"

"Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2" got most of the attention, a worldwide hit that sealed Pink Floyd's ongoing legacy, but "Comfortably Numb" was closer in spirit to the group's aesthetic leading up to The Wall. A push-pull dynamic between Roger Waters (the song's architect and leading voice) and David Gilmour (chorus and guitar solo) drives the track, which works even without knowledge of the LP's conceptual center.


2. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, "Refugee"

"Don't Do Me Like That," the first single from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' third album, Damn the Torpedoes, took the band to the Top 10 for the first time. Chasing that momentum, they quickly followed up with "Refugee," the opening track on the LP and a better representation of what the band was capable of onstage. The song peaked at No. 15 - the only time Petty charted two consecutive Top 20 singles.


1. AC/DC, "Highway to Hell"

In 1979 AC/DC finally found a kindred spirit in producer Robert John "Mutt" Lange, who polished some of the grit from their earlier albums and emphasized the charge behind the band's electrifying riffs. Highway to Hell elevated the group to a new status among rock fans and gave the band a revigorated sense of purpose. The lead single, opening track and signature song from their Bon Scott-led era remains a pivotal work at the end of the decade from all involved. The celebration would be short-lived, however: Scott was dead the following year and AC/DC moved on with new singer Brian Johnson and into a new era.

Top 50 Albums of 1979

It was a year of era-defining changes, bending of genres, big debuts and famous last stands.

Gallery Credit: Michael Gallucci

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