#FortyLove: 16 Classic Songs Turning 40 This Year

One of the many great things about music is its timelessness. Whether it’s a new track from Tank and the Bangas or a classic from Teena Marie, there is always a song or collection of songs that can serve as your personal soundtrack. Just as there are classic songs, there are classic years for songs.

One such year was 1979, where there were so many artists either in their prime or getting off to a hot start. Those tracks are all celebrating their 40th anniversary this year. There were so many we had to preface our list with a few honorable mentions, including Teena‘s “I’m a Sucker for Your Love,” GQ‘s “I Do Love You,” The O’Jays‘ “Forever Mine,” The Jones Girls‘ “You’re Gonna Make Me Love Somebody Else,” Syretta Wright‘s “With You I’m Born Again,” and Amii Stewart‘s “Knock on Wood.”

With that said, below are 16 timeless tracks from 1979 that went on to win awards, and better yet, are all a part of a lot of folks’ personal soundtracks. We call it #FORTYLOVE. Enjoy.


Anita Ward

Facts: The disco/R&B track was originally written for a teenaged Stacy Lattisaw. The song went on to top both the disco charts, the Billboard Hot 100 and Soul Singles chart. Ward was nominated for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance at the 1980 Grammy Awards.


Minnie Riperton

Facts: The single appeared on Riperton’s fifth and final studio album (and first on Capitol Records) entitled “Minnie.” Tragically, less than two months after recording a video for “Memory Lane,” she succumbed to breast cancer. The single isn’t as well known as her signature song “Loving You,” which shows off her infinite multi-octave range, yet it shows off Riperton’s incredible interpretive skills and cemented her place in music history as one of the greatest singers that ever graced a microphone.



Facts: The song is the first single from the group’s third studio album “Big Fun.” It went on to reach #1 on the Soul Chart and reached #8 on the Hot 100 Pop Chart. The 1979 lineup for Shalamar included Jody WatleyHoward Hewett, and Jeffrey Daniel.


McFadden and Whitehead

Facts: I mean, sure the song went to #1 on the Billboard R&B charts and eventually went platinum, selling over two million copies. But did you know that even though the song was seen as an anthem for the Black community to win in the face of obstacles, it was actually an act of revolt against Philadelphia International Records owner Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, who only saw McFadden and Whitehead as only house songwriters and not performers. Wow. The more you know, indeed.



Michael Jackson

Facts: Did you know that “Rock With You” was first offered to Karen Carpenter, who was working on her debut album at the same time MJJ was working on “Off the Wall”? Instead it was the second single released from HIS debut album and was, according to Billboard, the fourth biggest single of 1980. The first single released from the album, “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough,” was his first solo #1 hit on the Soul Singles chart and is the first song for which he was given songwriting credit. 


Stephanie Mills

Facts: The song was released as part of a 12″ single that included the song “Put Your Body in It” as the B-side track. “Lovin'” was a certified hit for Mills, and reached as high as #22 on the Billboard Soul charts. It was covered by the group Inner City 10 years later and the song did well for them, too, reaching as high as #12 on the UK Billboard charts.


Kool and the Gang

Facts: The song was released on October 5, 1979 as a single and became a staple on radio. It also peaked at #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts in 1980. Also, each member of the band were credited with writing the song, which goes to show you that men can write something for ladies… night, anyway. 


Rufus and Chaka Khan

Facts: I was today years old when I found out that Quincy Jones produced the group’s 1979 album Masterjam which features this certified hit. It spent three weeks atop the Hot Soul Singles Chart and peaked at #30 on the Billboard Hot 100. 


Teddy Pendergrass

Facts: Did you know that the B-side to “Turn Off the Lights” was a track called “If You Know Like I Know?” Right. I didn’t know, either. Written by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, the song went on to peak at #48 on the Pop charts and #2 on the R&B charts.


Donna Summer

Facts: The song was released as the lead single from Summer’s seventh studio album, “Bad Girls.” The disco track won the GRAMMY for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance and was listed at #104 on Rolling Stone‘s “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.” Go Donna!



Earth, Wind & Fire

Facts: “Boogie Wonderland” has been featured in several American films since its release in May 1979, including Roller Boogie, Madagascar, Happy Feet, The Mirror Has Two Faces, Caddyshack, and The Nice Guys. It also made an appearance on the sitcom The Office. Also, did you know that “After the Love is Gone” was one of the most difficult songs for the band to record? According to band member Verdine White, the vibe wasn’t right the first six or seven times they attempted to record it. 


Dionne Warwick

Facts: Did you know that this song renewed Warwick’s popularity after an unsuccessful stint at Warner Bros. Records? It helped the singer win the GRAMMY for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance at the 1980 ceremony. 



Facts: The song became the band’s second #1 hit on both the Pop and Soul charts. It is also ranked at #229 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Oh, the song also serves as a backing track for The Sugar Hill Gang‘s classic song “Rapper’s Delight,” which soon listed Nigel Rodgers and Bernard Edwards as co-writers after the duo threatened legal action on the copyright front. Good times, indeed.



Facts: Not only was this the lead single from Prince’s second studio album, it was also his first hit single in the United States. It reached #11 on the Billboard Hot 100 and went all the way to #1 on the Billboard Hot Soul Singles chart and stayed there for two weeks. Prince fans, I’m sure you’ll correct me if this is incorrect, but from what I read, the song was about a crush he had on fellow artist Patrice Rushen. True?


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