Billboard's country music hits of 1970 reveal one of the best years for classic songwriters and song interpreters this side of 1968. Multiple songs backing up this claim transcend the seminal artists behind them and still define the sound and lyrical content of country songs to the masses.
This top 10 barely scratches the surface of great songs that kicked off one of the best decades for traditional and pop-friendly country hits. Merle Haggard, Charley Pride, Sonny James, Tammy Wynette, Buck Owens, Hank Williams Jr., Jerry Lee Lewis, Marty Robbins, Glen Campbell, Bobby Bare, David Houston, Dottie West and duet partners Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner began the '70s on a strong note, but even solid offerings by those talents paled in comparison 50 years ago to the songwriting of Kris Kristofferson and the signature songs of Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty.
10. "A Week in a Country Jail," Tom T. Hall
Just like the title track from Tom T. Hall's 1969 album Homecoming, "A Week in the Country Jail" relies on realism while introducing listeners to a character who'd laugh in a tough spot to keep from crying.
9. "Snowbird," Anne Murray
Anne Murray's crossover hit might not seem as cutting edge 50 years later as the classic country songs on this list (not to mention snubs like The Hag's Grammy-nominated "Fighin' Side of Me"), but this gorgeous pop nugget paved a path for the hybrid country/folk/soft rock hits of the coming decade we now associate with John Denver.
8. "Rose Garden," Lynn Anderson
In recent years, an entire Country Music Hall of Fame exhibit hinged on the greatness of Joe South's lyrics and iconic, strings-heavy accompaniment that crosses the streams of Nashville Sound polish and delightfully weird baroque pop.
7. "Kentucky Rain," Elvis Presley
Although most associate this Elvis Presley hit with oldies radio, it actually previewed the talents of a couple of country music game-changers. That's Ronnie Milsap playing piano on this Eddie Rabbitt co-write.
6. "Me and Bobby McGee," Kris Kristofferson
Nestled in between Roger Miller's 1969 original and Janis Joplin's definitive 1971 cover sits a version by "Me and Bobby McGee" co-writer Kris Kristofferson. The Fred Foster co-write and the following two songs put Kristofferson on the map as one of the finest wordsmiths in all of popular music.
5. "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down," Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash's broken voice lent a "lived-in" appeal to others' songs long before he started collaborating with Rick Rubin. That's certainly true for this Kristofferson-penned tale of a destitute man's musings on a typical Sunday.
4. "For the Good Times," Ray Price
One of the best country singers from any time period furthered his already near-flawless legacy by covering a Kristofferson original. This ideal pairing of an all-time great vocalist with a surefire classic earned Price his first number one hit in 11 years. Mainstream acceptance of an established name proved lucrative in the coming years for Mel Tillis, Bill Anderson and others.
3. "A Good Year For the Roses," George Jones
The Possum began the third decade in which he notched a chart-topping hit with perhaps his finest attempt at capturing the sorrow and self-doubt that follows an ugly breakup. To give you an idea of the number of great songs released in '70, this timeless single stalled at number three on the country charts.
2. "Coal Miner's Daughter," Loretta Lynn
Before it became the title of one of country music's finest biographies and one of popular culture's best biopics, "Coal Miner's Daughter" owned the country charts as a bluntly honest song about Loretta Lynn and her siblings' rural Kentucky upbringing.
1. "Hello Darlin'," Conway Twitty
This might be the greatest song of the '70s, putting it ahead of the crossover-friendly classics of Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Kenny Rogers, Crystal Gayle, Tanya Tucker, Charlie Rich, the Charlie Daniels Band and others. It's definitely got one of the most iconic opening lines of the decade and defines Twitty's sensual side more so than any other love song.