27 Best Songs From 1980

“I Love a Rainy Night” by Eddie Rabbitt

Song Year: 1980

Eddie Rabbitt started writing “I Love a Rainy Night” in the 1960s. Looking through old tapes in 1980, he came across a snippet that would become the number-one hit that most people consider his signature song.

Rabbitt was largely a country artist, but “I Love a Rainy Night” proved to be crossover gold, topping Billboard’s Country and Hot 100 charts.

“9 To 5” by Dolly Parton

Song Year: 1980

Not only was “9 to 5” the theme song to the 1980 film of the same name, it was also the tentpole single of Dolly Parton’s 23rd studio album, 9 to 5 and Odd Jobs.

The song painted the workaday doldrums so many people endure, though it didn’t really touch on the kidnapping Dolly and her fellow workmates perpetrate against Dabney Coleman’s sexist and sexually harassing corporate type character in the film. The movie is as much fun as the single.

“Keep On Loving You” by REO Speedwagon

Song Year: 1980

Before REO Speedwagon became the kings of the power ballad, they had raucous hits like “Roll With the Changes.” Speaking of changes, “Keep On Loving You” was a huge power ballad, and since it was the band’s first chart-topper, it makes sense that they stuck with the formula, eventually scoring another smash with “Can’t Fight This Feeling” in 1984.

Kevin Cronin’s vocals drove the song, and with the soaring backing vocals, the “Keep On Loveing You”  hook was pretty unstoppable.

“Upside Down” by Diana Ross

Song Year: 1980

If Nile Rodgers from Chic has something to do with your song, it’s probably going to be a big deal. Ask David Bowie (“Let’s Dance”), Duran Duran (“Pressure Off”), and many others.

Diana Ross got the full treatment, with Rodgers co-writing and co-producing with fellow Chic alum Bernard Edwards. There was friction in the studio between the two and Ross— she was already a superstar and wanted things the way she wanted them.

She ended up remixing the song without them, but it still went to number one, so Rodgers and Edwards weren’t all that upset in the end.

“Once in a Lifetime” by The Talking Heads

Song Year: 1980

As joyful as the music sounds (and as joyfully weird as David Byrne and the video were), “Once in a Lifetime” was actually a way for Byrne to cope with the death of his father. He wrote a song about the ups and downs of life, and since The Talking Heads were New Wave pioneers with legions of fans, the song took off.

Byrne has gone on to solo and Broadway fame, but he will always be associated with this Brian Eno-produced gem of 1980s music.

“Emotional Rescue” by The Rolling Stones

Song Year: 1980

The title track from The Rolling Stones’ 17th album Emotional Rescue went to number one in Canada, though it only got to number three in the States. Not bad at all, but Mick and the boys might have expected more, given their stellar past as one of the greatest rock bands of all time.

Naysayers accused the band of making disco music, but Mick Jagger made a point of saying that it was inspired by New York City. Fans didn’t care and snapped up the single and the album.

“Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Joy Division

Song Year: 1980

Joy Division might have been one of the greats, and the band’s rabid fans argue that they did. But lead singer Ian Curtis’ suicide stopped the band cold.

It didn’t stop the release of “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” which dropped a month after his death. When he wrote it, he was having marital problems and dealing with epilepsy, and those dueling traumas are reflected in the lyrics.

Top Songs From 1980, Final Thoughts

Many other songs rode the charts around the world, but these ones represent a good chunk of the top songs from 1980. There are some we had to leave out, but don’t take it personally. We loved the decade, and this first year of it projected the greatness that was to come.

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