|Cultural origins||Late 1960s in the United States and United Kingdom|
Hard rock had been established as a mainstream genre by 1968. From the end of the 1960s, it became common to divide mainstream rock music into soft and hard rock, with both emerging as major radio formats in the US. Soft rock was often derived from folk rock, using acoustic instruments and putting more emphasis on melody and vocal harmonies. Major artists included Carole King, Cat Stevens, The Hollies, James Taylor and Bread. Soft rock songs generally tend to focus on themes like love, everyday life and relationships. The genre tends to make heavy use of acoustic guitars, pianos, synthesizers and sometimes saxophones. The electric guitars in soft rock are normally faint and high-pitched, with the tone rolled back for a sound less bright.
The Carpenters' hit version of "(They Long to Be) Close to You" was released in the summer of 1970, followed by Bread's "Make It with You", both early examples of a softer sound that was coming to dominate the charts. This eventually reached its commercial peak in the mid-to-late 1970s with acts such as Billy Joel, Elton John, Chicago, Toto, Christopher Cross, Michael McDonald, England Dan & John Ford Coley, Air Supply, Seals and Crofts, America and the reformed Fleetwood Mac, whose Rumours (1977) was the best-selling album of the decade. By 1977, some radio stations, like New York's WTFM and WYNY, and Los Angeles' KOST had switched to an all-soft rock format. Phoenix, Arizona's KBBC "Mellow Rock" formula focused on picking non-yet-hit tracks that fit the easier tempo of soft rock but introduced an album orientation. By the 1980s, tastes had changed and radio formats reflected this change, including musical artists such as Journey.
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- Kim Simpson, 2011, Early 70s Radio: The American Format Revolution ISBN 978-1-441-13678-7