These 30 One-Hit Wonders Of '70s Are Giving Us All Kinds Of Nostalgia
Few things help us truly understand an era quite like the music it created. While some hit songs are defined by the times that produced them, others have lived on long beyond their prime, especially the music from the 1970s. Here is a list of your favorite '70s top one-hit wonders and the legendary tunes' wild stories. Now dust off your bellbottoms, say good night to your pet rock, hop on your exceedingly uncomfortable water bed, and it's time to take a journey back to the era of funk, disco, and rock and roll.
1. Play That Funky Music - Wild Cherry
It's almost impossible that you haven't danced to this music. Funk one-hit wonders Wild Cherry was a hard-rockin' band that just couldn't catch a break before they conquered the charts in 1976 and made hips sway.
The inspiration for the song came when they were performing at a club to a few responsive audiences. Someone shouted at them the now infamous line. While Band frontman Rob Parissi was listening, the idea struck him. All the song took was a genre shift!
2. Kung Fu Fighting - Carl Douglas
This one-hit wonder is so special and widely known that you're bound to recognize it from the first two seconds. Featuring what is known in music as the 'Oriental riff,' the song marks the true songwriting gold, and the style was instantly defined something as East Asian in the American imagination.
With this 1974 single, one-hit wonder singer Carl Douglas had a wildly successful hit. The hit single capitalized on the Hong Kong kung fu movies' popularity. At that time, the greatest star, Bruce Lee, had just passed away. Though Carl Douglas comes from Jamaica, you can't really detect the accent.
3. In The Summertime - Mungo Jerry
The oddly-named British band Mungo Jerry is remembered as one-hit wonders, but they seem to be not too sad about it. Anyway, their debut single "In the Summertime," released in 1970, is one of the top singles in music history.
The single snatched the top space on music charts throughout the world, and it has also been splashed all over movie and TV spots. In addition to the carefree, goofy nature of the tune, one big request we have is those intimidating mutton chops. Had better not try to bring that look back.
4. Ring My Bell - Anita Ward
Inspired by teens chitchatting on the phone, R&B crooner Frederick Knight wrote this tune. The song was intended to be sung by singer Stacy Lattisaw, but she signed on with a different music label. So it came to singer Anita Ward.
Anita Ward's 1979 version of the single snatched up the spot on the Billboard Hot 100 and Soul Singles charts, making her a one-hit wonder. Its lyrics were interpreted as being suggestive, and that rubbed Anita the wrong way for her background was in the church.
5. Got To Be Real - Cheryl Lynn
The disco one-hit wonder is practically dizzying as she has appeared in so many movies, TV shows, and pop culture references. Cheryl Lynn's 1979 disco tune was so successful that it even went well beyond its era. But what does she have in common with Michael Jackson and Diana Ross?
A couple of years before her song hit the airwaves, Cheryl had obtained a major career start by playing in the stage version of The Wiz. When her song climbed the charts, the movie version with Jackson and Ross was just released.
6. Rapper's Delight - Sugarhill Gang
Orchestrated by master producer Sylvia Robinson, the impact "Rapper's Delight" had on the music world is earthshaking. Exported from the streets of the Bronx, this was rap music's introduction to the mainstream. It all began one fateful night in 1978.
Disco giants Chic were performing onstage with Blondie and The Clash in New York. In the middle of the disco hit "Good Times," rapper Fab Five Freddy brought his pals and leaped onstage, and they started freestyling. The result is the one-hit wonder that started a whole new era of music.
7. Afternoon Delight - Starland Vocal Band
"Afternoon Delight" surely has some lovely harmonies, but that's not why people took to it. Its lyrics were naughty enough to get the point across the giggling listeners but took enough poetic license (can we call it that?) that it's still radio-friendly.
In 1976, the song skyrocketed to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 and the band even got its own show. The single received four Grammy nominations, but winning two of them couldn't resuscitate the band. Obviously, the award Best New Artist has a career-killing reputation to it.
8. Venus - Shocking Blue
Today, you know it from lady's shaving razors commercials and from the Bananarama version. If memory serves, you will know the original version from 1970. However, did you know the band that sings this ode to a Roman goddess is Dutch?
If you noticed the accent sounds a bit peculiar and some of the pronunciation is a bit off, now you'll know why. This psychedelic song that bids farewell to the groove of the '60s rose to the top of the charts in nine countries.
9. All Right Now - Free
With all due respect to Free, it's probably not crushing for them to have just one hit single. After all, they're one of the best-selling blues rock bands in Britain. They disbanded not long after getting that hit single, but with a cool 20 million albums sold worldwide - no big deal!
They wrote it in the student union building on Durham University campus in northern England. Free gained incredible success at a ridiculously young age. Andy Fraser, the youngest member, bass player, was just 17 years old when he and his band became one-hit wonders.
10. O-o-h Child - Five Stairsteps
With such a positive, kindhearted message, you couldn't help but enjoy this hit from 1970. The song appealed to listeners of a wide array of genres. After all, it was the Vietnam era, with turmoil back home and overseas. People needed to hear those sweet words.
The Five Stairsteps may have been one-hit wonders, but they had something very unique which made them stand out from their peers. The whole band were all siblings, products of the Chicago soul scene. Singer Alohe would later leave the band for a very '70s reason: finding enlightenment.
That one certainly brought us back. But just wait for the next nostalgia trips coming up ahead!
11. Magic - Pilot
Have you ever had this single's simple chorus pop into your head while watching a magic show? Well, we surely have. Pilot was Scotland's finest, and their hit song sold almost one million copies. It's certified gold less than a year after it was released in 1974.
Though "Magic" climbed to #5 in the US, the band's next hit "January" was only a big deal in the UK. There is a chance that you've heard this without even realizing it: the song took off once again in 2007 when it was used for a Pillsbury commercial!
12. Love Hurts - Nazareth
This pained song, which surely played in your head through all of your past breakups, is, in fact, a cover. While it's by no means the first one of its kind, it was undoubtedly the most memorable and the most commercially successful.
\The power ballad of Scottish rock band Nazareth made it to the Top 10 in the US. The song also made #1 in Norway and the Netherlands. With his gritty yell over what's actually a fairly soft song, lead singer Dan McCafferty squeezed every ounce of emotion he could out of the tune.
13. Turn The Beat Around - Vicki Sue Robinson
Long before Gloria Estefan gave this song a seriously spicy Cuban makeover, singer Vicki Sue Robinson had herself a big hit back in 1976. She toured the nation to promote her single, and it quickly ate up the disco charts at home and abroad.
This one-hit wonder singer had no more chart toppers, but she surely spent her time well. Vicki supported Irene Cara on the hit tune "Fame," and spent the '80s working alongside A-list artists such as Cher and Michael Bolton. Not too shabby!
14. Spirit In The Sky - Norman Greenbaum
That opening guitar riff is just memorable. The song has been #1 three separate times through three separate artists, but the original one was from Norman Greenbaum. He says when he saw Porter Waggoner singing gospel on TV, he was inspired and thought he could do it definitely.
He wrote it in just 15 minutes and hey presto, a one-hit wonder was born. What's funniest is the singer's own background. For a famous hippie ode to Jesus, Norman was actually born and raised in an Orthodox Jewish home!
15. Feelings - Morris Albert
The title says it all. This weepy song was impossible to escape in 1975. Though the Brazilian singer Morris Albert, would face copyright backlash for improvising on a tune penned by French composer Loulou Gasté, the public didn't seem to mind.
The tune has been covered across the ages by everyone from Ella Fitzgerald to Julio Iglesias. "Feelings" has taken on its own life as one of the greatest ballads of the '70s. While playing it live at Montreux, Nina Simone remarked on how sad someone must be to have to write such lyrics.
Haven't seen your favorite one-hit wonder of the '70s on the list? Have no fear - it's right coming up ahead.
16. Born To Be Alive - Patrick Hernandez
Judging by the look of things, French singer Patrick Hernandez had quite the stage presence. He seemed to have a big future in the business, with big, bouncy hair, snappy suits, sassy hand gestures, and a penchant for dancing with a cane.
Inspite of his disco groove going to No. 1 on the charts in 1979, Patrick was destined to become a one-hit wonder, but of his own accord. After the success of his song, Hernandez opted to part ways with the music industry. Regardless, we are still dancing.
17. My Sharona - The Knack
It's got that unforgettably simple but catchy three-chord riff in exact rhythm with the drums and bass, which we can't get enough. The top song was an easy No. 1 in 1979. The band had another single lined up named "Good Girls Don't," but then came the backlash.
The Knack had some serious haters who suppressed their triumph. They were accused of being 'Beatles rip-offs,' and listeners thought the song was creepy and referring to underaged girls. Artist Hugh Brown launched a 'Knuke the Knack' campaign, and the group was resigned to one-hit-wonder status.
18. Seasons In The Sun - Terry Jacks
Due to that glimmering, sunny, shimmering guitar reverb, we all remember this 1974 tune for all the wrong reasons. If you pay a bit of attention to the lyrics, you'll realize it's actually a real bummer of a song. Why, oh why, does everything have to end?
The song was actually a translation of French-language crooner Jacques Brel, whose original version was also rather gloomy. Terry Jacks recorded the tune together with his wife. Therefore, this one-hit wonder was written by a Belgian, translated and reworked by an American, sang and popularized by a Canadian.
19. Video Killed The Radio Star - The Buggles
With its snide, almost taunting tone, "Video Killed The Radio Star" made the top of the singles charts in 16 countries across the world. Though the song crushed the charts when it came out, this one-hit wonder had another reason for its longevity.
British New Wave group called The Buggles covered this immensely popular tune, and their weird spacey video accompanying the 1979 song became the very first music video ever shown on MTV. Some overly sensitive viewers thought it's overly violent because a television blows up in the clip.
20. Me and Mrs. Jones - Billy Paul
What a scandalously nice tune! Who but Billy Paul could make a single so wrong sound so beautiful? Never has infidelity had so much soul to it. "Me and Mrs. Jones" closed out at No. 1 on the charts in 1972, and that was just the beginning.
The song was certified platinum, selling two million records. Billy Paul managed to gain a Grammy for his hit. Although he had other singles afterward, all were eclipsed by this one's success. Trivia time: younger generations will definitely remember Turk singing this one repeatedly on Scrubs.
Have you found yourself singing along without even hearing the song? You'll certainly remember these next hits.
21. You Light Up My Life - Debby Boone
Sure, being the daughter of crooner Pat Boone certainly gave her the right kind of boost. But this song, as well as Debby Boone's career, as a result, took on a life of their own. Before the single, nothing had spent so long at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts.
If you can recall, this song was originally from a film with the same title, starring the lip-syncing Didi Conn, who played Frenchie in Grease. Debby’s 1977 cover won the Best New Artist Grammy, as well as an American Music Award.
22. I Love The Nightlife - Alicia Bridges
Could this 1978 single be any more straightforward about its message? Alicia Bridges likes going out, likes partying and dancing, and wants you to enjoy it just like her. Don't let her radically short, punk rock blonde hair fool you, because she is a disco queen.
You can almost hear a sly wink in her saucy, full voice. Surprisingly, she’s a reluctant hero of her genre. One-hit wonder Alicia Bridges didn’t much care for disco, so she just wasn’t interested when approached to do a full disco album.
23. Stealers Wheel - Stuck in the Middle With You
First things first, because you know it's the first thing that popped into your mind: that gruesome scene from Reservoir Dogs will forever influence the way we hear this one-hit wonder of 1973. Seriously, how can you not know this tune?
Scotsmen Gerry Rafferty and Joe Egan recorded the song, debuting on Top of the Pops on the BBC in 1973. Behind the scenes, the single featured the assistance of legendary songwriting pair Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, the dynamic duo that had helped promote Elvis to stardom.
24. American Pie - Don McLean
Some one-hit wonders are successful due to the atmosphere that created them, or a genre that was once popular. Then there is a rare song that breaks the mold. You know this song, your friends know this song, and the entire world knows this song. What's more, this song never gets old.
It may not be fair to label Don McLean as a one-hit wonder, but his follow-up songs couldn't even touch the massive success of this epic tune. McLean proved that not only could a song over eight minutes become a legend, but that we could learn all the words.
25. Cat's In The Cradle - Harry Chapin
Wipe away your tears, if you can. "Cat's in the Cradle" is a song that'll make you tearfully call up your dad to tell him you love him. Its haunting lyrics mean that whatever time you hear it, it'll strike a chord in your heart.
This 1974 hit was inspired by a poem written by Chapin's wife Sandy, and it's about her first husband's relationship with his politician father. As time went on, Chapin came to realize that he was expressing his own fears about his relationship with his son.
26. The Devil Went Down To Georgia - The Charlie Daniels Band
If you are looking for an incredible slice of home-cooked Americana, look no further. You can just feel the ghoulish flames licking off of the violins in this 1979 hit single as there is such fast and furious fiddling, and you'd swear they're on fire.
The song tells a classic story of a boy being dared to a fiddling match with the Devil himself, and his evil adversary being totally surprised. Most recently, a viral video featured a man playing in tune with a washing machine whose rhythm totally matches the song.
27. Lovin' You - Minnie Riperton
Modern listeners all know Minnie's daughter, funny gal and Saturday Night Live star Maya Rudolph. This sugary song was written to soothe her young daughter in 1975. Minnie was a coloratura soprano, who had a formidable vocal talent, but only gave us a taste of it here.
The song was written by her and her husband and was soaked with calming sounds like chirping birds. It was a perfect vehicle to show off Minnie's remarkable four octave range. Sadly, the talented singer passed away from cancer just several years after her song made waves.
28. Baker Street - Gerry Rafferty
Few songs could be so hauntingly wistful like Baker Street, let alone a one-hit wonder. Move over, this song has arguably the greatest saxophone solo in music history. Just ask Lisa Simpson. The single's guitar solo even influenced Slash's in "Sweet Child o' Mine."
Scotsman Gerry Rafferty was a member of Stealer's Wheel, and the rock band had yet another one-hit wonder themselves. But as a solo artist, none could top this legendary tune that hit charts worldwide in 1978. How much does this song take you back?
29. Hooked On A Feeling - Blue Swede
ABBA was not the only pop group that made a splash in the 1970s. As the name would suggest, "Hooked on a Feeling" was actually sung by a Swedish rock group. In fact, the single was made by mashing two cover songs together, one Swedish and one American.
Long after the song went #1 in 1974, the "ooga-chaka" opening to the single took on a life of its own. The song accompanied the weird dancing baby from the Ally McBeal TV show that would become one of the world's first viral videos in the '90s.
30. Ça plane pour moi - Plastic Bertrand
It's like the Beach Boys became nasty. The song has been sung in concert by groups as giant as U2 and Red Hot Chili Peppers. It's also appeared in movies such as Eurotrip and The Wolf of Wall Street. You probably know this ridiculously energetic tune without even realizing it.
Knowing French would not help you understand the bizarre lyrics of the song. Belgian rocker Plastic Bertrand wanted to spoof the new genre known as punk. Stealing charts throughout Europe, this one-hit wonder was a rare instance where a French song saw success in the US, too.