Iconic one-hit wonders over the past 50 years
We’re all familiar with the one-hit wonder—that artist who storms onto the music scene with a smash hit, only to disappear as soon as he or she arrived. Some one-hit wonders continue making music for years but never manage to produce another successful song. Others leave the industry altogether after their mega-hits, cashing in their earnings and quitting while they’re ahead. A few artists on this list may have gone on to release more hit songs, had their lives not been cut short.
Some one-hit wonders released recordings before their big hits, but these lesser-known tracks garnered little or no attention. For others, the songs that made them famous were their first releases. What’s important in defining a one-hit wonder is that whatever else they did, nothing came close to achieving the success, charts-wise or in the minds of their fans, as that one career-defining hit. It shaped careers and is what the performers will always be remembered for.
In celebration of the beloved “one and done” artists of the world, Stacker has rounded up a list of the most iconic one-hit wonders of the past 50 years. You'll learn which 1976 smash hit made a major comeback with its feature in Will Ferrell's "Anchorman," which country-pop ballad was originally offered to Cher, and which of these one-hit wonders was written for a 1980s blockbuster film that made $214 million worldwide box office. This soundtrack, which topped the Billboard charts at #1, won a Golden Globe for Best Original Song, an Academy Award for Best Original Song, and a Grammy for Best Pop Performance by a Duo.
Note that the last entry on this list is 2013—only time will tell who else may emerge as a one-hit wonder. Scroll through and you’ll likely see some of your favorites, and you may just recognize a handful of these from a school dance or two.
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1969: 'Apricot Brandy' by Rhinoceros
Rhinoceros was a short-lived band established in the late 1960s by Elektra Records that folded shortly after its inception. However, the group managed to produce one big hit, "Apricot Brandy,” an instrumental tune that landed at #46 on the Billboard charts.
1970: 'Hitchin' a Ride' by Vanity Fare
British rock group Vanity Fare gained attention for a brief moment when the band's hit "Hitchin’ a Ride” was released in the United States. The song about a lone hitchhiker was Billboard’s #14 song of 1970. The group attempted several more singles in subsequent years, but none ever achieved the same degree of success.
1971: 'Funky Nassau' by The Beginning of the End
The Beginning of the End was a fitting name for this band, which released "Funky Nassau” in 1971 to enormous success. The song landed at #15 on Billboard’s Hot 100, but the group failed to follow it up with any major hits. "Funky Nassau" was featured more than 20 years later in the 1998 film "Blues Brothers 2000.”
1972: 'Suavecito' by Malo
Most people know Carlos Santana. Lesser known is his brother, Jorge Santana, who was part of a San Francisco-based group in the early 1970s called Malo. That band's song, "Suavecito,” was a sweeping success at the time, landing at #20 on the Billboard charts and dubbed "The Chicano National Anthem.” But the band members had a falling out and most of the original musicians left shortly after the song’s release.
1973: 'The Night the Lights Went Out In Georgia' by Vicki Lawrence
Although "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia” was originally offered to Cher, she turned it down and lesser-known singer Vicki Lawrence recorded it for Bell Records. The eerie, Southern Gothic-style country pop ballad was an instant hit, soaring to the #1 slot on Billboard’s Hot 100. In 1991, it received new attention when Reba McEntire recorded her own version of the country-pop song.
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1974: 'Kung Fu Fighting' by Carl Douglas
Who could forget 1974’s classic disco tune "Kung Fu Fighting”? The uber-popular single by Jamaican-born singer Carl Douglas was a #1 hit on Billboard’s Hot 100 in the United States and sold 11 million records across the globe. Douglas attempted to recreate the magic with "Dance the Kung Fu," but it never caught on with listeners in the same way.
1975: 'Lovin' You' by Minnie Riperton
In 1975, American songbird Minnie Riperton captured the #1 slot on Billboard’s Hot 100 list with her surprise hit "Lovin’ You.” Riperton never had the opportunity to follow up on her success, though, as she was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly afterward and died in 1979 at age 31.
1976: 'Afternoon Delight' by Starland Vocal Band
Starland Vocal Band, a soft rock group hailing from Washington D.C., soared to success in 1976 with their smash hit "Afternoon Delight,” which dominated the Billboard charts, earning the band five Grammy nominations and two awards. Despite the famous line "skyrockets in flight” and pedal steel guitar sound effects, the song was, in fact, an ode to afternoon romance. The song was later sung a capella in a comedic scene in the 2004 Will Ferrell movie "Anchorman.”
1977: 'Do You Wanna Make Love' by Peter McCann
Peter McCann was a one-hit wonder in the late 1970s who epitomized the era with his thick mustache and ubiquitous aviator sunglasses. His 1977 song "Do You Wanna Make Love” nabbed a #5 ranking on Billboard’s Hot 100 list, earning him fast fame. The singer never recorded another hit himself but he went on to write songs for stars such as Julio Iglesias, Kenny Rogers, Reba McEntire, Ricky Skaggs, and Jermaine Jackson.
1978: 'I Will Still Love You' by Stonebolt
Canadian rock band Stonebolt, originally called Perth Amboy, achieved fame in 1978 with their hopelessly romantic ballad "I Will Still Love You.” The song hit #29 on Billboard’s charts, but the group never produced another comparable hit.
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