27 One-Hit Wonders From The ’70s You’ll Never Forget
They Made It Big With One Song
You know when people refer to these as “five minutes of fame?” Well that doesn’t seem to be true for these artists. Because if anything, they’ve proven that being a one-hit wonder isn’t always a bad thing especially when your songs are impressively enduring you’re basically laughing all the way to the bank.
Some of them may even be overrated but if decades later, younger musicians are still covering and singing these tracks, it only means they must have done something right. So let’s check out these classic tunes from the ’70s that prove good music never goes out of style.
27. “The Night The Lights Went Out in Georgia” – Vicki Lawrence
This is a tune best appreciated by those who were there during the ‘70s – those who experienced and understood what the era was all about. That’s also why so many teens back in the day loved this chilling Southern gothic song which topped the Billboard Hot 100 and was a huge hit for Vicki Lawrence.
26. “Spirit in the Sky” – Norman Greenbaum
How many people actually know other Norman Greenbaum tunes beyond “Spirit in the Sky?” Here’s an interesting fact which you would know if you’re a ‘70s baby: Greenbaum’s a Jewish who wrote this religious rock song. The music took months to finish but he managed to write the lyrics pretty quickly.
25. “Cat’s in the Cradle” – Harry Chapin
Don’t be fooled by the catchy tune because this is about to become one of the saddest songs you’ll ever hear – so much so it will break your heart with every verse. The lyrics actually began as a poem written by Sandy, Harry Chapin’s wife. It’s a beautiful track but an absolute tearjerker.
24. “Stuck in the Middle with You” – Stealers Wheel
Anyone who has seen Quentin Tarantino’s 1992 film “Reservoir Dogs” will understand the inside joke about this song. Written as a parody, the folk rock group was actually surprised it struck gold and achieved commercial success (it sold over a million copies) since it was nothing more than a joke at first.
23. “Play That Funky Music” – Wild Cherry
This is every teen’s jam back in the ‘70s and it probably was a crime not to play it on boom boxes everywhere. It practically propels you to dance to the tune even against your will! Lol. It was certified platinum by the RIAA after it sold more than 2.5 million copies in the US.
22. “My Sharona” – The Knack
Sometimes, all you really need is one song to catapult you into international stardom. And that’s what happened to The Knack. They hit it big with their debut single which was inspired by a 17-year old girl Sharona Alperin who eventually became Doug Fieger’s (co-songwriter, rhythm guitarist and lead vocalist) girlfriend.
21. “The House of the Rising Sun” – Frijid Pink
“House of the Rising Sun” is Frijid Pink’s best known song even if the most commercially successful version is that from The Animals. Often regarded as the “first folk-rock hit,” the origin is unknown mostly because it’s a classic ballad. Frijid Pink’s psychedelic rendition was an international hit however and received gold certification status.
20. “Kung Fu Fighting” – Carl Douglas
In the 1970s, you can get away with singing a disco song about martial arts and it will sell like hotcakes. Carl Douglas got the idea after he saw some kids in London doing Kung Fu moves. It was recorded for just 10 minutes but it topped the charts and sold over a million copies in the US alone!
19. “All Right Now” – Free
This is ‘70s music at its finest. “All Right Now” was a huge hit for Free and by late 1989, it has garnered a total of more than 1,000,000 radio plays in the US alone. There’s actually no surprise here given that you can hear the magic as soon as you put it on!
18. “Hooked on a Feeling” – Blue Swede
Thanks to Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, “Hooked on a Feeling” has experienced resurgence and managed to win over younger fans. But if you liked it before that, then you have impeccable taste in music because let’s face it, this one’s an immediate earworm and it’s not something you can shake off your system easily.
17. Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes) – Edison Lighthouse
It’s catchy and fun. You see, Edison Lighthouse may have been a one-hit wonder but this song dominated the UK Charts for five weeks and was the first no. 1 single of the 1970s. The writers used session musicians to record this song but after it became a hit, they quickly assembled a band.
16. “Cruel to be Kind” – Nick Lowe
On a scale of 1 to 10, we’d rate this song as 15 because it’s one of the reasons why you can’t help but fall in love with ‘70s music. The thing is, although it was a massive hit, Lowe initially didn’t like it and considered it a pop sell-out song.
15. “Layla” – Derek and the Dominos
It always makes us wonder how many girls were named after this song. Whether you love the first half of this track or the second, you’re never wrong. This was inspired by Eric Clapton’s unrequited love for George Harrison’s then-wife Pattie Boyd whom Clapton eventually married. Still, he and Harrison remained good friends after.
14. “Baker Street” – Gerry Rafferty
The song is named after London’s Baker Street and if we had to describe this in three words, it would be melancholic, sentimental and legendary. That haunting saxophone riff is absolutely everything. And it wasn’t just a chart-topping commercial success because it received Gold Certification not once but on two occasions!
13. “Ride Captain Ride” – The Blues Image
A classic song with a killer tune – it’s one of those tracks you wish would go on longer. And it’s the perfect way to take a quick trip down memory lane – to the decade with nothing but brilliant and stellar music. It’s the good stuff like this that reminds us why the ‘70s is our favorite.
12. “Alone Again (Naturally)” – Gilbert O’Sullivan
You know you did well in the songwriting department if after decades since the song was released, it leaves the same impression on the listeners – something that’s not even remotely easy to accomplish. This introspective ballad is all about misery and perhaps one of the saddest and most depressing tracks ever written.
11. “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” – The Charlie Daniels Band
Okay, not everyone can manage to make a song about an epic battle between the devil and a fiddle player. It’s a concept which can be a bit tacky (and maybe seem weird) but somehow, this one REALLY worked out nicely. Charlie Daniels Band even made it sound so dang cool!
10. “The Night Chicago Died” – Paper Lace
This classic easily leaves today’s music in the dust. Don’t you just miss these songs that had stories in them? Like this one, it tells the fictional tale of a shootout between Al Capone Syndicate members and the Chicago Police. The track’s a smashing success and even received Platinum Certification from the RIAA.
9. “One Toke Over The Line” – Brewer and Shipley
It’s a priceless piece of the past and one that, unfortunately, we can never get back. The fact that it ranked no. 8 on the Rolling Stone magazine’s “15 Greatest Stoner Songs” only shows how crazy the ‘70s was. It basically talks about drugs and mentions Jesus and Mary in the same breath. Yup, it’s insane.
8. “Turn the Beat Around” – Vicki Sue Robinson
Laura Branigan and Gloria Estefan may have covered this song but Vicki Sue Robinson’s version is still the bomb. Although she received a nomination for Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal, “Turn the Beat Around” is her only hit. But it’s considered a disco classic and also topped the charts for four weeks!
7. “Afternoon Delight” – Starland Vocal Band
Released in April 1976, it makes you think where all the years have gone. Can you still remember where you were and what you were doing at the time? Everything just seemed so simple and chill, even the music. It reminds you of those incredibly hot summer days of your youth.
6. “Love Hurts” – Nazareth
What makes a good earworm? Let’s ask the boys from the Scottish hard rock band Nazareth. It was originally recorded by The Everly Brothers but the most successful version was from Nazareth. It was an international hit and topped the charts in several countries including Canada, Norway, Belgium, South Africa and the Netherlands.
5. “Mississippi Queen” – Mountain
This is one of those songs you have to play loud. It gives you visions of wearing a leather jacket, putting on your wayfarer glasses and just cruising on the freeway on your Harley Davidson or maybe, just chilling at home with a cold beer in hand. Either way, it’s cool on so many levels.
4. “O-o-h Child” – The Five Stairsteps
Who cares if you’re a one-hit wonder as long as you have that song that transcends time and generation? Decades from now, people will still remember this big time. It sends message of hope and comfort and this pop-soul classic practically rivaled the hits of Jackson 5. This was The Five Stairsteps’ only to 40 hit.
3. “Magnet and Steel” – Walter Egan
A definitive ‘70s song, it’s like a time machine that takes you back to the best times of your teenage years. Also, Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham provided some background vocals and well, Nicks was Walter Egan’s inspiration for this track because obviously he was smitten by her. He finished the song in just 15 minutes!
2.”Hot Child in the City” – Nick Gilder
Great tune and an insanely amazing jam but the first time you heard it, you probably thought it was a woman singing the song. Don’t worry though because you’re not alone – we all thought the same thing. Anyway, this track dominated the charts both in the US and Canada and it eventually became a platinum record.
1. “American Pie” – Don McLean
Perfectly capturing the spirit of the ‘70s, “American Pie” is in more ways than one, an anthem. To be honest, it’s way better than about 90% of today’s music. Radio stations could play it every hour and we still wouldn’t mind. There are several rumors and theories about the meaning behind it and perhaps that’s what made it more popular.