10 One-Hit Wonders from the 1970s That Will Blow Your Mind

The 1970s was a dynamic time for music.

During this decade, many artists created unforgettable hits that topped the charts.

These artists often became famous for a single song that captured the essence of the era and remains nostalgic even today.

Why do these one-hit wonders from the ’70s continue to resonate with listeners decades later? Sometimes it’s the catchy hooks, memorable lyrics, or just the right timing.

Regardless, these songs have earned a special place in music history and in the hearts of fans across generations.

1) “My Sharona” by The Knack

You’ve probably heard “My Sharona” a million times, but did you know it was The Knack’s debut single? Released in June 1979, this catchy tune quickly climbed the charts.

It reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and stayed there for six weeks.

The song was even number one on Billboard’s year-end chart in 1979.

The track was written by band members Berton Averre and Doug Fieger.

Interestingly, the song was inspired by a real person – Sharona Alperin, who appears on the single’s cover holding their album “Get the Knack”.

My Sharona is often mentioned in lists of top one-hit wonders.

It was voted number six in Rolling Stone’s Top 10 One-Hit Wonders of All Time.

It also ranked 75 on the Billboard Hot 100 All-Time Top Songs in 2008.

Despite their initial success, The Knack couldn’t replicate the massive impact of “My Sharona”.

They remained active in the music scene but never had another hit that came close.

2) “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” by Looking Glass

“Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” was a huge hit for the band Looking Glass in 1972.

If you were around in the ’70s, you probably remember jamming to this song.

It’s catchy, fun, and tells a great story.

Looking Glass was formed in 1969 at Rutgers University.

The band included singer-guitarist Elliot Lurie, bassist Pieter Sweval, and keyboard player Larry Gonsky.

This song reached number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and the Adult Contemporary charts.

It’s about a barmaid named Brandy and her unrequited love for a sailor who can’t stay with her.

One cool fact is that “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” became popular again when it was featured in the final season of Better Call Saul.

It seems like this song won’t be forgotten anytime soon.

3) “Spirit in the Sky” by Norman Greenbaum

“Spirit in the Sky” is one of those songs you instantly recognize.

Released in late 1969, it quickly climbed the charts and became a big hit by 1970.

Norman Greenbaum wrote and performed the song.

Before this, he was part of a band called Dr. West’s Medicine Show and Junk Band.

The song reached No. 3 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and stayed in the Top 100 for 15 weeks.

It also became a gold record, selling over two million copies.

Even though Norman didn’t have any other major hits, this one song made a lasting impression.

Decades later, it still gets played on the radio and in movies.

4) “Play That Funky Music” by Wild Cherry

“Play That Funky Music” became a huge hit in 1976 for Wild Cherry.

This track was the brainchild of Rob Parissi, the band’s lead singer and guitarist.

The song has a vibrant mix of rock and funk, with its catchy chorus making it a dance floor favorite.

Wild Cherry had formed in Ohio in the early 1970s.

Originally, the band leaned more towards rock.

The shift to a funkier sound happened after an audience member at one of their shows famously shouted, “Play some funky music, white boy.”

The song was released under Sweet City, a Cleveland-based label, and distributed by Epic Records.

Alongside Parissi, the band included Bryan Bassett on electric guitar, Allen Wentz on bass, and Ron Beitle on drums.

“Play That Funky Music” quickly soared to the top of the charts.

It became a timeless track that still gets people dancing.

Despite its success, Wild Cherry struggled to replicate this hit.

They may have had only one big song, but it’s a tune that’s hard to forget.

5) “Kung Fu Fighting” by Carl Douglas

“Kung Fu Fighting” by Carl Douglas hit the scene in 1974.

You probably know this song from its catchy beat and memorable chorus.

It’s a disco track with a fun, martial arts theme that resonated with many people.

The song reached #1 on various charts, including the Billboard Hot 100.

It sold millions of copies worldwide.

This success made Carl Douglas a household name, even though he didn’t have another big hit.

Produced by Biddu, “Kung Fu Fighting” became an international dance favorite.

It came out as the first single from Douglas’s debut album, “Kung Fu Fighting and Other Great Love Songs.”

The track also features unique elements, like sounds inspired by martial arts movies.

This made it stand out and be remembered fondly for decades.

6) “Afternoon Delight” by Starland Vocal Band

“Afternoon Delight” is one of those catchy tunes you instantly recognize.

Released in 1976, the song was performed by Starland Vocal Band, a group made up of two couples.

The smooth harmonies and playful lyrics made it a big hit.

The song’s success was huge.

It reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Despite this, Starland Vocal Band is considered a one-hit wonder because they never had another song take off like “Afternoon Delight.”

What’s interesting is that the song won two Grammy Awards.

It even earned the band the Best New Artist award.

This might sound great, but some people think it jinxed their career.

The band released five albums before breaking up in 1981.

“Afternoon Delight” has stayed popular over the years.

It’s been featured in movies and TV shows, adding to its lasting fame.

Whether you love it or find it cheesy, you can’t deny its impact on 1970s music.

7) “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles

You might know “Video Killed the Radio Star” as the first music video ever played on MTV.

It set the tone for the music video era of the 1980s.

The song was released in 1979 by The Buggles, a British new wave band.

The Buggles were made up of Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes.

These two, along with Bruce Woolley, created the catchy tune about the impact of technology on music.

The lyrics reflect the rise of television and its effect on radio.

“Video Killed the Radio Star” quickly became a hit in many countries.

It topped the charts in the UK and reached the top 10 in multiple other nations.

The song’s futuristic sound and memorable chorus made it stand out.

It’s interesting that, despite being their only major hit, this song left a lasting legacy.

You can still hear it in pop culture references and covers today.

The Buggles’ unique contribution to music history remains noteworthy, even after all these years.

8) “Magic” by Pilot

“Magic” is a catchy tune by the Scottish band Pilot, released in 1974.

It reached high spots on the music charts, making it their standout hit.

The song was written by David Paton and Billy Lyall, who were members of Pilot.

The production was handled by Alan Parsons, a well-known music producer.

Pilot didn’t achieve much chart success beyond “Magic.” This song became their signature hit, and they struggled to replicate its success with other tracks.

The band later had members who joined the Alan Parsons Project.

Despite their short-lived fame, “Magic” remains a favorite from the ’70s.

You’ll likely recognize the upbeat melody and the catchy chorus, “Oh, ho, ho, it’s magic, you know.” It’s a feel-good classic that still gets airplay today.

9) “Seasons in the Sun” by Terry Jacks

“Seasons in the Sun” by Terry Jacks is a classic one-hit wonder from the 1970s.

The song hit the top of the charts in 1974.

It’s remembered for its bittersweet melody and somber lyrics.

Terry Jacks both arranged and produced the track.

The song was originally a French tune called “Le Moribond,” written by Jacques Brel.

The first English version was adapted by Rod McKuen.

When Terry Jacks decided to cover it, he made significant changes to the lyrics.

He wanted to tone down the dark theme of the original song.

Despite being a sad song about saying goodbye, “Seasons in the Sun” struck a chord with many listeners worldwide.

It has a nostalgic feel, often reminding people of their own life changes and farewells.

The song became a massive hit, making Jacks famous.

This track is often brought up when talking about the best one-hit wonders of the 1970s.

Even though Terry Jacks didn’t have another hit, “Seasons in the Sun” secured his place in music history.

If you listen to the song today, you’ll probably recognize that mix of upbeat guitar tunes and serious lyrics.

It’s one of those songs that still holds up, decades later.

10) “O-o-h Child” by Five Stairsteps

“O-o-h Child” by Five Stairsteps is a memorable one-hit wonder from the 1970s.

Released in 1970, this song became the group’s biggest hit.

The Five Stairsteps, a family group from Chicago, had a few R&B hits before, but this song brought them into mainstream pop success.

You’ll find “O-o-h Child” on their album The Stairsteps, known for its soothing and uplifting message.

The song’s soothing lyrics and melody provided comfort during a turbulent time, especially amid the Vietnam War.

It’s a tune about hope and healing.

Stan Vincent wrote and produced the song, and it has inspired more than twenty covers.

It’s often remembered as a beacon of positivity from that era.

You might recognize its iconic chorus, “Things are gonna get easier,” which continues to resonate with listeners today.

Although the Five Stairsteps had other R&B hits, “O-o-h Child” remains their most significant pop success.

It stands as a nostalgic piece of the early 70s music scene.

Cultural Impact of One-Hit Wonders

One-hit wonders from the 1970s not only defined the sound of their time but also left a lasting legacy on the music industry.

They captured the spirit of the era and influenced future genres and artists.

How They Captured the Zeitgeist

One-hit wonders from the 1970s often became symbols of the decade.

They provided a snapshot of the culture and trends in that moment.

For example, “Kung Fu Fighting” by Carl Douglas wasn’t just a catchy tune.

It encapsulated the 1970s fascination with martial arts.

Songs like these reflected broader societal interests. “Spirit in the Sky” by Norman Greenbaum captured the era’s spiritual curiosity and counterculture vibes.

You can trace these influences back to the 1960s’ counterculture movement.

Influence on Later Music

Many one-hit wonders from the 1970s paved the way for new music genres.

The Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” helped introduce hip-hop to a mainstream audience.

Though they didn’t have another big hit, their impact on the music scene was huge.

Artists and producers often sampled these iconic songs. “Play That Funky Music”, by Wild Cherry, became a go-to track for sampling in the 80s and 90s.

The simple, rhythmic groove influenced both funk and early hip-hop artists.

These memorable tracks often found new life in different music styles through the decades.

Behind the Music: Stories of the Artists

Some one-hit wonder artists found unexpected fame from their single hits.

After their brief spotlight, many led interesting lives filled with both highs and lows.

Unexpected Success

Karl Douglas experienced a whirlwind of fame with his hit song “Kung Fu Fighting.” In 1974, this track became a sudden sensation, blending disco and martial arts into an unforgettable tune.

It topped charts in both the U.S. and the U.K., making Karl an overnight star.

Similarly, Edison Lighthouse’s song “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)” ruled the airwaves in 1970.

This catchy tune highlighted their brief but bright moment in the limelight, making them a household name during that time.

Both tracks were huge surprises, as neither Douglas nor Edison Lighthouse expected such massive success from a single song.

Their sudden rise to fame was like a lightning bolt – unexpected and electrifying.

Life After the Hit

After their big hit, many artists had diverse and interesting journeys.

Some, like Looking Glass, with their hit “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl),” shifted to behind-the-scenes roles.

This 1972 classic remains a staple, but the band eventually faded from the pop spotlight.

Others pursued different avenues.

For instance, members of Frijid Pink ventured into other music projects.

Known for their 1970 hit “House of the Rising Sun,” they continued to make music even if they never recaptured the peak of their initial fame.

These artists often explored various aspects of the music industry, from songwriting to producing, leveraging their brief fame into lasting careers in different capacities.

Preserving the Legacy

The 1970s one-hit wonders continue to influence modern media and see renewed interest through various tributes and revivals.

Role in Modern Media

Songs from the 1970s one-hit wonders often appear in movies, TV shows, and commercials.

These tracks bring a nostalgic feel to the scenes they accompany.

For example, “Spirit in the Sky” by Norman Greenbaum frequently shows up in films and advertisements, connecting new generations to the spirit of the ’70s.

Streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music also help keep these one-hit wonders alive.

Playlists dedicated to the ’70s ensure that the music remains accessible and enjoyable.

Radio stations and satellite radio channels devoted to classic hits also provide a platform for these memorable tracks.

Tributes and Revivals

Artists often cover or sample one-hit wonders from the 1970s, keeping the music fresh and relevant.

Bands perform these songs at live events, introducing the tunes to younger audiences.

For instance, “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles is a favorite for cover bands and karaoke sessions.

Tribute albums and reunion tours also play a significant role.

Sometimes, the original artists or tribute bands organize concerts focused on these iconic tracks.

Social media platforms like YouTube and TikTok see users sharing and creating content inspired by these songs, ensuring they remain part of popular culture.

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