National One-Hit Wonder Day: Top One-Hit Wonders Per Decade


Not every musician or band wants to be recognized on One-Hit Wonder Day. But as the unsung Sept. 25 holiday approaches, we’re giving these songs some deserved attention.

You can find some groups with a great following built from a single hit, and that’s not a bad thing. One-hit wonders are responsible for some of the most popular songs in history. For whatever reason, people did not feel the same about the rest of their songs. Sure, die-hard fans probably know every word. That leaves the rest of us humming along on One-Hit Wonder Day to the catchy classics below.

What Makes a One-Hit Wonder?

For many music buffs, this depends on your definition of the term “hit.” Just because a band or solo act has a song that hit the charts doesn’t guarantee a spot. If you really want to shine on One-Hit Wonder Day, here are a few tips.

  • Make it to the Top 40. There might not be a consensus on what a hit is, but most experts say you should really hit one of the top 40 spots in the Billboard 100.
  • Capture a moment. Perhaps even more important than a chart topper is the feeling one-hit wonders evoke. You can probably associate a specific place, time or person with some of the songs on our list.
  • Don’t be a household name. Here’s where it gets tricky. Some immensely popular artists are technically one-hit wonders. But if they had tons of lesser hits that everyone knows, they might not qualify for One-Hit Wonder Day.
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Top One-Hit Wonders of the 1950s

one-hit wonders day, 1950s,
John Puddephatt / Wikimedia Commons

“Earth Angel (Will You Be Mine)” by the Penguins. One of the earliest acts we’ll celebrate on One-Hit Wonder Day is this talented band. The Penguins might not be a household name, but this song still is more than 60 years later. In the age of great crooners, few love songs were as memorable as this 1955 hit.

“The Book of Love” by the Monotones. We think the doo-wop era would have been incomplete without this gem. A catchy chorus includes a memorable bass riff that had audiences hooked when it came out in 1958.

“Rockin’ Robin” by Bobby Day. Just mentioning this song has us whistling its catchy tune. Sixty years after it hit the charts in 1958, it’s easy to see why it caught on with so many fans back then.

“Money (That’s What I Want)” by Barrett Strong. This 1959 song helped prepare listeners for the new sounds the 1960s would bring. No One-Hit Wonder Day list would be complete without this anthem to cold hard cash.

“Lollipop” by Ronald & Ruby. Here’s another catchy pop hit from the 1950s. Simple lyrics and a melody that gets stuck in your head were the right ingredients then. As it turns out, they tend to get the trick done these days, too.

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Top One-Hit Wonders of the 1960s

1960s, one-hit wonder day,
Archives New Zealand / Flickr

“Wipe Out” by the Surfaris. One of the most iconic beach hits of all time was the only hit for the aptly named Surfaris. This 1963 classic is almost entirely instrumental and has been widely featured in pop culture.

“Hey There Lonely Girl” by Eddie Holman. This was his only hit, but scores of fans were glad to have it in 1969. Given his range and incredible vocal command, we think it’s a shame he didn’t have more commercial success.

“Cool Jerk” by the Capitols. A lot of bands you could play on One-Hit Wonder Day were famous for a dance song, and that is the case with the Capitols and this 1966 track. You can still tell why everybody seemed to be dancing to this groovy hit.

“Hey! Baby” by Bruce Channel. Chances are you don’t recognize the name. On One-Hit Wonder Day, you might catch yourself humming along to this classic, though. It’s the oldest story in the world, told in a simple and straightforward way. That’s probably why this boy-meets-girl ditty caught on in 1961.

“Everlasting Love” by Robert Knight. Here’s another name you might not know, but his song about everlasting love became an everlasting hit. After its release in 1967, it kept creeping into the charts decade after decade. Nothing else in his portfolio came anywhere close.

Top One-Hit Wonders of the 1970s

one-hit wonders day, 1970s,
Ed Uthman / Flickr

“Ring My Bell” by Anita Ward. This 1979 disco classic probably rings a bell because of that iconic hook. Anita Ward never matched that commercial success, but she secured a place of prominence on One-Hit Wonder Day.

“All Right Now” by Free. This song set the stage for loud, confident rock of the 1970s. It came out just after the decade began and had fans clamoring for the fresh and unfiltered sound.

“Love Hurts” by Nazareth. You might know this song from any number of soundtracks. There were several artists who covered it, too. You probably know the 1975 Nazareth version best, even if you’re not familiar with the band. On One-Hit Wonder Day, that is the recipe for immortality.

“Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)” by Edison Lighthouse. Peace and love were very much in style as the ’60s turned over to the ’70s, and this hit for Edison Lighthouse captured that moment perfectly. The love song still rings true today, even if the style remains a time capsule of the period.

“Play That Funky Music” by Wild Cherry. Just about everyone will recognize this classic. With funk music at its peak in 1976, the band shot to the top of the charts. Of course, that would be the last time we’d see the band’s name there.

Top One-Hit Wonders of the 1980s

1980s, one-hit wonders day,

“Funkytown” by Lipps Inc. The ’80s got into full swing with this holdover of ’70s funk. It carried onto the new decade with a catchy hook and the required bass line carrying through the track.

“What I Am” by Edie Brickell & New Bohemians. This was a song that encouraged you to listen to the lyrics. It had influences from the hippie culture that preceded it by decades, but it felt fresh at the same time. This makes a great song to rediscover on One-Hit Wonder Day.

“I Want Candy” by Bow Wow Wow. Another One-Hit Wonder Day staple is this 1982 classic. Not only does it mesh with the electronic fad, it is a natural fit for any number of commercial uses.

“Bust A Move” by Young MC. This hip-hop classic signaled the shift in the genre’s culture that would come in the ’90s. Keeping the style of dance-worthy ’80s beats, Young MC brought in a catchy hook that kept it fresh. If you were listening to the radio in 1989, chance are you were nodding your head to this one. And on the dance floor, you might have been doing a lot more.

“Mexican Radio” by Wall of Voodoo. When fans of ’80s new wave music celebrate One-Hit Wonder Day, they’re probably including this one. It sounds hopelessly dated now, but there’s a reason everybody was singing it in 1982.

Top One-Hit Wonders of the 1990s

one-hit wonder day: 1990's
Yanko Peyankov / Unsplash

“No Rain” by Blind Melon. A lot of folks bought this 1992 album after hearing the single and seeing its unusual video. The song set an early standard for what would become the grunge decade. Unfortunately for Blind Melon, the band wasn’t able to cash in on that trend after its timeless classic. Lead singer Shannon Hoon died of an overdose in 1995.

“Unbelievable” by EMF. The alternative decade rang in with a dance hit the band EMF could not duplicate. But nearly 30 years later, we bet most of you would recognize the 1990 hit in a matter of seconds.

“Steal My Sunshine” by Len. The decade, century and millennium all ended as folks were still bobbing their heads to this song. The Canadian band scored a memorable, if fleeting, spot in One-Hit Wonder Day history with this 1999 pop hit.

“Joey” by Concrete Blonde. It was clear when Concrete Blonde dropped this song in 1990 that the decade would be different. And its unique prelude to alternative rock still stands as a high point in the genre. The band went on to cultivate a long and impressive discography. There was never another hit anywhere close to this one, though.

“Your Woman” by White Town. This was a band, basically just front man Jyoti Prakash Mishra, with an offbeat look at music. It led to an ethereal cultural classic with “Your Woman,” which featured sampling that was probably ahead of its time. That might explain why White Town didn’t have more hits after this 1997 single.

Top One-Hit Wonders of the 2000s

one-hit wonder day: 2000's
Jean / Unsplash

“I Believe In A Thing Called Love” by the Darkness. With raw vocals and screaming guitars, this song stood out in the early 2000s. It wasn’t what everyone else was doing, and that probably contributed to its success. It didn’t hurt that the Darkness had some real talent and its sound caught on with lots of fans.

“California” by Phantom Planet. A thoughtful, melodic look at the West Coast earned Phantom Planet its one and only hit in 2001. It really spoke to a generation, as songs about California did in generations before and since.

“Tipsy” by J-Kwon. One of the most popular rap songs to play on One-Hit Wonder Day is this 2004 track. Chances are, you heard its catchy hook plenty at the time. And many of you probably have it stuck in your heads right now.

“Get Free” by the Vines. This Australian band has created quite an impressive following, but it never attained the success of 2002’s “Get Free.” Many saw the sound as a natural progression of punk, and The Vines have continued to build on that since.

“Teenage Dirtbag” by Wheatus. Perhaps no song signaled the end of the ’90s like this song. It perfectly wrapped up the angst and misery of that decade while ushering in a new decade. You might not admit you love it now, but if you were coming of age at the time, you likely know it by heart.

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Chris Agee is an American journalist with more than 15 years of experience in a wide range of newsrooms.
Chris Agee is an American journalist with more than 15 years of experience in a variety of newsroom settings. After covering crime and other beats for newspapers and radio stations across the U.S., he served as managing editor at Western Journalism until 2017. He has also been a regular guest and guest host on several syndicated radio programs. He lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with his wife and son.
Texas Press Association, Best News Writing - 2012
Bachelor of Arts, Journalism - Averett University
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