Today is National One-Hit Wonder Day, so it’s only fair to talk about what counts as a one-hit wonder.
Each week charts come out that list the top hits of the week. There are numerous charts, but I usually only consider the Billboard Hot 100. Other charts have listed Country hits, R&B hits, Easy Listening hits, and Mainstream Rock hits.
To qualify as a one-hit-wonder, a group should only have one record that hits the charts. Most radio stations only listed or did countdowns for the Top Forty records. The most popular countdown was Casey Kasem and his American Top Forty, which continues to this day (although without Casey). Wikipedia has a list of of all the one-hit wonders that meet that criteria.
A few notable wonders were even more amazing because the groups hit number one and never again hit the Hot 100. This list covers 1955-1989, my usual era of interest. I’ve excluded records where two or three artists with other solo hits sang together and hit the charts only once as well as records like At This Moment by Billy Vera and the Beaters since Billy had several other solo hits as well.
- Let Me Go Lover – Joan Weber in 1955
- Moonglow and Theme From “Picnic” – Morris Stoloff in 1956
- He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands – Laurie London in 1958
- Get a Job – The Silhouettes in 1958
- Little Star – The Elegants in 1958
- Alley Oop – Hollywood Argyles in 1960
- Dominique – The Singing Nun in 1963
- In The Year 2525 – Zager & Evans in 1969
- Pop Musik – M in 1979
- Funkytown – Lipps Inc. in 1980
- Chariots of Fire – Titles – Vangelis in 1982
- We Are The World – USA For Africa in 1985
- Miami Vice Theme – Jan Hammer in 1985
- Don’t Worry, Be Happy – Bobby McFerrin in 1988
- When I’m With You – Sherriff 1989 (the same record reached #61 in 1983
Most people would expect songs like Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye by Steam (1969 again) to be on that list, but they followed that number one single with I’ve Gotta Make You Love Me, which reached #46 a year later. There are a lot more records like that if you only look at artists that only hit the top forty once.
While this list of one-hit wonders is interesting, all of these records regularly get airplay (with the possible exception of the early fifties records since most stations ignore those years now).
I continue to be more interested in one-hit wonders like Ariel by Dean Friedman. The record was his only visit to the top 100, reaching #26 in 1977. If you’ve never heard the record, you’re in for a treat! Shucks, you can even watch him sing the song live.
Useful book for searching for one-hit wonders: Billboard Hot 100 Annual – Joel Whitburn (2006)