The ‘70s brought us bellbottoms and the rise of disco. Unfortunately, those days are long gone, but there’s one thing that continues to resonate with every generation that came afterwards and that’s music.
But this isn’t necessarily about a music band or a solo music artist that went on to produce dozens of albums. We’re talking about the one-hit wonders that have withstood the test of time and continue to play on, even if they never had such a huge hit again.
Venus by Shocking Blue
In 1970, Shocking Blue released a single called “Venus,” which sang an ode to a Roman goddess. The irony isn’t lost on the fact that the band is Dutch, hence why the way some of the words are enunciated are a little weird in the original version. Some younger people will remember the song from the cover version done by the band Bananarama.
Afternoon Delight by Starland Vocal Band
Starland Vocal Band disguised the lyrics of “Afternoon Delight” just enough that it was okay to play on the radio but it still resonated its naughty message to make listeners laugh and blush. And by 1976, it was on the top of the Billboard Hot 100 and the band won two Grammies.
All Right Now by Free
20 million copies of “All Right Now” sold around the world, which is pretty ironic given that the British blues rock group, Free, wrote the song at Durham University in Northern England, and that they broke up not long after the single’s initial release.
Rapper’s Delight by Sugarhill Gang
One fateful night in 1978, Disco gurus Chic were onstage in New York alongside Blondie and The Clash. Halfway through Chic’s song “Good Times,” a rapper named Fab Five Freddy and his friends jumped on stage and started singing. This led to “Rapper’s Delight” which first introduced rap music to the music industry.
O-o-h Child by Five Stairsteps
“O-o-h Child” by Five Stairsteps debuted in 1970, right smack in the middle of the Vietnam era, where people were desperate to hear lyrics full of encouragement. But it couldn’t keep the band of siblings together. So, after their one hit single was released, Singer Alohe left the band to find spiritual enlightenment.
Got To Be Real by Cheryl Lynn
Over the years, the 1979 song “Got To Be Real” by Cheryl Lynn has appeared on TV shows and films. But long before her incredibly upbeat song became a hit, Lynn was performing on stage in the stage version of “The Wiz.”
Magic by Pilot
Pilot, a Scottish band, released “Magic,” a hit single, in 1974 and it sold nearly a million copies in under a year. But while “Magic” was a hit across the pond in the U.S., Pilot’s second single “January” was only a hit in the UK.
Ring My Bell by Anita Ward
American singer-songwriter Frederick Knight wrote a catchy tune which he wanted singer Stacy Lattisaw to sing. But when she signed on with another label, the honor of singing this song went to Anita Ward and it earned a spot in the Billboard Hot 100 and Soul Singles charts.
Love Hurts by Nazareth
The commercially successful cover “Love Hurts” by Scottish band Nazareth has been people’s breakup song for decades. And it was Top 10 in the U.S. The lead singer, Dan McCafferty, made sure to pour his heart out as he yelled over the otherwise smooth rhythm in the background.
In the Summertime by Mungo Jerry
The 1970 song “In the Summertime” from the British band Mungo Jerry became a top single worldwide and has been used in both television shows and films over the years. Fortunately, those hairstyles have remained in the 1970s.
Kung Fu Fighting by Carl Douglas
Singer Carl Douglas released a hit single in 1974 called Kung Fu Fighting, which drew fame from the popular Kung-Fu films and their epic stars and martial artists, like Bruce Lee. Ironically, Douglas isn’t East Asian but rather Jamaican.
Play That Funky Music by Wild Cherry
Although the band, Wild Cherry, never caught their big break, they did have a hit in the song, “Play That Funky Music,” which rose to the top of the charts in 1976. Ironically, the idea for the song came after an audience member at a club shouted “play that funky music, white boy.” When the band’s frontman Rob Parissi heard it, he turned it into a song.
Beach Baby by The First Class
The British band The First Class released their hit single “The First Class” in 1974. But what really blew a lot of fans away was that the lead singer, Tony Burrows, had a talent of faking an American accent. Some even say he was inspired to write this song by the Beach Boys because the one-hit wonder mentions southern California and women on the beach.
Playground in My Mind by Clint Holmes
Clint Holmes sang in the United States Army Chorus for three years to keep people’s spirits up during the Vietnam War. And in 1972, he released “Playground in My Mind” which was an instant hint because it was upbeat and offered hope during an otherwise depressive time.
The Rapper by The Jaggerz
The Jaggerz claim the name of their band was inspired by Pittsburgh’s slang word for a thorny bush and doesn’t have anything to do with musician Mick Jagger. As far as their song “The Rapper” goes, this fun diddy was an instant hit but it wasn’t the only hit single the band produced. And yet, “The Rapper” is still the most memorable one.
Dancing in the Moonlight by King Harvest
“Dancing in the Moonlight” by King Harvest had everyone swaying to the tune in the 1970s. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to propel the band to super stardom. But other bands have performed their own versions of the song, like the 2000 version by the band Toploader.
Pop Muzik by M
“Pop Muzik” by M sounded weird and unusual at the time because English musician, Robin Scott, used synthesizer based electronic music techniques in its production. And in the 1990s, the Irish rock group U2 remixed the song and performed it for their world tours.
Black Betty by Ram Jam
Rock band Ram Jam was formed thanks to guitarist Bill Bartlett who had already gained fame in the 1960s as part of the band Lemon Pipers. But the international hit song “Black Betty” was actually a reimagining of a song written by Lead Belly, a blues guitarist.
Driver’s Seat by Sniff ‘n’ the Tears
The British band Sniff ‘n’ the Tears had a hit on their hands with the song “Driver’s Seat,” which hit the charts in 1979 and was used in the film “Boogie Nights” years later. But unfortunately, the group disbanded after failing to produce other successful hits.
How Long by Ace
“How Long” written by Ace was what everyone assumed was a song about someone being cheated on by a significant other. But the song was really inspired by the lead singer having learned that his bassist had been cheating on the group with another band.
Hot Child in the City by Nick Gilder
The British-born Canadian musician Nick Gilder made people bop to the beat of his hit single “Hot Child in the City.” But at the time, a lot of people didn’t realize that the lyrics were about underage girls on Hollywood Boulevard working on the street corners.
The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia by Vicki Lawrence
Most people know Vicki Lawrence as a comedic actress on “The Carol Burnett Show” and on “Mama’s Family.” But what they don’t know is that she was a one-hit wonder in the 1970s with a song called “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia,” which told a story of intrigue and murder in the state.
Ça Plane Pour Moi by Plastic Bertrand
Energetic and bizarre only begins to explain the song “Ça plane pour moi” by Belgian musician Plastic Bertrand, who introduced this song as part of the punk genre. And as the name suggests, the song is in French, but it didn’t stop it from being a hit in both Europe and in the United States.
Hooked on a Feeling by Blue Swede
Swedish rock group Blue Swede mashed a cover song in Swedish and English to create their version of “Hooked on a Feeling.” Most people recall the famous opening line of the song “ooga-chaka” became as famous as the song when it was released in 1974 and continued to resonate over the years.
Baker Street by Gerry Rafferty
Scottish musician Gerry Rafferty proved that he was one of the most talented saxophone soloists of the 1970s when he released “Baker Street” in 1978. He had also produced another hit single when he was part of the music band “Stealer’s Wheel.” But “Baker Street” was his pride and joy.
Lovin’ You by Minnie Riperton
This smooth, sweet song from 1975 was performed by Minnie Riperton, who originally wrote the lyrics with her husband so she could calm her daughter, a.k.a. future comedic actress Maya Rudolph, down. Unfortunately, Riperton passed away a couple of years after the song became a hit.
The Devil Went Down to Georgia by The Charlie Daniels Band
The violin playing, cowboy hat wearing Charles Daniels Band had a hit on their hands when they released “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” The song was about a boy who got dared into a match with the Devil. The song later reached new audiences when it was included on the video game "Guitar Hero."
Cat’s in the Cradle by Harry Chapin
Harry Chapin released his hit song “Cat’s in the Cradle” in 1974, which was inspired by a poem his wife Sandy wrote about her first husband and his father. But by the time Chapin was done writing the lyrics, he realized the song now reflected his fears about his future relationship with his own kid.
American Pie by Don McLean
The whole world is familiar with Don McLean’s song “American Pie,” which coincidentally inspired a comedy film franchise of the same name. But what was really rare about this hit was that it was over eight minutes long and yet everyone hung on to every word of it.
Stuck in the Middle With You by Stealers Wheel
Scottish singers Gerry Rafferty and Joe Egan recorded “Stuck in the Middle with You” in 1973 and debuted the song on the BBC show “Top of the Pops.” But most people don’t realize that songwriters Mike Stoller and Jerry Leiber who helped Elvis Presley achieve fame had a hand in writing the song, too.
I Love the Nightlife by Alicia Bridges
Disco queen Alicia Bridges wrote a song called “I Love the Nightlife” in 1978 about a woman who likes to go out and party and dance the night away. And if the punk rock hairdo wasn’t evident enough, Bridges wasn’t that big of a fan of disco, which was the rage in the 1970s.
You Light Up My Life by Debby Boone
Like her father Pat Boone was a pop singer in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Debby Boone had what it took to produce music. But her memorable one-hit wonder “You Light Up My Life” remained number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart the longest.
Me and Mrs. Jones by Billy Paul
“Me and Mrs. Jones” became number 1 on the top charts in 1972, which was interesting given that Billy Paul had written and sung a song about something as scandalous as infidelity. People obviously loved it because the single went platinum and Paul won a Grammy for his skills.
Video Killed the Radio Star by The Buggles
“Video Killed the Radio Star” by British band The Buggles was a hit in 16 countries in 1979. It was also noteworthy for being the first single to have its own music video played on MTV. And believe it or not, some viewers complained that the video was violent because a TV was blown up in one of the scenes.
Season in the Sun by Terry Jacks
In 1974, everyone fell in love with “Season in the Sun” by Terry Jacks in spite of the fact that the song was a real downer. But here’s an interesting tidbit about the song’s history. It was translated from a song written in French by Jacques Brel, then refined by Jack’s American wife, and sung by Jacks himself, who is in fact a Canadian.
My Sharona by The Knack
In 1979, “My Sharona” by The Knack became a top hit with its combination of bass and drums in the background. But despite the song’s success, some listeners claimed the band was trying to rip The Beatles off. Then they released another single called “Good Girls Don’t,” which referred to underaged women, which gave the band a bad rap and prevented them from being successful.
Born to Be Alive by Patrick Hernandez
Known for dancing with a cane and having bouncy hair, French singer Patrick Hernandez released the disco song “Born to Be Alive,” which rose to number 1 in 1979. And while many felt that he was destined for greatness, he decided he no longer wanted to continue pursuing a music career after the song's release.
Feelings by Morris Albert
“Feelings” brought a tear to everyone’s eyes in 1975, and it did the same for Brazilian singer Morris Albert, who faced copyright infringement for tweaking a song originally written by Loulou Gasté, a French composer.
Spirit in the Sky by Norman Greenbaum
Although the song “Spirit in the Sky” has been covered by other artists, it was singer Norman Greenbaum’s original hit that put the song on the map. He claimed he was inspired to create the song after watching Porter Waggoner on TV singing gospel music. And it only took Greenbaum 15 minutes to write the song, too.
Turn the Beat Around by Vicki Sue Robinson
New York singer Vicki Sue Robinson released the hit disco song “Turn the Beat Around” in 1976. Although she didn’t have any other hits, she was Irene Cara’s backup vocalist in the famous song “Fame.”
Young Hearts Run Free by Candi Staton
While “Young Hearts Run Free” was a hit in the world of disco, a lot of music enthusiasts weren’t aware that behind warmth of Candi Staton’s lyrics was a tale of her experience with a husband who was abusive to her.
The Rubberband Man by The Spinners
The R&B and soul hit by The Spinners had everyone in American dancing to the beat. And decades later, it was used as part of the soundtrack to the film “Guardians of the Galaxy.” But there were interesting sounds in the song that bass player Bob Babbitt created using a funk box drum machine.
She’s Gone by Hall & Oates
Anyone going through a breakup in the 1970s likely related to the song “She’s Gone” written and performed by Darryl Hall and John Oates. Not surprisingly, Hall was in the process of divorcing his first wife and Oates had gotten stood up by a date, which made it easier to write this song about heartbreak.
The Air That I Breathe by The Hollies
Anyone from the 1970s will say that “The Air That I Breathe” by The Hollies was a symbolic way for people to express their feelings for their significant others. The song was number 6 on the rock charts in 1974. And 20 years later, the band Radiohead released a song called “Creep,” that was practically a rip off of The Hollies’ hit song, which resulted in a lawsuit.
Ooh La La by The Faces
The music band The Faces wrote a song which is more of a conversation between a grandson and his grandfather. The grandson experiences a heartbreak and reflects on what his grandfather had told him earlier about the way things go when you're in a relationship with a woman.
Into the Mystic by Van Morrison
“Into the Mystic” became Van Morrison’s pride and joy and was about a sailor who lost sea. Despite the terrible odds, the man managed to make it home in this musical masterpiece that has lived on through the ages.
Long Train Running by Doobie Brothers
“Long Train Running” was released in 1973 by the Doobie Brothers and has been a favorite on people’s playlists for decades. The song quickly became number eight on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart and has been covered by other big names in the music industry like the band Hootie and the Blowfish.
You Sexy Thing by Hot Chocolate
“You Sexy Thing” was written by Errol Brown and performed by the band Hot Chocolate and it has become a timeless classic with its lyrics and guitar melodies in 1975. Errol had written the song after experiencing excitement over meeting a gorgeous woman after a period of singledom.
Le Freak by CHIC
“Le Freak” retained its number 3 spot in the Billboard Hot 100 in 1979. And most fans remember this tune giving them disco fever at clubs and parties over the decades courtesy of American R&B band CHIC.
December, 1963 (Oh What a Night!) by Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons
The song about the most intense moment in a man’s life was reflected in the hit song “December, 1963 (Oh What a Night!)” It was performed by Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, and remained on the pop charts’ Top 40 between 1975 and 1976. And although it’s not confirmed, some fans believe the song was about lead vocalist Gaudio losing his v-card while on tour.