Best One Hit Wonders Of The 70s

We all have a song we know and love, but have no idea what other songs that musician has created. Oh, the joys of one hit wonders.

The 70s were filled with numerous one hit wonders, some of which topped the charts worldwide. So without further ado, here are some of the best songs from the 1970s that captured lightning in a bottle.

“My Sharona” by the Knacks

Song Year: 1979

The Knacks hit song spent six weeks on top of the Billboard charts because of its unique sound and upbeat lyrics. The famous guitar riff that plays throughout the song became one of the most recognizable riffs of the 70s.

The song outlines the singer’s lust for a young woman named Sharona. He’s in love with everything about her. Her looks, the way she acts, and the way she makes him feel drive him wild.

“Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles

Song Year: 1979

The Buggles mega-hit from 1979 has transcended generations, remaining a hit from its initial release. The song is a commentary on the dramatic changes in daily life that occurred in the 1970s.

The song focuses on the way TV and video changed the way people consumed media. Instead of focusing on music on its own, people now consume music with videos. The song laments the fact that radio plays aren’t enough to gain fame and prestige any longer.

“Kung Fu Fighting” by Carl Douglas

Song Year: 1974

Carl Douglas got the inspiration for his hit song when he was watching some boys in London play fighting, often using kung fu moves. The song probably gained some popularity because kung fu movies were very popular when the song came out.

The song was meant to be an upbeat song that mixed elements of disco, Asian music, and Jamaican music. Douglas was the first ever Jamaican-born musician to reach number one on the US charts.

“Cat’s in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin

Song Year: 1974

Harry Chapin wrote the heartbreaking tale of a father and son’s relationship when he realized he didn’t have the right priorities in life.

The song details how other commitments impact our family, relationships, and personal life. The song is a warning for anyone who puts work before their family. One day, when your family’s gone, you’ll regret it.

“Born To Be Alive” by Patrick Hernandez

Song Year: 1979

“Born To Be Alive” was one of the last disco songs to reach the top of the charts. The song gained popularity because of its unapologetic exuberance for life!

Patrick Hernandez’s song describes how people tell him the right way to live, but he ignores it. That’s because the right way to live depends on you. Don’t listen to anyone else who tells you how to be happy because only you know that.

“Hot Child in the City” by Nick Gilder

Song Year: 1978

Even if the song has a generally upbeat sound, Nick Gilder’s hit is extremely depressing when you understand the lyrics. The song describes the tough lives young girls have, particularly if they’re runaways.

Gilder found inspiration for her song from seeing many underage girls prostituting themselves in LA. He found it devastating and wrote the song to highlight what he saw as an issue no one was talking about.

“Don’t Give Up on Us” by David Soul

Song Year: 1977

David Soul’s 1977 hit topped both the UK and US charts after its release. The song centers around two lovers who are close to breaking up but realize they’re best together.

The song caught people’s attention because Soul’s melodic voice adds depth to the loving lyrics. Hearing him sing don’t give up on us is an easy way to pull on anyone’s heartstrings.

“Torn Between Two Lovers” by Mary MacGregor

Song Year: 1977

After her song hit the airwaves in 1977, it became an instant classic. The song details the way your heart pulls you in different directions when someone lights up your life.

The song goes into detail about the heartache that occurs when your heart is pulling you away from someone you’re committed to. It feels like you’re breaking the rules, but you’re just following your heart.

“Smoke From a Distant Fire” by Sanford and Townsend

Song Year: 1977

The song’s upbeat sound is deceiving because the song describes the feelings he had when he discovered that his partner was being unfaithful.

He can tell that her affection is becoming less and less intense. And at the same time, her eyes always look filled with misty joy when she returns from her trips. Her eyes told him that she was getting her pleasure elsewhere.

“Black Betty” by Ram Jam

Song Year: 1977

Ram Jam’s version of “Black Baby” has one of the most famous guitar riffs in music history. The song was originally written in the 1920s, but Ram Jam updated the music and lyrics for a 1970s audience.

The result was a song that still enjoys wild success even to this day. The song’s highlight is the intense guitar riffs and fast-paced tempo. All of that comes together to form a song many people think is among the best the 1970s had to offer.

“Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” by Kiki Dee and Elton John

Song Year: 1976

We all know that Elton John is the furthest thing from a one hit wonder, but his co-star in this ultra-famous duet didn’t produce much music after the hit. “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” would find its way to the top of the US and UK charts.

The duet describes how dysfunctional relationships can become. But at the end of the day, if people work hard and commit to each other, they can work through anything.

“Play That Funky Music” by Wild Cherry

Song Year: 1976

“Play That Funky Music” came out at a time when disco dominated the charts and popular music. Wild Cherry was a rock band that decided to delve into funk music to ride the wave of success they saw with disco.

The song would go on to become successful, even spurring multiple covers. The lyrics describe how fans were only interested in funk music and would react negatively when bands played rock. So, they decided to play some funky music!

“Afternoon Delight” by Starland Vocal Band

Song Year: 1976

The song’s title and lyrics have a double meaning. The band originally got the name for their song from a menu item at a favorite restaurant in Washington, D.C.

But the more widely accepted meaning of the song is some afternoon fooling around with your partner. Although the band never confirmed that, the lyrics point in that direction rather than a simple description of food.

“Mississippi Queen” by Mountain

Song Year: 1970

With the singer’s electric voice, Mountain’s hit song is a great representation of rock n’ roll in the early 1970s. The song even uses a cowbell, becoming one of the most popular songs to use the eclectic instrument.

The song is about an older woman who captures the heart of the singer. The woman teaches him how to be a caring, considerate lover.

“Spirit in the Sky” by Norman Greenbaum

Song Year: 1970

Peaking at number three on the Billboard charts, Norman Greenbaum’s hit is about his complicated relationship with spirituality and death.

Although the song mentions befriending Jesus, the core of the song is about Greenbaum’s hope that there’s something more after this life. More than anything, he wants to enjoy the gift of everlasting life with those he loves.

“Dancing in the Moonlight” by King Harvest

Song Year: 1972

When King Harvest released their hit in 1972, their keyboard player had just been attacked while vacationing in Saint Croix. He almost died from the incident.

After recovering from the attack, he realized how life could be cut short. That’s why King Harvest wrote their song—they wanted to inspire people to lead an exciting life filled with good people, great experiences, and freedom.

“Stuck in the Middle With You” by Stealers Wheel

Song Year: 1973

The music industry can be hard, especially when you’re trying to break into the industry for the first time. Stealers Wheel experienced the stonewalling and lies firsthand.

Their one hit wonder came in 1973. The song details how there are many clowns and jokers you need to be wary of in the music industry. Those people are the industry insiders who don’t respect musicians and just try to take advantage of them for their monetary gain.

“Ring My Bell” by Anita Ward

“Ring My Bell” by Anita Ward

Song Year: 1979

Anita Ward started her career as a gospel singer and a substitute teacher before her one hit wonder dropped near the end of the 70s. “Ring My Bell” would spend one week atop the charts in 1979.

The love song describes the moment when Ward’s man comes home after a long day. She wants him to relax and have an exciting time together.

“I Can Help” by Billy Swan

Song Year: 1975

Billy Swan started his career as a country singer. When he found that he wasn’t getting the success he wanted, he decided to make a pop-country crossover song.

“I Can Help” enjoyed amazing commercial success, hitting number one on both the country and pop charts. The song describes the different sufferings Swan saw in other people. He wanted nothing more than to help them get rid of their worries.

“Shame, Shame, Shame” by Shirley & Company

Song Year: 1975

Shirley Goodman was born in Louisiana and first rose to prominence in the 1950s as part of an R&B group. Although they produced a one hit wonder, “Let the Good Times Roll,” they didn’t see other success.

In 1975, Shirley and her new group released “Shame, Shame, Shame,” which would become her most famous song. The song is a classic disco song that doesn’t have much meaning, but the vocals perfectly match the upbeat tempo of the music.

“Lady Marmalade” by Labelle

Song Year: 1975

Labelle was an all-female pop group formed in the 1970s. Their biggest hit, “Lady Marmalade,” would hold onto the top spot on Billboard for a week.

The song was inspired by the French Quarter in New Orleans, which explains the liberal use of French in the song. The writers were inspired by the prostitutes they saw walking in New Orleans. 

“Ballroom Blitz” by Brian Connolly’s Sweet

Song Year: 1975

“Ballroom Blitz” is hugely popular even today, making its way into films like “Wayne’s World,” “The Sandlot 2,” and “Daddy Daycare.” 

A real-life event inspired the song. In 1973, an incident during a concert in Scotland forced the band to flee the stage due to the uproar by fans. After the incident, people called it the Ballroom Blitz because of the huge destruction levels.

“Seasons in the Sun” by Terry Jacks

Song Year: 1974

Terry Jacks’ song exudes heartbreak from the first line. The original French song was inspired by seeing the broken-hearted men leave a brothel without being fulfilled or loved.

When Terry Jacks began his rendition, he changed some of the lyrics to fit his situation. His song describes the sadness he felt when his friend died after a short battle with cancer. He talks about the different experiences they had and would have had if the disease didn’t kill him.

“Streets of London” by Ralph McTell

Song Year: 1974

Ralph McTell had personal experiences with the streets of London. He spent many years busking on the streets of European cities, including London.

In the song, he compares the differences between the higher-class people of London and the people who live on the streets. The song tells us we should take those less fortunate into consideration more often.

“Popcorn” by Hot Butter

Song Year: 1972

Hot Butter was the stage name for the American keyboardist Stan Free. Free was one of the pioneering forces behind the use of synthesizers.

His most famous song under the alias was “Popcorn,” which only uses synthesizers. The song doesn’t have any lyrics, but game and film studios often use the song in their work.

“Beautiful Sunday” by Daniel Boone

Song Year: 1972

Daniel Boone’s melodic love song describes what he thinks is the perfect day—spending a Sunday with the person you love.

He describes the activities and fun the two will have on such a beautiful day. The song is ideal for anyone who wants an uplifting song to make them feel better after a long day.

“Mr. Big Stuff” by Jean Knight

Song Year: 1971

Jean Knight’s hit song has one of the most intriguing and recognizable hooks of any song. The song describes how men try to impress her with things, but that isn’t what she wants.

Knight isn’t impressed by fancy cars or nice clothes. She wants a man that will treat her right. Once she finds him, she’ll give him all her love.

“Sweet City Woman” by The Stampeders

Song Year: 1971

For any Canadians out there, The Stampeders are a household name. But their hit song “Sweet City Woman” was the only song to ever reach the top 40 in the USA.

The song is about the singer’s new love. He goes on to sing about how he wants to move to the city so that the two can be together.

“Yellow River” by Christie

Song Year: 1970

The band Christie only had one hit, but it became wildly popular in both their native UK and the USA. Interestingly, the song is about an American historical event.

The singer said that soldiers returning home from the American Civil War inspired the lyrics. The man, like many soldiers, is only now coming to terms with the horrors he experienced in war.

“Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye)” by Steam

Song Year: 1970

When Steam wrote their hit song, they probably didn’t expect the opening lines to become so widely recognizable. But even 50 years after its release, “Na Na Hey Hey” is still a household theme.

Although the song was written as a throwaway B-side song, it became the go-to song for any goodbye scene in media and sports. The song is also about a goodbye—after a woman breaks up with her man, he tells her goodbye for the final time.

“Montego Bay” by Bobby Bloom

Song Year: 1970

When Bobby Bloom visited Jamaica, he was enthralled by the country. Everything from the beaches and the women to the air inspired him.

The song took inspiration from Jamaica, incorporating things like hand clapping and Caribbean percussion instruments. Bloom wanted to do Jamaica justice in his ode to the beautiful nation.

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

Song Year: 1972

“Brandy” is probably the most famous song about a sailor yearning for love he can’t have. The sailor gets sent to his ship, leaving his love behind.

Looking Glass singer Elliot Lurie based the song on the love he had for his high school sweetheart. He had to leave her to go to school, which made him feel like a sailor leaving his love on shore.

“I Love the Nightlife (Disco ‘Round)” by Alicia Bridges

Song Year: 1978

Alicia Bridges’ song is about a woman who enjoys the nightlife and wants to boogie. She isn’t in the mood to talk about relationship issues or romance with her partner; she’s just looking for some disco action.

The song was a huge success, ranking highly on various charts worldwide. Notably, the producer Steve Buckingham saw this as an R&B song, and Bridges wished it was categorized as Memphis soul. The world saw the song differently, though, and it became a disco classic for the ages.

“The Hustle” by Van McCoy and the Soul City Symphony

Song Year: 1975

Van McCoy’s mega-popular disco song would remain number one on the Billboard charts for weeks during the summer of 1975.

The song tells people to do the hustle, a specific dance craze that was taking over disco clubs in the USA. The song became the anthem for anyone who loved the dance or loved this musical period.

“American Pie” by Don McLean

Song Year: 1971

Don McLean’s hit song may be a controversial entry on this list because many people don’t consider him a one hit-wonder. But none of his other songs compared to “American Pie’s” popularity.

The song is about many topics, but one repeated often is about a day when the music died. McLean said that the lyrics are about the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and other musical sensations.

The music died that day because the heroes of McLean’s youth perished before they could enjoy life and produce more music.

Top One Hit Wonders Of The 1970s, Final Thoughts

So, did you find any new songs to enjoy on this list of the biggest one hit wonders of the 1970s? There are so many different genres to choose from that you’re sure to find at least one song to reminisce about.

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