In Honor of One-Hit-Wonders

Artists with short-lived chart history but long-lasting fame

Everyone tends to remember musicians who left the biggest mark on the world. From Elvis Presley to Ed Sheeran, the Beatles to the Bangles, Mozart to Metallica, each one has left a lasting mark on the world. One thing these musicians all have in common, however, is that their impact has been made through multiple songs.

But what about those bands or musicians who only experienced fame for a hot second? Where only one song hit the top before they faded into the background? 

The name “One Hit Wonder” has been given to such artists who only topped the charts once and were never seen in the charts again. Basically, they only had one hit song or record. September 25th is National One Hit Wonder Day, where in spite of their short-lived fame, the artists can continue to be recognized for their contribution to the worldwide musical library. 

The idea of the holiday came in 1990 when journalist and music junkie, Steve Rosen, created the day as a celebration of his own birthday. He wanted to remember the musicians who otherwise weren’t as recognized as those with more famous or more released tunes. Radio DJs and TV stations began to use the day to feature these one-hit wonders.

While many of these artists really did fade into the background, there were several that left a lasting impact on generations. Many of these tunes are ones we recognize immediately, but may not know that their singers’ careers were less than lengthy. You probably know more than one of these songs:

“Macarena” by Los Del Rio (1996)

This was the group’s first hit since the 1960s and their only hit in the United States. The song has become an icon even today, with multiple versions available in an assortment of languages.

“Who Let the Dogs Out?” by Baha Men (2000)

While its highest ranking was #40 on the Billboard charts, it has become a classic among all generations.

“It’s Raining Men” by The Weather Girls (1983)

Although it only ever topped at #46 on the charts, it was extremely popular in clubs and bars.

“What is Love?” by Haddaway (1993)

Technically, Haddaway had two songs on the charts in the United States, but “What is Love?” was their most popular at #11. This song has also been remixed multiple times since its release. 

“Kung Fu Fighting” by Karl Douglas (1974)

The song was made famous by today’s generation through the 2008 movie Kung Fu Panda, but the song has appeared in many other films, as well. Douglas is also the first Jamaican to hit Number One on the U.S. music charts.

One Hit Wonder Day is often observed by American DJs as an opportunity to share the songs that left a longer impact than their artists carried on. It remains a mystery why some songs top the charts, and why some fall to the bottom, and it’s probably even more of a mystery as to why only one song by an artist becomes a hit, even if they have released multiple tunes. 

Not all One Hit Wonders are popular, but there are countless others that deserve some recognition. Whatever the genre you prefer, there is a One Hit Wonder to be remembered for the holiday. 

Author’s Note: All research is credited to the National Today webpage, Dave Tompkins Music Database, and Songfacts.

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