The term One Hit Wonder describes an artist or band who had great popularity with a single song, and who then never reached such popularity again. Even though many people who technically fall into the One Hit Wonder class continued to write, perform and produce music, they never again reach the somewhat iconic stature that their One Hit Wonder song gave them for a short period of time. Often, songs produced by One Hit Wonder bands become significant of the time period in which they were produced, and such songs are often included in compilation albums representing the period.
Some bands technically only have one hit that reaches the top 40 of the Billboard charts, but they would not be considered One Hit Wonder bands. In some cases, a band, which produces an alternative style of music, simply doesn’t receive the same airplay that other bands do, but are still extremely popular. For example, artists like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead, and Siouxsie and the Banshees all only had one such documented hit.
In the case of Hendrix and Joplin, their lives ended too quickly for enough music to earn them more spots on the billboard charts. Siouxsie and the Banshees continued to enjoy modest success as a punk/new wave band, but simply didn’t get much airplay. The Grateful Dead also had only one hit, but their influence in the music world was extremely far reaching. Grateful Dead concerts continued until shortly before the death of Jerry Garcia in 1995.
The true One Hit Wonder does not actually become recognized as a band, or artist. Instead they are generally associated with one song only. The One Hit Wonder often disappears into obscurity after their one popular song.
From the 1950s onward, one can track One Hit Wonder bands or artists. Generally they are associated with the most popular music of their era. So a 1950s artist would have produced rock and roll, while a 1970s artist would be associated with disco. 1980s One Hit Wonder artists are often either heavy metal or new wave artists.
Some 1950s One Hit Wonder songs include:
One Hit Wonder songs of the 1960s include the following:
The 1970s saw songs like these become One Hit Wonder songs:
1980s with the 1970s are the true One Hit Wonder eras in many ways. 1980s One Hit Wonders include:
Artists from the 1990s who produced One Hit Wonder songs may fall out of the class if they make successful comebacks. Here are a few One Hit Wonders from the 90s:
Though some people list One Hit Wonders of the 2000s, it’s a bit early to proclaim such bands as truly finished. It remains to be seen what One Hit Wonder artists will be classified as by the end of the decade and thereafter.