106 The Greatest One-Hit-Wonders Of All Time

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A one-hit wonder is a sad success for many musicians. Behind the term is the fact that the musician had no more hits in his career. Here’s how a host of artists wait in vain for their longed-for breakthrough after their the-greatest-the-greatest-one-hit-wonders-of-all-times-of-all-time success.

But remember, having only one hit isn’t a pity, because 99.9% of all musicians don’t even manage to do that.

The very first One-Hit-Wonder was written by the American musician Carls Perkins and is called “Blue Suede Shoes” from 1955. The rock ‘n’ roll song, based on a story by Johnny Cash, sold more than a million copies in April 1956, prompting Perkins to receive a Cadillac as a gift from the owner of Sun Records.

The rapper “Vanilla Ice” shows that even one hit is enough to become rich and famous. With his hit single “Ice, Ice Baby,” released in 2001, he stormed the charts while proving to the world that white rappers could also be commercially successful in the rap business. Even today, “Vanilla Ice” performs their hit song in TV shows, events, and concerts.

Another wonderful example of a flawless the-greatest-the-greatest-one-hit-wonders-of-all-times-of-all-time was provided by the alternative rock band Chumbawamba with the song “Tubthumping” in 1997. The song was a worldwide hit that became so successful that sporting goods manufacturer Nike offered them $1.5 million to use the song for a commercial at the 1998 World Cup. However, the band turned down the offer from Nike.

Probably still angry about their decision today.

Among the greatest one-hit wonders of all time, there are plenty of good songs by talented performers, where one may ask why the success failed to materialize.

(For each list, we’ve created a Spotify playlist for you with all the songs listed here.)

The most successful one-hit wonders:

01. Sugarhill Gang – Rapper’s Delight (1979)


“Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugarhill Gang is one of the earliest songs that introduced the genre of hip-hop to a wide audience. Henry Jackson, Michael Wright and Guy O’Brien formed the Sugarhill Gang back in the day and propelled a hip-hop song into the worldwide charts. With its dance to a disco beat, “Rapper’s Delight” reached #3 on the German charts and lasted a full 25 weeks.

In many parts of Europe, the song reached the top 10, while in the USA it reached number 36. Due to the commercial success of the song, the Sugarhill Gang had paved the way for hip-hop out of the underground scene.

02. Natalie Imbruglia – Torn (1997)


While Natalie Imbruglia was already a well-known actress in her native Australia, she first became known worldwide with her international hit “Torn”. A big part of the success of the single was also Imbruglia’s music video, which was played countless times on MTV, Viva, and VH1.

The original version of the song is from 1995 and was written by the US band Erdnaswap. Really successful, however, was only the Cover version by Natalie Imbruglia from 1997. However, for the actress, on a musical level, it remained with this one-hit-wonder.

03. Buggles – Video Killed the Radio Star (1979)


“Video Killed the Radio Star” is the first music video that was shown on the music channel MTV. The song became the only number 1 hit of the duo The Buggles, which existed from 1979 to 1981. In 2000, the video for the successful one-hit-wonder became the first video on MTV to be shown a million times. “Video Killed the Radio Star” is about an upheaval in society due to the spread of new modern technologies. In Germany, the song landed at number 2 in the charts.

In Austria, Switzerland and Great Britain, however, it reached number 1.

04. Chumbawamba – Tubthumping (1997)


“I get knocked down, but I get up again. You’re never gonna keep me down!” are the most famous lines of the song “Tubthumping” by the band Chumbawamba. A song that invites intense head-nodding and the Celebration mood cheers. The term “Tubthumper” comes from anarchist jargon and refers to someone who makes his opinion known in public in a loud manner. “Tubthumping” was a one-time hit for the band and landed at #11 in Germany.

In many countries like Italy, Ireland, Canada, or Australia the song could even climb to number 1 in the charts.

05. Fool’s Garden – Lemon Tree (1995)


German pop-rock band Fool’s Garden surprisingly landed an international one-hit wonder in 1995. “Lemon Tree” was discovered rather by accident when the band performed it in a pub and by chance, a radio host heard the song. SWF 3 included it in its program and the song quickly spread beyond the borders of Germany via the lemon tree. “Lemon Tree” reached first place on the charts in Germany and Austria.

In Switzerland, it was enough for a good 2nd place. place and in Great Britain for number 26.

06. Soft Cell – Tainted Love (1981)


“Tainted Love” by synthpop duo Soft Cell is a cover version of the song of the same name by Gloria Jones. It was produced and written by Ed Cobb at that time. However, the big success came with the cover of Soft Cell. For the band, it was among the most successful songs of their career.

In fact, “Tainted Love” was the most successful song of their career as a band worldwide. It reached number 1 in 18 countries and even reached number 8 in the US Billboard charts and stayed in the charts for 43 weeks. Rihanna sampled the song in 2006 in her track “SOS”.

07. The Proclaimers – I’m Gonna Be (1988)


The Scottish band The Proclaimers landed a true one-hit wonder with “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)”, which still has many fans today sing-along can. Especially in the USA, the song became famous through the movie Benny and Joon with Johnny Depp and Mary Stuart Masterson.

While “I’m Gonna Be” only reached number 40 in Germany, it landed at number 1 in Great Britain and also managed a good 5 in Austria. place. The song has been covered several times, but the Proclaimers’ version remains one of the most successful to this day. According to some rumors, the song is about the girlfriend of one of the band members.

08. Dexys Midnight Runners – Come on Eileen (1982)


With “Come on Eileen” the band Dexys Midnight Runners reached the peak of their career in 1982. The single reached first place in the US charts as well as in Switzerland and Great Britain. In Germany, “Come On Eileen” also landed in the top ten.

With a peak placement at the 6. The song became a the-greatest-the-greatest-one-hit-wonders-of-all-times-of-all-time when it reached number 2 in the German charts. In the lyrics of the song, the band member Kevin Rowland processes an experience from his youth. The song is about his experience with the Catholic Church and the impurity that sex, according to the church, brings to a relationship.

09. Five Stairsteps – O-o-h Child (1970)


Before the single “O-o-h Child” the Five Stairsteps were hardly successful. 1970 single catapulted the band into the Top 10 of the American Billboard charts and was especially popular in Chicago and Detroit. Since its release in the 70s, the song has been covered more than 20 times.

With its uplifting message, the song created a good mood in the soul genre of the 70s. The line “Things Are Gonna Get Easier” conveyed that, despite hard times, things would eventually get easier again for listeners who felt they were being addressed.

10. A-Ha – Take on Me (1984)


To call the single “Take On Me” by A-Ha a one-hit-wonder seems daring at first glance. A-Ha is one of the most successful bands in Europe.

The Norwegian band around singer Morten Harket first released the song under a different title and flopped miserably. It wasn’t until the song was accompanied by a unique music video that A-Ha’s career really took off. In the USA, the musicians are mainly known for this one music video, which was created by Irish director Steve Barron. “Take On Me” reached #1 in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, the U.S., and Norway, the band’s home country.

11. Nazareth – Love Hurts (1975)


In 1960, a band called The Everly Brothers released the first version of the song “Love Hurts”. Fifteen years later, a cover version of the same song would become the biggest hit of a Scottish hard rock band.

Nazareth turned the song into a real power ballad and landed at #1 on the charts in many countries. In Germany, it was only enough for place 30, but the single stayed 14 weeks in the German charts. The message of the song is simple but powerful.

Love hurts and it hurts, even more, when it’s strong.

12. Los del Rio – La Macarena (1995)


In the mid-90s, a duo from Spain conquered the dance floors of the world. Los del Río, those from the river, were the names of the two men who reached the top of the charts with their song “Macarena”. In 1995 two musicians from the USA discovered the song and created the Bayside Boys Remix.

In the USA “La Macarena” stayed in the charts for 60 weeks. And also in Europe, the song was on different charts for more than 30 weeks. In Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, the upbeat song was a big hit Summer hit at number 1. Even though not everyone could sing along with the mostly Spanish lyrics, most knew at least a few of the dance steps of the Macarena.

13. Dead or Alive – You Spin Me Round (1984)


The band Dead or Alive had already made a name for itself in Japan in the 80s. However, in order to be successful worldwide, they switched to the popular synthpop genre and created the song “You Spin Me Round” in 1984, which reached number 2 in the charts in Germany and even number 1 in Austria and the UK. The band was not able to follow up on the success of this the-greatest-the-greatest-one-hit-wonders-of-all-times-of-all-time.

Even the cover versions of the song on subsequent albums of the band could not change it.

14. The Knack – My Sharona (1979)


Like many other songs, “My Sharona” is also about a woman and love. The lead singer of The Knack fell in love with a woman named Sharona, who inspired him to write a large number of songs in a very short time.

One of the songs was dedicated to her and was given the name “My Sharona”, despite initial contradictions from the bandmates. While the song reached the top of the charts in the U.S., it was good enough for number 12 in Germany. Because “My Sharona” was so haunting and easy to sing along to, it stayed there for 15 weeks.

15. Carl Douglas – Kung Fu Fighting (1974)


In 1974 the Jamaican Carl Douglas landed a megahit. The song “Kung-Fu Fighting” hit the top of the charts in many countries.

Among them were Australia, Germany, Canada, France, South Africa, Ireland, and many more. The track was initially intended to be released only as a B-side of another single, but fortunately, the record company realized the potential of the single and released it as an A-side. The song owes its success to the clubs of the 70s that popularized “Kung-Fu Fighting”.

With eleven million records sold worldwide, it was truly a once-in-a-lifetime hit.

16. Ram Jam – Black Betty (1977)


Who would have thought that South American workers’ songs from the 20th century would be a hit?. Century would once conquer the worldwide charts.

The song brought the US rock band Ram Jam a hitherto unknown success. With a lot of “Bam-a-lam”, the song became the most successful song of the band and reached a good 25th place in Germany. Place. Black Betty” remained in the German charts for 22 weeks.

In France, Belgium, and the Netherlands it even reached the Top 10.

17. Norman Greenbaum – Spirit In The Sky (1969)


After the US-American Norman Greenbaum parted ways with his band at the end of the 60s, he set to work on his solo album. When he heard a gospel song on TV, he thought about releasing such a gospel song himself on his album. The result was a song in which gospel meets psychedelic rock. “Spirit In The Sky” reached number 1 in the German charts in 1970.

Also in the USA, Great Britain, Switzerland, and Austria, the song could conquer the Top 10. Norman Greenbaum was well off with his one-hit-wonder. Because not only in the charts the song was successful, also advertising companies had a great interest in Greenbaum’s song.

18. The Verve – Bitter Sweet Symphony (1997)


British rock band The Verve sampled an instrumental version of a Rolling Stones song called “The Last Time” in the late 1990s. Due to very minor changes to the original material, the single not only brought the band success, but also a dispute over licenses, which The Verve ultimately lost.

All proceeds from the song, whether in commercials, soundtracks, or other uses, do not go to the British band, but to the Rolling Stones. “Bitter Sweet Symphony” remained the band’s most successful song and the name of the song became a bitter reality for the band.

19. 4 Non Blondes – What’s Up (1993)


“What’s Up” first appeared on the band 4 Non Blondes’ debut album in 1992 and was released as the second single in 1993. The song reached the top of the charts in more than a dozen countries. Among them were countries like Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Poland, and many others. “What’s Up” was used on the soundtrack of several movies, including “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” with Chloë Grace Moretz and “Young Adult” with Charlize Theron. The song remained the band’s only chart success and in 1994 singer and lead guitarist Linda Perry left the band.

Since then, she has collaborated with the likes of Christina Aguilera, Alicia Keys, and Celine Dion.

20. Lou Bega – Mambo № 5 (1999)


Every summer needs a hit. In the summer of 1999, it was the “Mambo № 5” in the version by Lou Bega.

For his hit song, Bega used the music of Pérez Prado from 1949. The old song was provided with a text and also the melody of the refrain was modified. Then nothing stood in the way of the one-hit wonder. The single sold millions of copies.

Top positions in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Great Britain brought Lou Bega and his record company multiple platinum awards. An Earworm was created, which did not let go of the people in 1999 so fast.

Places 21-106 of the best one-hit wonders of all time:

Each song is linked to the corresponding music video via the title.

Place: Song: Performer: Listen to:
21. Cotton Eye Joe Rednex
22. Play That Funky Music Wild Cherry
23. Somebody That I Used To Know Gotye
24. I’m Too Sexy Right Said Fred
25. Ice Ice Baby Vanilla Ice
26. Informer Snow
27. Who Let the Dogs Out Baha Men
28. Bitch Meredith Brooks
29. Relax Frankie Goes to Hollywood
30. Bust A Move Young MC
31. Under The Milky Way The Church
32. Lovefool The Cardigans
33. Love Hurts Nazareth
34. In the Meantime Spacehog
35. Teenage Dirtbag Wheatus
36. Sex And Candy Marcy Playground
37. In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida Iron Butterfly
38. Me and Mrs. Jones Billy Paul
39. Macarena Los Del Río
40. Good Vibrations Marky Mark Nashulta House Society
41. Steal My Sunshine Len
42. The One And Only Chesney Hawkes
43. We’re Not Gonna Take It Twisted Sister
44. Seasons in the Sun Terry Jacks
45. What Is Love Haddaway
46. Come On Eileen Dexy’s Midnight Runners
47. Born to Be Alive Patrick Hernandez
48. Don’t Worry Be Happy! Bobby McFerrin
49. Gangnam Style Psy
50. Ring My Bell Anita Ward
51. I Melt With You Modern English
52. Pass the Dutchie Musical Youth
53. Groove Is In The Heart Deee-Lite
54. Got to Be Real Cheryl Lynn
55. Bad Day Daniel Powter
56. Rock and Roll (Parts 1 & 2) Gary Glitter
57. Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love) Spiller
58. Joey Concrete Blonde
59. Closing Time Semisonic
60. I Try MacY Gray
61. Flat Beat Mr Oizo
62. Nobody But Me The Human Beinz
63. Just A Friend Biz Markie
64. Bobby’s Girl Marcie Blane
65. The Promise When In Rome
66. How Bizarre OMC
67. To Be With You Mr. Big
68. True Spandau Ballet
69. What I Am Edie Brickell & New Bohemians
70. Jump Around House of Pain
71. I Touch Myself The Divinyls
72. You Get What You Give New Radicals
73. Somebody’s Watching Me Rockwell
74. Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye Steam
75. Venus Shocking Blue
76. Uptown Top Ranking Althea & Donna
77. Whip It Devo
78. Baby Got Back Sir Mix-A-Lot
79. Pump Up The Volume M/A/R/R/S
80. Pop Muzik M
81. Black Betty Ram Jam
82. Send Me An Angel Real Life
83. It’s Raining Men The Weather Girls
84. You’re The Voice John Farnham
85. Unbelievable EMF
86. Drinking In LA Bran Van 3000
87. Brother Louie (feat. Ian Lloyd) The Stories
88. Boys Are Back in Town Thin Lizzy
89. Too Shy Kajagoogoo
90. Flagpole Sitta Harvey Danger
91. Fire The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown
92. You Light Up My Life Debby Boone
93. Your Woman White Town
94. Hey! Baby Bruce Channel
95. Mr. Big Stuff Jean Knight
96. Money The Flying Lizards
97. No Rain Blind Melon
98. Butterfly Crazy Town
99. Turning Japanese The Vapors
100. Cry Godley & Creme
101. Music Sounds Better With You Stardust
102. Puttin’ On The Ritz Taco
103. Genius Of Love Tom Tom Club
104. The Ketchup Song (Aserejé) Las Ketchup
105. California (Demo) Phantom Planet
106. Blue Suede Shoes Carl Perkins

One-Hit Wonder Spotify Playlist:

One-hit wonders abound. Some remain forever relevant and become the best evergreens. Others, however, disappear from the scene after a short time.

Even today, Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love” is a popular song that many people can sing along to. In addition, it often serves as a sampler in modern songs. Los del Ríos’ “La Macarena,” on the other hand, was the phenomenon of a long summer when nearly everyone could imitate the dance moves from the accompanying music video.

A one-hit wonder doesn’t always have to be one of the best songs in the world, but for a short time, these songs kept their artists in the spotlight.

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