12 One-Hit Wonders You Might Have Forgotten About

If your playlist is need of some nostalgia, these songs are the remedy.

Published June 20, 2023

Small grocery stores and corner bodegas are perfect little time capsules, pumping out your favorite one hit wonders on tinny overhead speakers. You're lucky if you can get one hit in the music business, and these acts are luckier than 99% of people with a penchant for music.

From 80s dance tracks to 2010s singles that swept the Grammys, these are one-hit wonders you might've forgotten about that we can't get enough of.

Eve of Destruction by Barry McGuire


When you think of chart-topping hits, themes of love, heartbreak, and empowerment probably come to mind. But in 1965, you'd need to turn your minds to something much more unexpected like the end of civilization as we know it.

P.F. Sloan's protest song worked its way through the mid-century counterculture music circuit before landing in Barry McGuire's lap. Released in 1965, it topped the US Hot 100 at no. 1 and remains McGuire's most recognized song.

San Francisco (be sure to wear flowers in your hair) by Scott McKenzie


No song can put you in the middle of the mid-60s counterculture movement quite like Scott McKenzie's "San Francisco (be sure to wear some flowers in your hair)." Written by talented, and controversial, member of the Mamas and the Papas, John Phillips, the song soared to the top of the charts in 1967. It sat at no. 4 for four consecutive weeks on the American charts and peaked at no. 1 in the UK charts.

Although McKenzie put out several more singles and another album, nothing could top this generational anthem. And so, his song goes down in the annals of our favorite one-hit-wonders.

Spirit in the Sky by Norman Greenbaum


If you need a road trip song to get your foot itching to press down the gas pedal, Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit in the Sky" is the rock single for you. Released in 1969, it opens with the fuzziest late-60s guitar solo ala great swamp rock musicians.

"Spirit in the Sky" peaked at no. 1 and charted for 15 weeks, spanning across 1969 and 1970. Greenbaum ushered in a new decade, one that was ready to set aside their flowing fashions in favor of pointed collars and platforms high enough to kick a window out with.

Unlike many artists that broke out in the late-60s (we're looking at you Led Zeppelin), Greenbaum couldn't crack through the charts again and retired from music in the 80s.

Afternoon Delight by Starland Vocal Band


Some bands consider winning a Grammy award to be making it big, but others hit the stratosphere when their songs appear in cult classics like Anchorman and in lucrative ice cream commercials.

So was the story for Starland Vocal Band's 1976 song, "Afternoon Delight." An easy listening smooth song with clever double entendres, "Afternoon Delight" was one of the biggest hits of the mid-70s.

Even the "Afternoon Delight" success couldn't last forever, and the short-lived band broke up in 1981. Today, their legacy lives on in one of those songs you'll find yourself humming along to in a grocery store without really knowing how you know the song.

Play That Funky Music by Wild Cherry


The 1970s were chock full of one-hit-wonders, and a staple of retro dance night at your local club is Wild Cherry and their 1976 song, "Play That Funky Music." It spent 16 weeks on the Billboard chart, going platinum, and launching a funk bass line into white America everywhere.

The driving beat can still get even the most reluctant people out on the dance floor. But, for how successful it was on the charts, it wasn't enough to keep the band together. After one massive hit and a few attempted follow-ups, Wild Cherry broke up in 1979.

Tainted Love by Soft Cell


There's no better way to immortalize the 1980s in their one-hit-wonder greatness than with a super synthy song like "Tainted Love." Originally released in the 1960s, Soft Cell reworked the song into something every kid in the Me Generation wanted to keep on repeat. And just like Kesha's "Die Young" door slam trend, "Tainted Love" has its own delightfully abrupt quarter note moments.

Unlike the other musicians on this list, Soft Cell isn't strictly a one-hit-wonder. At least, not across the pond. But, for the American music charts, they only broke through with that 1981 song, and it's what they're best known for today.

It's Raining Men by The Weather Girls


If you didn't live through the 80s and this massive pop hit, then you probably danced your heart out to it on Just Dance 2. What better way to break through the monotony of 80s power ballads than a scintillating weather report from the weather girls?

The song came out in 1982 and was a worldwide smash. Just like the whip cracks that kept time for drag queen's death drops, you can't help but move your body to those lightning strike beats.

Any artist would struggle to follow up a global sensation like "It's Raining Men," and despite their hard work, The Weather Girls couldn't quite match the song's undeniable magic. Because of this lackluster performance post-"It's Raining Men" the duo disbanded in 1988.

The Rain by Oran "Juice" Jones


When you think of Def Jam Records, you probably think of Public Enemy and Jay Z, and not Mr. Oran "Juice" Jones. But it was his synth-jazzy R&B single "The Rain" that broke Def Jam onto the R&B charts. Nominated for a Grammy and peaking at no. 4, "The Rain" is one of those singles that just feels like the decade it was made in.

Not quite a pioneer for Def Jam, Oran "Juice" Jones only lasted three albums in the industry before hanging up his hat on the music business.

Tubthumping by Chumbawamba


With a title that your eyes can't quite make sense of and an album cover that reeks of early internet style, Chumbawamba's "Tubthumping" was a breakout hit in 1997. With a distinctive European flair, the song spent 31 weeks on Billboard's Hot 100 charts.

While they did get some modest success for other late 90 singles, it was crowds chanting to "I get knocked down, but I get up again" that cemented them in pop culture. As with so many other one-hit-wonders, the band has a whole catalog of songs behind their massive hit that never connected with audiences the same way.

Smile by Vitamin C


The early millennium was obsessed with off-the-wall monikers, like Pink and Vitamin C. Vitamin C, with her appropriately bright orange hair, released a debut album in 1999 that helped define pop music for the new century. "Smile" was her biggest success, peeking in the top 20 across various countries' charts.

But why you remember it is probably because it was the commercial darling of 99. It was featured in tv show promos, commercials, and season finales. And today, it can send you right back to flipping through your Delia's catalog.

You're Beautiful by James Blunt


Picture the perfect song to overlay on top of an emotional scene in any romantic move from the 2000s. You guessed it - James Blunt's "You're Beautiful." That soft acoustic guitar lures you in for a romantic melody that Blunt's mild conversational voice pays off.

Blunt's song predates John Legend's "All of Me" for being the couple song that rocked the nation. And for all of his efforts in the following years, James Blunt has never reached the 38-weeks charting success of that 2004 ballad.

Somebody That I Used to Know by Gotye ft. Kimbra


The best example of the one-hit-wonder mythos to come out of the 2010s was Gotye and his song "Somebody That I Used to Know." Featuring vocals from Kimbra, Gotye's song spent dozens of weeks on the charts, peaking at no. 1 and earning him three grammy awards. Going into 2014, he was poised to take over pop music, but instead he disappeared like a cryptid in the night.

No, he hasn't stopped making music, but he has retired his Gotye persona for the time being. "Somebody That I Used to Know" was 2010s lightning in a bottle, and is one of the greatest one-hit-wonders of the decade.

The One-Hit Wonders We Love to Rediscover


One-hit wonders have such a bad rap, and for no real reason. The music industry is cutthroat and practically impossible to break into. So, for a band or solo artist to make it, for even one song, is against all the odds. So, raise your glasses high and turn your volume up to full blast. It's time to salute these legendary one-hit-wonders.

12 One-Hit Wonders You Might Have Forgotten About