An artist primarily known for one hit song. If they're lucky, their next single may chart as well, but despite the ubiquitous fame of their number one hit, they never really take off.
It is not uncommon for a group to be a one-hit wonder then break up, allowing one or more members to become (more) successful solo acts. It is also not uncommon for the one hit to be atypical of their oeuvre. Also compare Tough Act to Follow and One-Book Author. And, of course, if sufficient backlash is applied, they will Never Live It Down. Note that a one-hit wonder on the American charts may be a different story in other countries; many popular European artists, like Gary Numan and Frankie Goes to Hollywood charted only once in America. For that matter, many American artists have only charted once in their homeland but are popular in Europe (or vice versa: European artists that were more popular in the United States). Likewise, there are many artists who only once reached the mainstream Top 40, but are respected figures and even trendsetting within their genre; several such examples are shown below.
There are countless examples, so this article will only list a handful of representative samples. Compare No-Hit Wonder, wherein an artist manages long-term success without even so much as one big hit. Also see Hitless Hit Album, where a artist has a hit album with no hit songs. Contrast Breakthrough Hit, where one hit leads to a string of later hits.
Has nothing to do with One-Hit-Point Wonder.
- 1 Music examples by genre
- 1.1 Alternative Rock
- 1.2 Bubblegum Pop
- 1.3 Christian
- 1.4 Classical
- 1.5 Comedy / Parody
- 1.6 Country
- 1.7 Country-Pop
- 1.8 Dance
- 1.9 Disco
- 1.10 Electronic
- 1.11 Extreme Metal
- 1.12 Folk
- 1.13 Folk Rock
- 1.14 Funk
- 1.15 Gangsta Rap
- 1.16 Garage Rock
- 1.17 Glam Rock
- 1.18 Hard Rock
- 1.19 Hip Hop
- 1.20 Indie Rock
- 1.21 Latin
- 1.22 March
- 1.23 New Wave
- 1.24 Pop
- 1.25 Pop Rock
- 1.26 Progressive Folk
- 1.27 Progressive Metal
- 1.28 Progressive Rock
- 1.29 Psychedelic Rock
- 1.30 R & B
- 1.31 Rock
- 1.32 Rock and Roll
- 1.33 Ska
- 1.34 Soft Rock
- 1.35 Soul
- 1.36 Space Rock
- 1.37 Surf
- 1.38 Swing Revival
- 1.39 Synthpop
- 1.40 Trance
- 2 Non-music examples
- 3 Fictional Examples
Music examples by genre
- Until 2008, Radiohead only had one Top 40 hit in the US -- 1993's "Creep", a song which caused the band to be initially labelled as a one hit wonder. Despite shedding this tag and going on to becoming one of the most critically acclaimed and influential bands in their genre, it took a complicated online marketing gimmick for the band to get their second US Top 40 hit, 2008's "Nude" on those sales alone (as pop radio had long given up on them).
- Even though Weezer's early hit "Buddy Holly" got extensive MTV play in 1994 and was included on the Windows 95 CD (mainly because their video was a parody of Happy Days), it never cracked the Billboard Hot 100. It wouldn't be until "Beverly Hills" in 2005 that Weezer got a top 10 Hot 100 hit. This despite several top 20 forays in the Modern Rock chart.
- But Weezer had many airplay hits, including the aforementioned "Buddy Holly"; they just didn't appear on the Hot 100 because they weren't released as singles.
- Muse and Incubus are two other extremely popular artists on the Billboard Modern Rock chart, with several Top 40 hits there. Yet they both also only have one Top 40 pop hit apiece (2009's "Uprising" and 2000's "Drive", respectively).
- Chumbawamba's sole international hit "Tubthumping" sounds nothing like their other songs (they started out in The Eighties with anarcho-punk and went poppier as time went on). The song "Tubthumping" itself is actually supposed to be totally meaningless to anyone who isn't British—it's about Old Labour post-Tony Blair. That's right.
- Though the Flaming Lips have had success in the U.K. (six top 40 singles) and had "Do You Realize??" chosen as the state rock song of Oklahoma, their only real exposure on mainstream radio in the U.S. has been with "She Don't Use Jelly".
- For Squirrels was one of the few examples of this trope brought about by Author Existence Failure. Around the time they released their album and the single "Mighty K.C.", the band was involved in a traffic accident that killed their lead singer, bass player, and manager.
- White Town (AKA Jyoti Mishra, yes, it's just one guy) had a big hit in 1997 with "Your Woman" which was essentially a "Dear John" Letter set to music. Mishra has been a musician since 1989, but nothing he never made before or since "Your Woman" has had any mainstream success.
- "Sugar, Sugar" was a massive hit in the UK in 1969; it spent eight weeks at number one and a further 23 weeks in the Top 40, going on to be the biggest selling single of that year. The Archies never troubled the British charts again. In the US, however, they had a few other hits, but even there "Sugar, Sugar" is pretty much the only thing they're remembered for.
- NewSong, "The Christmas Shoes". Huge crossover hit (#1 AC, #42 pop, #31 Country) and they've been pretty silent since.
- Christian alt-folk band Jars of Clay had a massive crossover hit with "Flood" in 1996, reaching #37 on the pop charts and #12 on the Modern Rock chart, with their appearance on the latter chart being the first time the Modern Rock and Christian charts ever housed the same song at the same time (the effect of Not Christian Rock has made such crossovers much more common in later years). It's also been the only song of theirs to ever gain any sort of mainstream support.
- The composer Carl Orff is known mainly for one work, his cantata Carmina Burana. Indeed, he's known mainly for the Standard Snippet from this, the opening (and closing) cantus "Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi: O Fortuna". Although, "Gassenhauer" is also pretty well-known.
- Mason Williams was a talented comedy writer who worked with the Smothers Brothers and Saturday Night Live. He was also a talented classical guitarist, and he showcased those skills on his lone hit in 1968, "Classical Gas".
- Johann Pachelbel's Canon in D major, perhaps one of the most famous and frequently performed classical works. Though some of his organ works are popular with organists, the overwhelming majority of the general population, if they know him at all, only know the Canon.
- 18th-century Italian composer Tomaso Albinoni has the dubious honour of being considered a one-hit wonder for a piece he didn't even write - the Adagio in G minor, frequently used as the background music for Tear Jerker scenes in films and television, is often ascribed to Albinoni but was in fact written by Italian composer Remo Giazotto, who claimed to have based the work on a manuscript fragment recovered in 1945, but could offer no proof of this claim. The Adagio therefore probably qualifies Giazotto as a one-hit wonder rather than Albinoni (whose works are mostly known only by Baroque music enthusiasts).
- Pietro Mascagni is really only well-known for his one-act opera Cavalleria Rusticana (Rustic Chivalry), which was also one of his first major works.
- Cavalleria Rusticana is often paired with the two-act opera Pagliacci, which was Ruggero Leoncavallo's only well-known work.
- Though Orff is perhaps the most striking example of a composer who is most well known not even for an entire work, but for a single movement from the work often performed on its own, classical music is full of many composers similarly afflicted.
- The French composer Jules Massenet is mostly known for "Meditation", a passage for solo violin and orchestra from his opera Thais, often used in film and television scores for emotional scenes.
- The Italian opera composer Amilcare Ponchielli is largely known only for "The Dance of the Hours" from his opera La Gioconda, which was both used in the original 1940 Fantasia and adapted by comedy singer Allan Sherman for his 1963 song "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh".
- The 18th-century Italian composer Luigi Boccherini is mostly remembered solely for the Minuet in A major from his String Quintet in E major, Op. 11 No. 5, used prominently in such films as The Lady Killers among others.
- Although the works of French composer Charles-Marie Widor are popular with organists, most listeners probably only know the concluding Toccata from his Organ Symphony No.5 in F minor, Op. 42 No. 1, a popular recessional.
- On the subject of Fantasia, the French composer Paul Dukas is today remembered mostly for writing The Sorcerer's Apprentice, although the fact that he was a fanatical perfectionist and destroyed or abandoned many compositions after he became dissatisfied with them means there is not much other music by which to remember him.
- Composer Julius Fucik is remembered only for one work: his Entry of the Gladiators, the standard circus music.
Comedy / Parody
- "Weird Al" Yankovic's polka medleys usually include many one-hit wonders.
- Weird Al himself is a one-hit wonder in the UK (for "Eat It"), but not in the US where he is much more popular ("Eat It", "Smells Like Nirvana", and "White and Nerdy" all cracked the Top 40, with the last of these actually hitting the Top 10; "Like A Surgeon" and "Amish Paradise" just barely fell short).
- Or as Al himself once put it (quoted from poor memory), "When I released my first album, everyone said, great Al, that's wonderful, but everyone will forget you in a few years. I just released my eighth album and was again told, great Al, that's wonderful, but everyone will forget you in a few years."
- Weird Al himself is a one-hit wonder in the UK (for "Eat It"), but not in the US where he is much more popular ("Eat It", "Smells Like Nirvana", and "White and Nerdy" all cracked the Top 40, with the last of these actually hitting the Top 10; "Like A Surgeon" and "Amish Paradise" just barely fell short).
- Comedian Jeff Foxworthy released several "songs" that included snippets of his comedy set to music, usually with a chorus from a country music singer. The only one that sniffed the country music top 40 was "Redneck 12 Days of Christmas", a half-song, half-recitation that he performed as a Solo Duet.
- Napoleon XIV, "They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!"
- British comedy trio The Goodies had a string of comedy hit singles in the 1970's that were a natural spin-off from their TV comedy show. What makes them a one-hit wonder is the fact that their first single, (Do, Do, Do) The Funky Gibbon, a parody of disco dance crazes, was initially taken as a straight song in the USA and made it into the lower reaches of the Dance and Disco charts... before they realised... it remains the boys' only American chart success...
- The Joe Dolce Music Theatre and "Shaddup You Face."
- UK comedy group Morris Minor and the Majors had their big hit with the Beastie Boys parody "Stutter Rap (No Sleep Til Bedtime)". The followup, a Stock Aitken Waterman parody called "This Is The Chorus", did less well. In his book One Hit Wonderland, former member Tony Hawks explains that the first record sold to kids who wanted to wind up older siblings who listened to the Beastie Boys. The second record made fun of the music that said kids actually listened to, so it flopped.
- Leon Ashley, "Laura (What's He Got That I Ain't Got)". Most impressive in that he promoted and distributed the single by himself and managed to get it all the way to #1 after failing to even chart on three different major labels beforehand.
- Garth Brooks is probably the most bizarre case of this phenomenon. Brooks never released his songs to pop radio and didn't release retail singles, which caused him to never appear on the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 until 1999. The song that he hit the Top 40 with—the only time the best selling solo artist in American history ever did—was "Lost in You" from his failed Chris Gaines project. The best he's done otherwise is #45 with a cover of "Hard Luck Woman" by Kiss, released on a KISS tribute album (naturally, this wasn't released to country radio). The biggest country/pop crossover he ever had was "Wrapped Up in You" (#5 country, #46 pop).
- Even stranger: "Lost in You" was not even released to country radio at all.
- Bob Carlisle and the Raybon Brothers were both one-hit wonders with the same song, in the same year, released at the same time. "Butterfly Kisses", to be specific. (Marty Raybon, one of said Raybon brothers, had several hits in the country music band Shenandoah first. Incidentally, there was a third version of the song by Jeff Carson at the same time, although he wasn't a one-hit wonder.)
- This happened more often in the 1950s, but in 1997, Bob Carlisle's popular radio song was very hard to find, which helped the Raybon Brothers tune with its sales.
- Anita Cochran's 1998 hit "What If I Said", a duet with Steve Wariner. Wariner had several other hits dating to the winter of 1981, but hadn't touched the charts in nearly three years when this was released; Cochran wasn't so lucky.
- "Don't tell my heart, my achy breaky heart..." this Billy Ray Cyrus song is basically the only thing he's known for (That and being Miley's dad).
- Billy Ray Cyrus has had many other country hits, but none as big as "Achy Breaky Heart," which has also been his only pop crossover until he added Miley Cyrus to his existing "Ready, Set, Don't Go" in 2006.
- Interestingly, this song was reprised in French (as "Achy Breaky Dance") by Quebecer Stef Carse, and he was also a one hit wonder with that song. Oddly enough, he now sings... Opera.
- The Davis Sisters (not the gospel group), who had the Number One "I Forgot More Than You'll Ever Know" and absolutely no other chart action. One of them died in a car crash after the single's release, and the other (Skeeter Davis, who wasn't actually the other member's sister) went on to have several solo hits.
- "I Loved Her First" by Heartland. Shot to #1, fell like a rock, nothing else afterward. Amazingly, this song was the first top 40 hit for their entire label, and it made them only the second country music band ever to send a debut single to #1.
- Comedian Vicki Lawrence, better known for her roles on The Carol Burnett Show and Mama's Family had a major pop and country hit with non-comedic song "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia".
- C.W. McCall—in real life, an advertising executive by the name of William Fries—recorded a series of spoken-word songs about trucking and life on the road. None were more famous than "Convoy" (which inspired - and was used as a soundtrack in - a film). The CB-jargon laced song about rebellious truck drivers frustrated with paying tolls and various other restrictions topped both the country and pop charts in January 1976. Although it was his only huge pop hit, and even though he did have one other top 5 country hit (the sentimental "Roses for Mama" a year later), Mc Call is forever known for "Convoy."
- Technically, McCall barely isn't a one-hit wonder on pop radio, as the now-obscure "Wolf Creek Pass" nudged into the chart at number 40 a year before "Convoy" became a hit.
- Also taking advantage of the C.B. radio craze of the mid-1970s was another advertising executive, Jay Hughley. Asked one day to incorporate C.B. jargon into a jingle, he purchased a citizen's band radio, listened for awhile and took notes ... and after writing his jingle came up with a tune called "The White Knight." Recording as Cledus Maggard and the Citizen's Band, he took the comic tale about a truck driver suckered into a corrupt highway patrolman's speed trap (full of mid-70s C.B. jargon) to #1 on the country charts and top 20 of the pop charts. Nothing else he put out afterward made top 40 in either chart.
- Ned Miller, "From a Jack to a King". He was never too big on having a singing career, and often had stage fright. Famously covered by Ricky Van Shelton, who had many other hits.
- James Otto, "Just Got Started Lovin' You". Big #1 hit, yet nothing else afterward made it even halfway up the country charts.
- Perfect Stranger, "You Have the Right to Remain Silent". Curb Records picked up the song after a small indie label managed to get it into the top 40. It managed a decent crossover (#4 country, #56 pop), but the band never even hit the country top 40 again.
- Rock artist Leon Russell is yet another artist who can claim a #1 country hit but nothing else that came even close on that chart, either as himself or as "Hank Wilson", the pseudonym under which he releases most of his country music work. In 1978, Russell and Willie Nelson had a #1 with a cover of "Heartbreak Hotel". (Russell has had two top 40 pop hits, neither of which was Heartbreak Hotel.)
- Tommy Shane Steiner is another example of a one-hit wonder whose only hit was a country/pop crossover. The song was "What If She's an Angel", which hit #2 country and #39 pop in 2001.
- Vince Vance & the Valiants get special mention here, since their only chart entry was "All I Want for Christmas Is You" (not to be confused with the Mariah Carey song). This is the most-played Christmas song in the entire genre, and it was popular enough to make the country chart six times (although its peak of #31 was not achieved until the sixth time around; furthermore, due to so many Christmas songs clogging the charts, Billboard changed the rules in 2000 so that Christmas songs could not re-enter).
- Debby Boone's "You Light Up My Life." Mad once quipped that she was trying to make a lifetime career out of one hit song. Boone—the daughter of 1950s pop singer Pat Boone and granddaughter of early country pioneer Red Foley (Pat's father-in-law) -- would have a few more successes on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart, including 1980's "Are You On the Road to Loving Me Again."
- B.W. Stevenson, "My Maria". What's more, the Brooks and Dunn version is far more well-known (although Stevenson died two years before Brooks & Dunn was even founded). Stevenson also recorded a similar-sounding song called "Shambayla," but so did another, better-known act known as Three Dog Night. And it was Three Dog Night that first released the song and took it into the top 10; Stevenson never had a shot with that record.
- "Relax" by Frankie Goes to Hollywood, in America at least.
- Back home, meanwhile, their Welcome to the Pleasuredome became the fastest selling debut album in British chart history (and remained such from 1984-1993), and they become only the second act in British music history to have their first three singles - "Relax", "Two Tribes" and "The Power of Love" - reach number one (for five, nine and one week(s), respectively).
- "All I Really Want" by Kim Lukas.
- Jumalatar - "Are We Thinking The Same Thing". They disbanded after their second EP, Frenzy / Easy to Groove, which failed to catch on.
- "Starlight" by The Supermen Lovers, best remembered for the music video featuring a rat and those creepy potato-men.
- Qkumba Zoo - "The Child (Inside)"
- Dyce - "Tomorrow Can Wait", mainly because it was remixed by Cascada.
- Reina - "Find Another Woman". She later had the minor hits "If I Close My Eyes" and "Forgive", but those failed to reach the heights of her first hit, and are less well remembered.
- The Tamperer feat. Maya - "Feel It", heavily sampled from the Jackson 5's "Can You Feel It".
- Wild Cherry's "Play That Funky Music" is the only thing anyone remembers them for. That, and having a white singer who sounded incredibly black. Although they also hit the top 40 with a "Play That Funky Music" rewrite called "Baby Don'cha Know," right down to the subject matter (the refrain went, "Baby, don'cha know that the honky's got soul?").
- Can you name a single song made by Carl Douglas? Other than "Kung Fu Fighting"?
- Yes. He invited people to "Dance the Kung Fu," but nobody accepted.
- "Disco Duck" by Rick Dees and his Cast of Idiots. Dees was a popular radio DJ in Memphis who wrote a parodic novelty song about the disco fad. The song remained at #1 in the US for one week. Dees' follow-up "Dis-Gorilla" was a major flop and he went back to radio, where's he's done pretty well for himself in the ensuing years, and now hosts a nationally syndicated radio show.
- Have Lipps Inc. done anything of note besides Funkytown?
- According to The Other Wiki, they had another single, "Designer Music", but nobody remembers it.
- Patrick Hernandez is now only remembered for his worldwide hit "Born to Be Alive".
- Kano - "I'm Ready", another one-hitter from the last days of disco, best known for being sampled in "Whoomp! (There it Is)" and a few other songs.
- The Roc Project - "Never (Past Tense)". They had a second single, "Deja Vu", and a full-length album, but never achieved a second hit.
- "Dream" by Forest For The Trees, the solo project for Beck producer Carl Stephenson.
- Larissa - "I Do Both Jay and Jane"
- K5 - "Passion"; they later had the lesser hit "Lift You Up".
- Josefine Garline - "The Young Generation", her only single from her sole album of the same name.
- M|A|R|R|S - "Pump Up The Volume". This song is especially notable because its the band's only single. They were a one shot collaboration between two bands on the successful British indie label 4AD: Dream Pop duo AR Kane, and the electro-reggae group Colourbox. The song was a massive hit and a major influence on electronic music and sampling in pop music for years to come. The group was only active for about six months in 1987, and aside from the B-side to "Pump Up the Volume", never released another track. Ever.
- Neither Colourbox or AR Kane bothered to capitalize on the fame either: Colourbox in fact split up immediately after "Pump Up the Volume" came out, and AR Kane left 4AD after a couple singles, finishing their career on Rough Trade Records.
- Meshuggah fans will name many better songs, but the one song of theirs everyone with an interest in metal knows is "Bleed". This may be that it's one of their few songs which is in 4/4 time signature. It has over 4 million views on YouTube - a number near-unprecedented for metal in general, doubly so for such a deliberately exclusive band - and iTunes lists it as their most popular song, significantly more so than any on the album it promoted and dramatically more than other songs. Don't expect them to ever repeat this.
- Ralph McTell is only known for his song "Streets of London," as shown here.
- Although Fairport Convention's Liege and Lief has been described as the most influential folk album of all time, their only single to chart was "Si Tu Dois Partir." This French-language cover of "If You Gotta Go (Go Now)" by Bob Dylan spent nine weeks in the UK singles chart in 1969, peaking at #21.
- Technically, the Ides of March are a one-hit wonder with their 1970 hit "Vehicle" (#2), but in Chicago, they had other hits on local radio ("You Wouldn't Listen", "Superman", "L.A. Goodbye").
- The Ides of March's lead singer and main songwriter (Jim Peterik) later joined Survivor, who are similarly known as a one hit wonder (for "Eye of the Tiger") despite having other hit songs.
- The Geto Boys are also victims of the top 40 chart structure.
- The Kingsmen, and their famous cover version of Richard Berry's "Louie Louie".
- The Kingsmen actually had three top-40 follow-ups: 1964's "Money" and "Death of An Angel," and 1965's "The Jolly Green Giant." Oldies radio has forgotten all about these, though, so the group is widely considered to be a one-hit wonder.
- T. Rex, despite being ranked up with David Bowie for creating glam rock, only had "Get It On (Bang A Gong) as anything close to a hit in the US. Even then, it ended up charting higher fourteen years later when it was covered by the Duran Duran spin-off group Power Station. T. Rex did better in their UK home though, where four of their songs peaked at number one.
- Like T. Rex, Slade were teen idols in their native UK during the early 1970s, but they only had one significant hit in America, 1984's "Run Runaway", almost a decade after their most successful period at home. Arguably their best known song ("Cum On Feel the Noize") has been Covered Up in the states by Quiet Riot. In fact, Quiet Riot is probably the reason why it's their best known song.
- Slade did have two top 40 hits in the 80s, neither of which were "Cum On Feel the Noize", but they're almost completely forgotten compared to the earlier part of their career.
- Ram Jam, known pretty much only for their version of "Black Betty".
- "Easy Livin'" was the only Uriah Heep song that became a Top 40 hit in America, and even then it only reached #39, although "Stealin'" also received quite a bit of album-rock airplay.
- Think about any song in this genre that tried to introduce a new dance. Eight times out of ten the artists who made those songs are One Hit Wonders.
- Lifeseeker's "Gone Guru", which is their only hit thanks to the "Grand Theft Auto" Effect (it was in Dead Rising). According to their Myspace page, it's over 100 times more popular than their next-best songs.
- Baby Got Back by Sir Mix a Lot.
- Bone Thugs-n-Harmony has had a lot of Hip-Hop hits, in fact enough to create a 2 disc greatest hits album. Yet radio and music video outlets only wants to play "Tha Crossroads". Even when they're trying to promote new material programmers only want them to preform "Tha Crossroads".
- MC Hammer had six top 40 hits in his career, five of which went top 10. However, five of the six songs are almost completely forgotten. Guess which one isn't?
- Also, Vanilla Ice had two top 10 hits, "Ice Ice Baby" and "Play That Funky Music." Today, people are only familiar with the former.
- Chamillionaire's "Ridin'" was a number one hit. His only other top 40 hit was "Good Morning", which only reached 40.
- Rap Metal band Crazy Town had a number one hit in the US with "Butterfly". It was also their only single ever to reach the Billboard Top 100.
- Despite being extremely influential on the entire hip-hop genre, Public Enemy's only Top 40 hit in the United States was 1994's "Give It Up" (it made #33), despite it being far less known than other songs of theirs that didn't make the Top 40.
- Most people who know of April March are only familiar with the song "Chick Habit," aka "The High-Pitched End Credits Song From Death Proof". She's actually released a number of albums, and is quite popular in France.
- Modest Mouse had a left-field hit in 2004 with "Float On," and they've had a long career both before and after that, but nothing else even approached the charts.
- The Folk Implosion, a side project of Sebadoh/Dinosaur Jr. member Lou Barlow, managed a #29 entry on the US pop chart in 1995 with "Natural One", from the film Kids. As a Lo Fi band with a somewhat non commercial sound, its not quite surprising that aside from this Black Sheep Hit, they never troubled the pop charts again.
- Quite possibly the quintessential One-Hit Wonder is Los del Rio, who you know as the duo who released the scourge on humanity known as the "Macarena" and absolutely nothing else.
- Additionally, it's not the original version that we all know and love. The well-known version is actually a remix by the Bayside Boys, probably because it added English lyrics.
- Los del Rio has been well known in flamenco music before and after "Macarena," but has had no interest in making another pop hit. Not that they didn't try with the unsuccessful follow up "Take It Easy (yo no sé)". They are so concious that Macarena will never leave them alone, they rended re-recording a new version, titled "Más Macarena" (lit. "More Macarena" alung carribean group Gente de Zona.
- "Heaven" by Los Lonely Boys. Say what you want about the song; the record was one of the very few aversions of the Loudness War to come out in the 2000s.
- Girl group Las Ketchup released in 2001 the infamous song "Aserejé" (also known as "The Ketchup Song" in non-Spanish language markets) and absolutely nothing else of relevance.
- The group Kaoma released the very controversial (for the dance fad associated to the song) "Lambada" in 1989. They had some other minor hits, but none as successful. To make the thing worse, the song was a cover of the Brazilian cover of the Bolivian song "Llorando se fue", but the group only credited the Brazilian singer and not the original authors.
- Ecuadorian singer Gerardo is only remembered (in both English and Spanish markets) for his crossover hit "Rico Suave" released in 1991.
- Italian singer Gianluca Grignani got international success in 1995 with "Mi historia entre tus dedos", the Spanish version of his debut song "La mia storia tra le dita". Despite he still being active in Italy as of 2019, nothing he has released since has had the same success and cultural impact that "Mi historia..."
- "Under the Double Eagle/Unter dem Doppeladler" by Joseph Franz Wagner. Even martial music buffs would be hard pressed to name another piece by him. The encyclopedic Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians can, but just the one.
- Dexys Midnight Runners are only remembered for the song "Come On Eileen" in the United States.
- And to The Knack and their debut single from 1979, "My Sharona".
- Actually, the follow-up single "Good Girls Don't" just missed the top 10, and "Baby Talks Dirty" also reached the top 40. Still, who remembers the other two songs?
- The Boomtown Rats had a number of hits in the UK but are only known in the US for "I Don't Like Mondays".
- And for having Bob Geldof in them.
- Technically a NO hit wonder in the US, as “I Don’t Like Mondays” didn’t even crack the top 40.
- The Vapours had an international hit with "Turning Japanese" but no fanbase back home to build on. Never heard from again.
- The one hit sometimes gets disowned by the band, best example being A Flock of Seagulls: "Every time I perform live... Everyone just wants to hear 'I Ran', and I'm sick of it!"
- They did have two other U.S. hits - "Wishing (I Had a Photograph of You)" and "Space Age Love Song", but "I Ran" tends to overshadow them both.
- Men Without Hats had "The Safety Dance," an entirely awesome song that remains their only real impression in music history.
- They also had a top 20 hit in the US with "Pop Goes the World," which was never as famous as their biggest hit.
- "Maniac" by Michael Sembello, from the Flashdance soundtrack.
- It's notable that its cover version/remix by Mark McCabe was also a one hit wonder.
- As for Sembello himself, he technically had a second top 40 hit with "Automatic Man".
- Gary Numan is often considered to be an archetypal one hit wonder in the United States, for "Cars". In Europe (especially the UK), however, he was one of the most popular recording artists of the late 70's and early-to-mid 80's. One of the few American Gary Numan superfans in the 80's was Trent Reznor, who credits Numan as a massive influence for Nine Inch Nails.
- Paul Hardcastle's "19", although he also had the sleeper hit "Rain Forest".
- Toni Basil's "Mickey".
- In 1983, Matthew Wilder had a New Wave/Synthpop song which topped out at number 5 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 entitled "Break My Stride". No other song released by him ever came that close to the top.
- However, another song of his, called "The Kid's American" did reach the top 40.
- The Flying Lizards had a sort of hit (#5 in the UK, #50 in the US) with their baffling, stripped-down, nearly emotionless cover of "Money (That's What I Want)" in 1979.
- The landscape of Canadian music is littered with the corpses of barely-remembered new wave acts from the 80's:
- Blue Peter's one and only hit, "Don't Walk Past" (released on their second and final full album), was played on MTV in its heyday, garnered a few Canadian music awards and resulted in the group touring as an opening act for The Police. More than twenty years later, the group only gets together a few times a year to play local gigs in Toronto, where "Don't Walk Past" is the opening number.
- Martha and the Muffins had a massive hit with the quintessential "Echo Beach" in 1980. They had a number of other singles and a few big hits in Canada, but were hardly heard from in the rest of the world.
- The Toronto-based rock group Toronto (whose band members all hail from... Toronto) had their one and only hit single with "Your Daddy Don't Know", which reached the Canadian Top 5 singles. The only reason it garnered any sort of awareness in recent years was due to The New Pornographers covering it for the soundtrack to FUBAR.
- "Genius of Love" was the Tom Tom Club's only Billboard Hot 100/Top 40 hit.
- Technically a one-hit wonder twice: they had one hit in the UK, too, but that hit was “Wordy Rappinghood.”
- Another band to be a one hit wonder on both sides of the Atlantic with different songs: Icicle Works. “Love Is a Wonderful Colour” was their UK hit, while “Birds Fly (Whisper to a Scream)” was the song that charted in the US.
- Peter Schilling reached #1 in 4 countries with "Major Tom (Coming Home)" and the song is still played on radio in the United States, but afterwards he largely faded from the limelight outside of Germany, though he continues to release albums.
- New York based band Industry only had one album and were known for their only hit, "State of the Nation", which was successful in Italy and Sweden but only made #80 in the US. Once the band disbanded, its keyboardist Jon Carin became a member of the post-1987 version of Pink Floyd
- Nikki Webster was most successful with her hit "Strawberry Kisses". She only had three albums "Follow Your Heart", "Bliss" and "Let's Dance With Nikki Webster". No CD factory makes her albums anymore.
- O-Zone had one very, very successful song: "Dragostea Din Tei" (aka the numa-numa song). The band would dissolve soon after this song topped the lists.
- In a few countries, they did have a second hit, "Despre Tine." However, they will always be remembered for that song that a fat guy lip synced to.
- Kajagoogoo, with "Too Shy". A Saturday Night Live skit poked fun at their one-hit wonder status when the band is said to have released a greatest hits album containing only the one song.
- Might be true in the US, though they had four top 20 hits (three of them top 10) in their native Britain.
- In both countries, the lead singer Chris "Limahl" Hamill had a hit with the "Never Ending Story" theme.
- Meja - "All 'Bout The Money", although "I'm Missin' You" gets some airplay in the Philippines, and she was featured in Ricky Martin's "Private Emotion".
- A great many girl and boy bands from the late 90's:
- She Moves - "Breaking All The Rules"
- Bosson - "We Live"
- React - "Let's Go All The Way"
- EYC - "This Thing Called Love"
- The Connells, with "'74-'75".
- David Naughton might just be considered a one-hit wonder in two different genres. He sang the theme song to his short-lived TV series "Makin' It", which reached #5 in 1979. Then he starred in An American Werewolf in London in 1981, which still remains his best known role.
- Hedgehoppers Anonymous, a band mostly consisting of RAF members, hit #5 in the U.K. with "It's Good News Week" in 1965; the song also charted in some local U.S. markets.
- "Run With Us" by Lisa Lougheed, the theme from The Raccoons. Good luck finding the album (Evergreen Nights), as it has never been reprinted or legally released on CD.
- Don Williams: On the pop charts, definitely a One-Hit Wonder (1980's "I Believe in You"). On the country charts, definitely not (over 50 charted hits, with 17 of them hitting #1).
- Evan and Jaron with "Crazy for This Girl". Jaron Lowenstein, one-half of the duo, became a one-hit wonder in his own right in 2010 with the country-pop crossover "Pray for You" (credited to Jaron and the Long Road to Love).
- Singer Tony Burrows had more than one hit, thanks to singing lead with a multitude of studio-only groups that each had just one top 40 hit on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. His biggest hits were "Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)" (Edison Lighthouse, 1970), "My Baby Loves Lovin'" (White Plains, 1970), "Gimmie Dat Ding" (The Pipkins, 1970) and "Beach Baby" (First Class, 1974). (He sang lead vocals on another song, "United We Stand" by the Brotherhood of Man in 1970, but that act had another top 40 hit in the U.S. six years later, but that was without Burrows). That means that Burrows was a one hit wonder four (or five) times!
- "Love Grows," "My Baby Loves Lovin," "Gimme Dat Ding," and "United We Stand" were all hits at the exact same time!
- Minnie Riperton, a female R&B vocalist best known for her extreme vocal range, had her only hit with "Lovin' You" in 1975. Her impressive vocal skills were displayed on many other songs, but she never had another top 40 hit on any chart, and she died of cancer in 1979.
- Exile actually subverted this: while they only had one big pop hit with "Kiss You All Over" in 1978 (and a #40 with "You Thrill Me"), they Re Tooled as a country music band in the 1980s. They had a pretty good streak (including ten #1 hits at country radio) until lead singer J.P. Pennington left in 1989. They had two more Top 10 hits at country without him, but their career came to a screeching halt afterward.
- The pop surge of the late 90's led to many failed Canadian pop groups, none of which had the clout or longevity to outlast their debut albums:
- SoulDecision had their one and only hit with 1999's "Faded", which reached the top of the Canadian singles chart. A lack of support from the Canadian music industry killed their follow-up, Shady Satin Drug, and they disbanded soon afterwards.
- Despite the fact that they were heralded as Canada's answer to the Backstreet Boys, The Moffats only had one #1 single with "Bang Bang Boom" from their 2001 album Submodalities. The band broke up soon after the album was released, with the members citing unfair comparisons to other teen pop groups. Today, they're more or less seen as a punchline to the pop deluge from the late 90's.
- Distinct Nature released exactly one (top-ten) single, "Human", and disbanded two years later.
- McMaster and James' self-titled album had one single, "Thank You", which received several awards and cracked the Canadian Top 10 singles chart, but the bankruptcy of BMG in 2001 and fading exposure led to the duo parting ways.
- Identically Different, whose album charted at the top of the Canadian charts with the single "Busted". Disappeared from the face of the earth soon after.
- The Boomtang Boys, whose sole hit "Squeeze Toy" (a thinly-veiled self-pleasure metaphor) was the only one to crack the Top 10 Canadian singles chart.
- The Pop Idol ripoff Canadian reality series Popstars produced several pop groups, who immediately crashed and burned after their debut singles due to mismanagement from their production company and waning public interest. Sugar Jones, an all-female pop group formed at the end of the first season, had one #1 single, "Days Like That", and a second single ("How Much Longer") that never charted. Season 2's Velvet Empire died a quick death after their #1 single "Frontin' On Me", as their album sales tanked and the group disbanded.
- The Casinos, a doo-wop group, had a big hit in 1967 with "Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye" (well after the doo-wop era, no less) but managed only one other low-charting hit before disbanding. It was Covered Up by Eddy Arnold only a year later, who had a #1 country and #6 AC hit with it. Also, Glen Campbell topped the AC charts in 1976 with a medley of it and Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds' "Don't Pull Your Love".
- Jennifer Paige, who had a hit song with "Crush."
- Ké, who topped the charts in the UK, Germany and Italy with his "Strange World" (1996), never had another successful song. He's most remembered for the video where he strips in a toilet.
- Tommy Tutone, for "867-5309/Jenny" in 1982. Technically not a one-hit wonder as one other song of theirs -- "Angel Say No" -- made it to #40 on the Billboard chart, but...
- The New Radicals released one album and managed one hit single, "You Get What You Give," before they promptly broke up. Band leader Gregg Alexander (and Face of the Band) announced he was content with his one hit and went on to produce an album for Hanson.
- Another version is that Gregg Alexander was getting frustrated by the fact that no one would play any other singles chosen by the band, and broke it up to avoid becoming a one hit wonder. Which then solidified the band's reputation as a one hit wonder for delicious irony.
- Their second single, "Someday We'll Know", had minor success, but they're usually considered a "one hit" instead of "two hit".
- That's probably because the version of "Someday We'll Know" sung by Mandy Moore and Jonathan Foreman, made for the A Walk to Remember soundtrack is more well-known.
- Many people mistakenly believe the 1960s band The Turtles were a one-hit wonder, with "Happy Together", but in fact they charted in the top 10 five times during their career.
- Same thing with Survivor. "Eye of the Tiger" is the one everyone remembers, but the band actually hit the US top 10 a total of five times in their career.
- Nena's "99 Luftballons", also known in English as "99 Red Balloons". In Germany, mind you, she's still rather successful, but that was the only time she ever broke into international success.
- The remake of "Anyplace, Anywhere, Anytime" as an English-German duet with Kim Wilde was a hit in various European countries, reaching the Number 1 spot in the Netherlands and Austria, and Number 2 in Belgium, in 2003.
- There's one little song by Bow Wow Wow called "I Want Candy" - the song is well known but the artist isn't.
- "The One and Only" by Chesney Hawkes, although he's made several attempts at a comeback since.
- In the UK, he did have one other top 40 hit shortly after "The One and Only."
- Joan Osborne, "One of Us" (not "What If God Was One Of Us").
- The infamous "Who Let the Dogs Out" by Baha Men.
- Despite a long, critically acclaimed but otherwise commercially unsuccessful career, Power Pop group Fountains of Wayne have to yet to match the success of their 2003 hit single, "Stacy's Mom" (which provides the trope of the same name).
- Nine Days never managed to match the success of "Absolutely (Story of a Girl)", due to Executive Meddling causing them to leave their label.
- "Part of the Union" by the Strawbs was one of the biggest UK singles in 1973, and their only UK no. 1. It is also a definite Black Sheep Hit, and caused a crisis and two departures at the time. However, they weathered the storm, and are still gigging and recording 35 years and 30 albums later.
- “Lay Down” also hit the top 20.
- Dream Theater has a compilation album entitled Dream Theater's Greatest Hit and 21 other Pretty Cool Songs, which really does include their one commercial hit, "Pull Me Under".
- The Power Ballad "Kayleigh" by Marillion is their only entry on the singles charts in America (even though it still didn't make the top 40). They have had other hits in Europe, but "Kayliegh" is still their best known song. It's a bit of a departure from their usual style, so it comes under the Black Sheep Hit category.
- Emerson Lake and Palmer have had many famous songs that were hits on FM radio but their only single to chart in the USA was “From the Beginning” (at #40). In the UK they had one top 10 hit with a single edit of their rendition of Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man.”
- Procol Harum began their career in 1967 with the smash-hit single "A Whiter Shade of Pale". Even today it's almost the only one of their songs that gets airplay, though to be fair they did have two or three other hits (including an orchestrated rendition of "Conquistador"). But despite ten subsequent albums, it's annoying that only that one song tends to get remembered nowadays.
- "In the Year 2525" by Zager and Evans holds the dubious honor of having been number one on both the US and UK charts, with neither of those charts ever seeing another song by them. The song itself is also often mocked, but that's neither here nor there.
- "Naturally Stoned" by The Avant-Garde is a notable example in that one-half of the duo, one Chuck Woolery, struck it big in the completely unrelated field of Game Show Host (Wheel of Fortune, Scrabble, Love Connection, Lingo). Incidentally, he dabbled in country music during his earliest years of hosting Wheel.
- "Incense and Peppermints" By Strawberry Alarm Clock, a B-side (not even sung by a member of the band), that went all the way to #1. Nothing else by the band ever made even a dent, and they aren't even known for their live shows. The band managed another Top 40 hit soon after, "Tomorrow", but it is now largely forgotten. Came outta nowhere, hit the top and utterly vanished.
- Arthur Brown with "Fire", which charted at #1 in the U.K and #2 in America, most like due to Brown donning a flaming helmet during live shows and for the song's famous intro ("I AM THE GOD OF HELLFIRE!"). Despite some attempts, he never achieved the same chart success, though he still remained a popular underground act during the late 60s and early 70s.
R & B
- Sisqo of "Thong Song" fame is an interesting example. He was in the fairly-successful R&B group Dru Hill for years before going solo, had 2 successful singles before and after "Thong Song," (with "Incomplete" reaching #1 before it even had a video), and yet 99% of listeners only know him for "That thong-th-thong thong-thong."
- What's even more interesting is that Sisqo was basically strong-armed by his producers to do "Incomplete" - he thought it was too much of a reminder of his Dru Hill days and was thus needed to be persuaded to do it.
- Singer Lol Mason was a member of two bands who were one-hit wonders in two countries. In 1978, his band City Boy had its lone U.S. hit with "5-7-0-5" (the band's one-hit wonder status was averted in their native U.K. when "What a Night" snuck in at #39 later that year). Four years later, Mason was in the Maisonettes, whose lone hit, "Heartache Avenue", peaked at #7 for that band's lone appearance in the UK Top 40 (however, the band didn't make the Top 40 across the pond).
- Leon Haywood with "I Want to Do Something Freaky to You." The song was already a big hit upon release, but became even more well known when Dr. Dre sampled the song for his "Nuthin' But a G Thang."
- Eamon with "Fuck It (I Don't Want You Back)". The song being quite famous for its many expletives. It even earned a listing in the Guinness World Records for most expletives in number one song.
- Frankee, with her Answer Song "F.U.R.B. (Fuck U Right Back)", suffered the same fate: she became #1 in Australia and other places, and then disappeared without a trace.
- Family Stand - "Ghetto Heaven".
- Yvette Michelle - "I'm Not Feeling You".
- Freddie North's only chart hit was "She's All I Got". The song has the dubious honor of being Covered Up twice — Johnny Paycheck had a successful version in 1971, and Tracy Byrd covered him up in 1997.
- Stealers Wheel ("Stuck In The Middle With You") broke up after their one hit, freeing lead singer Gerry Rafferty to become a moderately successful solo act in the middle to late 1970s ("Baker Street", "Right Down The Line", "City to City" and others).
- Stealers Wheel actually did have another hit, "Star," but it was from the same album as the first hit.
- "Baker Street" is an example on its own, but Gerry Rafferty certainly didn't intend it that way, and the song's distinctive sax break was improvised by session saxophonist Raphael Ravenscroft. Ravenscroft, for his part, has said that there are better works to remember him for, especially as he recorded the entire sax part in the wrong key.
- Thin Lizzy are legends in Ireland, but elsewhere are only really known for "The Boys Are Back in Town" (although their song "Yellow Pearl" was the Top of the Pops theme from 1981–86).
- "Yellow Pearl" was actually a Phil Lynott solo song. Thin Lizzy have several other popular hits in the UK and elsewhere including "Jailbreak" and their rocked-up reading of folk song "Whiskey In The Jar". In fact, for a while in the 70s it looked like they were destined to be known as One Hit Wonders for the latter - it was their first major UK hit, but the parent album bombed, as did their next LP. It was a few years before they finally broke through properly.
- Due to the fact that the US Top 40 is slightly rigged, several popular artists have only managed one Top 40 hit in their career even though they're not considered to be one hit wonders due to their success on other charts (such as genre-specific charts and album charts), they technically are. Among these are The Grateful Dead (with 1987's "Touch of Grey"), The Jimi Hendrix Experience (with 1968's "All Along the Watchtower"), The White Stripes (with 2007's "Icky Thump"), Frank Zappa (with 1982's "Valley Girl"), Rush (with 1982's "New World Man"), Iggy Pop (with 1990's "Candy), System of a Down (with 2005's "B.Y.O.B"), Gorillaz (with 2005's "Feel Good, Inc.") Blink-182 (with 2000's "All The Small Things"), and Beck (with 1994's "Loser"). Also, until 1999, songs that did not have physical singles were not allowed to chart on the Hot 100.
- Oasis would not have been a one-hit wonder in the US ("Wonderwall", #8) if it wasn't for the aforementioned rigging. You see, before 1999, only songs physically released as singles could appear on the Billboard Hot 100. Sometime in the mid-90's, the record labels decided to not release popular songs as physical singles, for fear of single sales outpacing album sales. This of course caused wildly popular songs like No Doubt's "Don't Speak", Sugar Ray's "Fly", Natalie Imbruglia's "Torn" and Green Day's "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" to be ineligible for the Billboard Hot 100 before the "must be released as a physical single" rule was revoked in late 1998. Such a fate fell "Don't Look Back In Anger", "Champagne Supernova" and "Don't Go Away", three Oasis songs which were very popular on pop radio but were denied appearance on the Billboard Hot 100 because no official single was released. These three songs were all Top 10 smashes on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks (read: alternative rock radio airplay) chart, which did not have this rule (and was based on radio airplay only anyway).
- Henry Lee Summer had a small slew of minor hits (none higher than top 30), but is only remembered for "Wish I Had A Girl"—even in the Mid West (US), right here in his home town. Owch.
- Don't forget, "Hey Baby" actually charted a bit higher than "Wish I Had A Girl."
- Many artists well-known for being in successful groups and bands were one-hit wonders solo, like Roger Daltrey of the Who, John Sebastian of the Lovin' Spoonful, and Bill Medley of the Righteous Brothers (even though the latter had several country hits).
- Warren Zevon, "Werewolves of London."
- He did have a few minor hits besides "Werewolves," and two of his albums went gold - but that's the one non-fans remember him for.
- "What's Up?" (mistakenly believed to be titled "What's Going On?") by 4 Non Blondes.
- Stories hit #1 on Billboard's Hot 100 Singles chart with their cover of Hot Chocolate's "Brother Louie." A follow-up, "Mammy Blue," only managed to chart in the mid-40s. The group split soon after. End of Stories.
- Canadian singer Ian Thomas had one U.S. hit in 1973 with "Painted Ladies". His brother Dave was also a One-Hit Wonder; he and Rick Moranis (with Rush vocalist Geddy Lee) hit in 1982 with "Take Off" in their Bob & Doug McKenzie personae.
- "Don't Ever Wanna Lose Ya" by New England.
- Twisted Sister is sometimes called this due to only one Top 40 hit ("We're Not Gonna Take It"), but they have "I Wanna Rock" (#68 peak), which is just as famous, making them a Two-Hit Wonder. (and like Don McLean, they charted more songs in the UK)
- Scandal had two shots to avoid this fate. They made it to #7 with "The Warrior" in 1984. However, their next two singles, "Hands Tied" and "Beat Of a Heart", both peaked at #41.
Rock and Roll
- "Sea of Love," by Phil Philips. One of the most recognizable songs of the late 1950s, Phil Philips received little in the way of royalties from it and never had another hit song.
- Huey "Piano Smith" is remebered pretty much exclusively for "Rockin' Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu".
- Reel Big Fish hit the charts with "Sell Out", but got Screwed by the Network when it came to releasing a follow-up single. This was later lampshaded by the band in the song "One Hit Wonderful".
- Madness are often considered a one hit wonder in the USA, with "Our House" as their best known hit. In their native UK however, they were absolutely massive: with the lone exception of UB40, they were the most successful singles act of the 80's and their first 20 singles all managed the Top 20.
- "It Must Be Love" was also a top 40 hit in the US, but it was a cover version. "Our House" was Madness's only hit that the band wrote.
- Rupert Holmes has written several albums, two Broadway musicals, a Title Theme Tune (for Remember WENN), and is best known for his one radio hit "Escape (the Pina Colada Song)".
- Another two-hit wonder, as "Him" hit #6 on the Billboard Hot 100, and is probably the more-played song of the two on commercial radio, since "Escape" was largely considered a "novelty" song.
- Today, though, "Escape" is definitely more played than "Him."
- Another two-hit wonder, as "Him" hit #6 on the Billboard Hot 100, and is probably the more-played song of the two on commercial radio, since "Escape" was largely considered a "novelty" song.
- Norah Jones is a weird example, because even though she is one of the top-selling artists of the 2000s and has won 9 Grammys, she's only had one Top 40 single in the US: "Don't Know Why".
- Jennifer Rush has had a few hits in Europe, but her only Top 40 hit in her native USA was "Flames of Paradise", a duet with Elton John. Her best known song ("The Power of Love") is probably better known in America for the cover versions by Laura Branigan and Celine Dion.
- "Lovin' You" by Minnie Riperton, due to Author Existence Failure.
- Miquel Brown - "So Many Men (So Little Time)"
- In the 1960s, many soul singers might have had several hits on the R&B Chart with only one hit that crossed over. Percy Sledge ("When A Man Loves A Woman") and Eddie Floyd ("Knock On Wood") are only two examples.
- "Spaceman" - Babylon Zoo's first single. It was chosen to accompany a Levi's jeans advert shortly after it was released, which arguably promoted the single more than the jeans: it went to the top of the charts in 23 countries, and their album release, The Boy with the X-Ray Eyes, charted all round the world on the strength of it. By the time their next album was finished, three years later, EMI were no longer prepared to spend significant sums promoting it, and the Zoo's frontman was not prepared to make up the difference on the promo circuit. In the end, the album didn't chart and the band sank without trace.
- It didn't help that the Levi's advert only contained the remixed first 30 seconds of the song, which led to some electronica and dance music fans unknowingly buying a space rock song. If anyone on the street remembers the song, it's generally that part they'll remember.
- It should also be noted that Babylon Zoo did have two other top 40 hits besides "Spaceman".
- The Tornados were the first British group to send a single to number one on the American charts in 1962 with "Telstar", a composition of the English independent Record Producer Joe Meek. It's one of the first successful space rock singles, and it's their only hit on that chart (they had a couple of further hits on the UK chart in collaboration with Meek).
- "Wipe Out" by the Surfaris.
- "Zoot Suit Riot" by the Cherry Poppin' Daddies released in 1998. It's their best known song, having peaked at #32 on the U.S. Billboard Top 40 Mainstream.
- This song is an interesting example because first and foremost, the Cherry Poppin' Daddies were a ska band. They did occasionally wander into swing and hot jazz on their albums here and there, but "Zoot Suit Riot" is probably among their most swing influenced songs. It originally appeared as a new song on Zoot Suit Riot, a compilation of all the swing-oriented songs that had appeared on their other albums. When the song became a hit, so did the album, and now they're identified as apart of the Swing Revival fad forevermore.
- The Squirrel Nut Zippers were a similar case. Their musical style was more diverse than just "swing revival", but their one hit ("Hell") ended up associating them with the genre.
- Italian Nu-Jazz duo Gabin had a hit in 2002 with their single "Doo Uap, Doo Uap, Doo Uap". They still exist and a couple of their songs were used in films such as the Fantastic Four one, but none of their other songs gained the same acclaim and recognition.
- Rockwell's 1984 song "Somebody's Watching Me" is only remembered because the chorus is sung by his friends Michael and Jermaine Jackson.
- And because it is a Halloween staple. Rockwell had another top 40 hit, "Obscene Phone Caller," which did not reach the heights of "Somebody's Watching Me."
- Know any Real Life songs besides "Send Me An Angel"?
- The superior follow-up “Catch Me I’m Falling”?
- Soft Cell's cover of "Tainted Love" was the only song they were really known for in the US. In the UK, however, they are much more popular.
- Thomas Dolby scored a Top 10 hit with "She Blinded Me With Science" in 1983 in the US (Word of God says it's a Stealth Parody of his "musical mad scientist" image), also something of a Black Sheep Hit for him as much of his other work is more artsy, more techno-prog-pop with experimental touches. He has something of a cult following and some minor hits ("Airhead", "Hyperactive!", "Windpower", "One Of Our Submarines"), but nothing on the level of "Science".
- Dolby is also a one-hit wonder in his native UK, but with "Hyperactive!" instead of "Science."
- Regina - Baby Love
- Although they released a good few singles, try and get anyone to name a Buggles song other than "Video Killed The Radio Star". (Frontman Trevor Horn however is most certainly not a one-hit wonder, although is much better known as a producer than anything else.)
- I'm sure a Brit could do that as they had two other top 40 hits there.
- Silvertear - "So Deep"; a one-shot wonder co-produced by Cristophe and Erik of Ian Van Dahl, and remixed by them under the name Perfect Sphere. Famous for being That One Song in Dance Dance Revolution Max/Max2/Extreme AC and Max2 US.
- Rollergirl - "Love You More" (cover of Sunscreem). Also a Black Sheep Hit, as it was a different style from her other songs, which were generally Nu-Italo rather than trance.
- Tomski's "14 Hours to Save The Earth" and "Love Will Come"(featuring Jan Johnston). Did a few remixes, but these were his only two original songs.
- "Sandstorm" by Darude. Nothing else he's done comes close.
- Except for "Feel The Beat".
- "Kernkraft 400" by Zombie Nation.
- Binary Finary's "1998" is their only notable song. They had a number of b-sides on the remix EP's and the single "Niterider" in 2002, but due to disputes between members, they were mostly silent until 2006, when they released a download-only compilation of previously-unreleased tunes, The Lost Tracks. The remaining members have collaborated with various other trance musicians in recent years.
- "Shattered" by Dejin, an indie musician from Snohomish County, WA, who was also a one-album wonder with As You Dream.
- For a brief time during the summer of 2000, Sonique (a.k.a. Sonia Clarke) dominated the U.K., U.S. and Canadian charts with the reissue of her 1998 trance track "It Feels So Good", which was played on practically every Top 40 station in the world (and reaching the Top 5 in many countries). Despite releasing several more tracks after this (and suffering from breast cancer and mismanagement from her record label, who continually delayed the lead single from her follow-up album), nothing she's released in the years afterward has come close to replicating that success.
- Maria Falconetti was a stage actress with only two very minor film roles before starring in The Passion of Joan of Arc. The film, and her performance, are ranked among the best in history, but her experience working on the film was so terrible that she returned to the stage and never took another film role again.
- Most of the main cast of the Nickelodeon show Hey Dude had never acted anywhere prior to the show, and never did again after it ended. Only three of the main actors (one of them being Ben Stiller's wife Christine Taylor) went on to have acting careers beyond the ranch.
- This is in fact true of most Nick shows of the 1990s—with rare exceptions (namely Melissa Joan Hart, Kenan Thompson and Blake Sennett) the vast majority of the channel's child actors dropped off the map after serving their time on Nick.
- Carrie Henn, who played Newt in Aliens, has never had another acting role.
- Entertainment Weekly's 2011 Reunion Issue elaborates (it features the Aliens cast). Henn was bullied after her movie role, and thus never again wanted to act. She's now a schoolteacher.
- As voice actors go, Thurl Ravenscroft has done a fair number of roles (including the song "You're a mean one, mister Grinch"), but he will always and only be known for bellowing "They're gr-r-r-reat!" on cereal commercials.
- Cary Guffey, Close Encounters of the Third Kind's Cheerful Child. He was three years old when he was cast for the film, and astounded everyone involved with his natural ability—he often required only one or two takes for a scene. He had a few other acting roles afterwards, the last of which was in 1985. He has since become a financial consultant.
- Louis Chirillo is pretty much only well-known for Dukey from Johnny Test.
- Thom Huge, who voiced Jon Arbuckle in the Garfield TV specials (except Here Comes Garfield) and Garfield and Friends, did a couple other voices on the latter show but has no other credits.
- Jeremy Black, who played the infant Hitler clones in The Boys from Brazil, has its only film credit with that movie - IMDB lists a TV appearance, but he really focused on theater.
- Mary Badham's debut role was Scout Finch in the film adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird, for which she was nominated for an Oscar. She appeared in a few other roles before retiring from acting at 14. She went on to become an art restorer and a college testing coordinator, though she had a small role in an independent film in 2005.
- Danny Lloyd first appeared in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining as Danny Torrance. He played only one other small role in a TV film before quitting acting and becoming a teacher.
- Also, the actresses who played the naked girl in the bathtub and the old hag she turns into never did anything else before or after.
- Nia Vardalos. She came out of nowhere in 2002 with My Big Fat Greek Wedding (which is still the highest-grossing romantic comedy of all-time) and fell as fast as she rose with a number of flops (My Big Fat Greek Life, Connie and Carla, My Life in Ruins). She broke out of her string of flops with Larry Crowne (a film she wrote with Tom Hanks starring and directing) but she still hasn't become the familiar name she was expected to be. It says something that her other known film was the sequel to her debut film.
- Peter Ostrum. He played Charlie Bucket in the 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, then turned down a three-film contract and ended up as a veterinarian.
- Several non-professional actors have been cast in a film that remains either their only role, or their only role of note:
- Harold Russell won an Oscar in his film debut for The Best Years of Our Lives in 1946. It would be 34 years before he had another film credit (his two remaining credits were very minor roles in since-forgotten movies).
- Not too many acting roles for a guy with two hooks for hands.
- Dr. Haing S. Ngor, a Cambodian gynecologist, who won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his only major film role, The Killing Fields. Along with the aforementioned Harold Russell, he is one of only two non-professional actors to win an Academy Award.
- Wrestler Stanislaus Zbyszko was cast in the 1950 noir Night and the City because the director, Jules Dassin, wanted to teach a wrestler to act rather than teach an actor to wrestle. He had actually seen Zbyszko when he was young and wanted someone like him, without knowing Zbyszko was still alive. It turned out Zbyszko even lamented the transformation of wrestling into showmanship the same way his character in the movie, Gregorius, did.
- Michael Wallis, a well known historian who has written 17 books on the Western United States only has one acting role: the voice of the Sheriff of Radiator Springs in Cars, its sequel and other spinoff media. He was selected for this role because of his knowledge of the film's setting, particularly Route 66, which is the subject of Route 66: The Mother Road, the best selling book in his bibliography.
- Pixar seems to like selecting writers for major roles in their films. Sarah Vowell, a well known pop culture writer, essayist and frequent contributor to This American Life was given the role of Violet in The Incredibles. The casting director of the film selected her after hearing this story she told on This American Life. She never actually auditioned for the part, as she is not a professional actress and The Incredibles remains her only film role.
- Harold Russell won an Oscar in his film debut for The Best Years of Our Lives in 1946. It would be 34 years before he had another film credit (his two remaining credits were very minor roles in since-forgotten movies).
- Jaye Davidson (technically a two hit wonder). Played Dil in The Crying Game, a role for which he was nominated for an Oscar. His only other famous role was Stargate, which he took only because he was offered 1 million dollars.
- Dustin Lance Black was an obscure indie screenwriter who struck gold when he won an Oscar for Milk. Since then, he's mostly written critically-panned films such as the unreleased What's Wrong With Virginia? (which he also directed) and J Edgar.
Anime and Manga
- Yasumi Yoshizawa debuted as a professional manga cartoonist with Dokonjo Gaeru in 1970. To date that's his only successful series, spawning two anime series and a ton of merchandising in Japan. Since ending it he created dozens of other mangas but none of them are well-known.
- See One-Book Author for other examples.
- Joseph Heller is best-known for Catch-22, but wrote many novels that nobody read (including Catch-22's sequel, Closing Time). Some years later, someone put it to Joseph Heller that despite his lengthy bibliography, he'd never written anything else as good as Catch-22. Heller's response: "Who has?"
- Only one of Mary Shelley's novels is well-known today: Frankenstein, or the modern Prometheus. Although she was taken very seriously in her day, nowadays it's either Frankenstein or being the wife of Percy Bysshe Shelley (even though it was her efforts after his death that kept him from being considered a One-Hit Wonder)...
- Aldous Huxley wrote several novels, dramas and poems, but famous for Brave New World.
- Margaret Mitchell. Gone with the Wind. That is all.
- Harper Lee with To Kill a Mockingbird. Until 2015 it was the only book she ever published, and for years authors like Stephen King wondered why, since it was brilliant. With the posthumous release of her earlier work Go Set a Watchman that year, though, she has left one-hit status.
- J.D. Salinger and The Catcher in The Rye was his only novel, although he wrote many short stories and novellas such as Franny and Zooey.
- J. K. Rowling is looking like this, with no real prospect of her writing anything other than Harry Potter books. While she has published other non-Potterian books (an adult-directed novel, The Casual Vacancy, under her name, and a series of detective fiction under the pseudonym "Robert Galbraith"), none of them have been particularly successful, and the shadows of the Potter saga still envelopes her.
- G.V. Desani and All About H. Hatter.
- Dow Mossman and The Stones of Summer.
- Menander wrote dozens of Ancient Greek plays, but the only one that survives in its entirety is Dyskolos ("The Grouch").
- Matthew Lewis was actually a prolific novelist and dramatist with several titles to his name, but then as now he is mostly associated with The Monk, his first novel written at the age of nineteen. It even gave him the nickname "Monk" Lewis.
- The baseball player Bill Mazeroski is only known for being the only player ever to end a seventh game of the World Series with a walk-off home run (he did this in 1960).
- Perhaps as an offensive player. However, Mazeroski was also considered to be the best defensive second baseman of his era. And unlike Roger Maris below, Mazeroski is actually in the Baseball Hall of Fame (although admittedly, his worthiness is strongly debated).
- Jimmy Glass, the English football player responsible for keeping Carlisle United F.C. in the Football League by scoring a goal in the last seconds of the final match of the 1998-99 season against Plymouth Argyle F.C. Made all the more remarkable by the fact that he was Carlisle's goalkeeper, and thus would ordinarily have been at the opposite end of the pitch, and at the time he was on loan from Swindon Town F.C. Carlisle were unable to negotiate a long-term contract for Glass, and he returned to Swindon and retired at the end of the following season. His subsequent biography was titled One-Hit Wonder.
- For people who don't understand football, he was basically playing in one of the lowest professional divisions in England, had an unremarkable career as a player, and after having his contract expire, retired to become an office worker.
- Roger Maris, forever known as the man who hit 61* , isn't even in the Hall of Fame because other than his MVP years of 1960 and '61 (the year which he hit 61* ), he was an above-average but hardly spectacular baseball player.
- Washington Redskins rookie running back Timmy Smith was only in the starting lineup for Super Bowl XXII due to injuries to the Redskins' other running backs. Smith made the most of that opportunity, rushing for a Super Bowl record 204 yards with two touchdowns in the Skins' 42-10 victory over the Denver Broncos. Smith's career lasted only 15 more games before he was out of the NFL in 1990.
- Bucky Dent was a solid defensive shortstop and a decent situational hitter. However, all he will ever be known for, especially in Boston, is the home run he hit for the Yankees in 1978 that knocked the Red Sox out of playoff contention that year.
- To young non-Yankee/Red Sox fans he may best known for being in a Steinbrenner rant.
- Likewise, Carlton Fisk may be a hall of fame Red Sox player, but his entire career has been defined by his home-run off the foul pole in the 1975 World Series.
- This seems to be the fate of any player who comes up big in a high-profile situation. Other players defined by World Series moments include Bill Wambsganss (a solid defensive second baseman best known for turning an unassisted triple play in the 1920 World Series—still the only triple play of any kind in World Series history), Don Larsen (a journeyman pitcher who pitched a perfect game in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series—was the only no-hitter of any kind in postseason history for 54 years), and Cookie Lavagetto (pinch-hit two-run walkoff double in Game 4 of the 1947 World Series, which also broke up what would have been the first no-hitter in World Series history, as the two baserunners he drove in reached via walks—the ninth and tenth allowed by starter Bill Bevens. Also, neither Bevens nor Lavagetto played in the major leagues after 1947.)
- Jack Morris's 10-inning shutout for the Twins in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series completely overshadowed the rest of his excellent career; this one game was so epic that hardly anyone remembers that Morris was also the ace of the following year's champion, the Toronto Blue Jays. Oh yeah, and he was also the ace of the Detroit Tigers earlier in his career.
- The ultimate baseball one-moment wonder might be Francisco Cabrera of the 1992 Atlanta Braves. The Braves were one out away from being eliminated in the NLCS when they sent Cabrera, the last position player left on the bench, up to bat. Cabrera could barely even be considered a part-time player; he only had ten at-bats during the regular season, and only one prior at-bat in the playoffs. He stroked a two-run single to put the Braves in the World Series, then immediately faded back to obscurity. He was out of the majors the following year.
- Jacques Villeneuve took the Formula One World Championship in only his second year in the sport in 1997, then proceeded never to win another race. He has found success in other forms of racing, though.
- Many cricket fans consider the late Sir Donald Bradman's Test cricket batting average of 99.94 (across 80 innings) to be the greatest statistical achievement in any sport, but in cricket statistics, it's customary to consider Test averages only from players who have played more than 20 innings. Cricket's highest Test batting average technically belongs to a one-hit wonder, West Indian wicketkeeper Andy Ganteaume, who was called up for a single Test against England in 1948 and scored 112 runs in his one and only innings at the crease.
- Salvatore "Totò" Schillaci was the star of the 1990 World Cup, scoring six goals (the top scorer) and bringing Italy to third place—amazingly, he only ever scored one other goal for Italy, and apart from Italia 90 the rest of his career was unremarkable.
- The same could be said about Fabio Grosso, the man who almost single-handedly brought Italy to victory in the 2006 World Cup. He scored all the important goals, including the one in the final match, but never did anything else of note in his home country.
- Oleg Salenko, who played for the Russian national team in the 1994 World Cup. During the 1994 World Cup, he scored 5 goals in a game against Cameroon (the most goals anyone has scored in a single World Cup match) and 6 goals overall, the joint top scorer of the tournament (and the only time where a top scorer played for a team that was knocked out in the group stages). The 6 goals turned out to be the only goals of his national team career.
- Joe Johnson was a previously unremarkable and little-known snooker player who suddenly hit form in the 1986 World Championship, taking the title having never previously advanced beyond the first round. It was his only ranking event win; despite making the final again the following year, he slipped down the rankings quite swiftly thereafter.
- On February 11, 1990, 42-1 underdog James "Buster" Douglas knocked out Mike Tyson, who was an undefeated champion at the time. He retired just a few months later, after losing the heavyweight title to Evander Holyfield.
- In Australian Rules Football, the St Kilda Saints and Western Bulldogs have each won only one premiership (in 1966 and 1954, respectively). The same goes for Port Adelaide Power (2004), but they are generally not considered to be this since they only joined in 1997, and their SANFL incarnation is the most successful club in that league.
- Among players, the most famous one-hit wonder would be Ted Hopkins, who was brought on after half time for Carlton in the 1970 Grand Final, and proceeded to rip Collingwood to shreds as Carlton came back from a 44-point deficit to win. Afterward, Hopkins realised he could never do anything to top his achievements in that game, and retired.
- Several professional golfers who have risen from obscurity and win (or even just nearly win) a major championship have had difficulty sustaining that success in smaller-level tournaments afterward. Among the notable champions on this list are Steve Jones (1996 U.S. Open), Shaun Micheel (2003 PGA Championship) and Hilary Lunke (2003 U.S. Women's Open, her only top ten in an LPGA tournament).
- A strange case: Gerald Mayo was very infamous, for many reasons, in the early 1970s. You should see the number of news articles printed about him at the time; it was huge. Nowadays, he is only known for something he was not famous for in the 1970s: suing Satan.
- Jim Gaffigan still feels obligated to do his "Hot Pockets" bit for fans despite it being one of his earliest bits.
- Ruggerio Leoncavallo was a librettist hoping to become a full composer of operas. Seeing that verismo (realistic) opera was becoming popular, he wrote Pagliacci. He wrote other operas after that, but Pagliacci is the only one that anyone remembers.
- Alexey Pajitnov would have to be the biggest example. He is is known for creating Tetris, one of the most popular games of all time, and absolutely nothing else.
- He worked for Microsoft's games division for a while in the late 90's and early 2000's, creating critically acclaimed puzzle games like Pandora's Box and Hexic that met with commercial indifference, even when his semi-famous name was played up in advertising.
- Despite a long, successful history as a pinball manufacturer, Gottlieb's only hit video game was 1982's Q*Bert, despite many attempts at breaking into the market.
- Stern Electronics (Berzerk, 1980)
- Rock-Ola (Nibbler, 1981)
- Cavedog Entertainment (Total Annihilation, 1997)
- Mythos Games (X-COM: UFO Defense, 1994).
- Neurostone (Auto Destruct, 1998, published by EA Games)
- Vid Kidz, formed by lead Williams Electronics designer Eugene Jarvis, had only one hit to its name (Robotron 2084) before quickly folding in the wake of the 1983 crash.
- JAM Productions (Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold, 1993).
- Team Bondi, who made all of one game (L.A. Noire) before being shut down.
Anime and Manga
- Baby Jane Hudson's song "I've Written a Letter to Daddy" in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?.
- The Wonders in That Thing You Do!, for whom the one hit is the title song.
- The protagonist of About a Boy is a 36-year-old bachelor who lives off the royalties of a hit Christmas song composed by his father.
- The book of the same name from which the film was adapted goes to great lengths to show just how absurd a situation this put the protagonist and his father in: the protagonist gets angry and depressed every time he hears the song being sung by buskers, and his father, absolutely desperate to be taken seriously as a musician, once writes an entire musical in the course of one day.
- In the first Bridget Jones movie, Bridget's friend Tom is a former One-Hit Wonder pop singer from the '80s.
- Drive Shaft, Charlie's band in Lost, who hit it big with "You All Everybody". In one deleted scene, Shannon remarks about having "their one song" stuck in one's head.
- The Zit Remedy/The Zits-Joey, Snake and Wheels' band on Degrassi Junior High/Degrassi High-was a one hit wonder not only in the fact that "Everybody Wants Something" was their only hit, but it was their only song - a fact that still gets them mercilessly teased even as adults.
- On The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Ashley ends up being a one hit wonder. It becomes Hilarious in Hindsight because that was exactly what happened to the actress who played her, Tatyana Ali.
- Marcus Little of The Suite Life On Deck turns up at Seven Seas High, having faded into obscurity after his career as Lil' Little peaked with his sole hit "Retainer Baby".
- Chris Gaines, Breakup Breakout member of an '80s one-hit wonder band. Played by Real Life artist wonder Garth Brooks.
- The song "King of Rock 'n' Roll" by bookish new wave act Prefab Sprout was about a 50's rocker who is forced to sing his one stupid novelty hit over and over to crowds who only want to hear that one song. In a sad bit of irony, "The King of Rock 'n' Roll" became Prefab Sprout's biggest hit in the UK (they had six other Top 40 singles, but none of them troubled the Top 20), because people only cared about the goofy chorus and nothing more.
- In Dead Island, one of the player characters is Sam B, a rapper famous for his one hit, "Who Do You Voodoo, Bitch?"
- Phineas and the Ferbtones in Phineas and Ferb, for "Gitchee Gitchee Goo". Intentionally, because who would want to do that every day?
"Follow-up single?! Who do you think we are, some two-bit hacks who will keep writing you songs simply because you pay us obscene amounts of cash?! Phineas and the Ferb-Tones are strictly a one-hit wonder. Good day to you, sir!"
- Also, their mother Linda apparently was a one-hit wonder in the 80's with "I'm Lindana and I Wanna Have Fun." Her explanation of this trope was used by the boys as a how-to checklist.
- In My Life as a Teenage Robot, Brad sings a "one hit wonder" song called "Minky Momo".
- Foxxy Love of Drawn Together was formerly a one hit wonder with her band The Foxxy 5, with the song "La La Labia".