There is an interesting, bittersweet duality when it comes to the concept of the one-hit-wonder in the music business. From the fan’s perspective, we’ve all had favorite songs, by obscure artists, that achieve great success, but are never followed up. The singer or band sinks into obscurity but we are left with that one hit.
On the side of the musicians, one can imagine the satisfaction and incredible rush that would come from hearing one’s work becoming popular, but the frustration of not feeling the same success again. A one-hit wonder is generally understood to be an artist who has one well-known song, generally one that makes at least a few major radio “top song” lists. This makes the “wonder” part, but the “one-hit” aspect of such a career is that no matter what other work the band or singer does, nothing reaches the same level of success as that one song.
There are plenty of one-hit wonders out there who have made a career on one song. Record sales in conjunction with royalty payments can’t compare with ongoing success in terms of fame and fortune, but plenty of these one-hit wonder musicians are able to ride their brief success for decades, remaining in the music business, playing small venues and making other appearances. Here is our list of ten interesting stories about one-hit wonder artists and what they have been up to since their brief time atop the music industry.
10. Quiet Riot – Cum on Feel the Noize
Quiet Riot have achieved some success since Metal Health, the album that featured Cum on Feel the Noize, but ultimately, they still have a one-hit wonder status. The band has had over 20 members since they began, but two of the originals are deceased. Kevin DuBrow, the long-time vocalist, died in 2007 of a cocaine overdose. Randy Rhoads, the guitarist (and one of the greatest of all time, taken far too soon), died in 1982 in a plane crash while trying to buzz Ozzy Osbourne’s bus while they were on tour. If that isn’t a “Rock n’ Roll” way to check out, I don’t know what is. He had left the band a couple of years prior.
The band has disbanded and gotten back together three times now. All four original members have been replaced but they continue to play and create music. Calling the band a one-hit wonder is a controversial statement, as some of their fans think it cheapens the collective legacy of the band. To be clear, in reference to commercial success, they are a one-hit wonder, but with reference to their influences in the world of rock and metal, they are an icon, and remain influential to this day. Also, an important note, and one that many music fans may not know is that Cum on Feel the Noize was a cover, originally performed by Slade.
9. Gerardo – Rico Suave
Gerardo Mejia, the Ecuadorian rapper and actor went on to become an executive in the late 1990’s after his 1991 hit “Rico Suave”. While he was the music industry mind who discovered both Bubba Sparxxx and Enrique Iglesias, many don’t know that, and even fewer know that he is now a youth pastor. He calls himself a “pastor in training” and claims that much of his time these days is spent leading bible studies with young people.
8. Gary Glitter – Rock and Roll
First, I am aware that Gary Glitter had plenty of success in England, but as far as hits that gained fame across the pond, “Rock and Roll Part Two” makes him a one-hit wonder, as far as the United States is considered.
While I’d love to write something with nothing but cool stories about one hit wonder musicians, Gary Glitter’s life since 1999 has been nothing but bad news. There is nothing good about Gary Glitter’s recent history. The “Rock and Roll Part 2” singer’s most noteworthy actions since his music days are shocking and despicable.
In short, the front man who performed probably one of the most iconic sports anthems, has been convicted more than once of sex crimes involving children. Glitter (Paul Gadd) was first convicted for possessing child pornography back in 1999. He received a slap on the wrist, and went to live in Southeast Asia, getting in trouble again for similar grimes. Most recently he was convicted, back in February, of multiple sexual offenses and was sentenced to 16 years in prison.
7. Devo (Mark Mothersbaugh) – Whip It
One of the most painfully catchy songs ever written is 1980’s “Whip It”. I say painfully because between the rhythm, the bass, what can loosely be called the riff, along with the fast, upbeat vocals make this song a pleasure to hear even thirty five years later.
While Devo never achieved a hit quite like “Whip It”, Mothersbaugh has achieved ongoing success composing and in other forms of art. He has been featured in dozens of art museums over that past couple of decades and has produced musical scores for many video games, television shows and movies. A list of the projects with which he has been involved include the Crash Bandicoot and Jak and Daxter video games, movies such as Dumb and Dumber and The Royal Tenenbaums and on television, The Rugrats shows and movies and Peewee’s Playhouse.
6. Terry Jacks – Seasons in the Sun
1974’s “Seasons in the Sun” was a number one hit in Canada, the United States and the UK. The song is based off an earlier French song which is actually funny as it is written with a heavy tone of sarcasm and dark humor. While Jacks achieved great success through the song, it is widely accepted as a poor interpretation.
Terry Jacks would leave the music business just a few years later, however. Now 71, he has spent the last 35 years as one of Canada’s most prominent environmentalist celebrities. He has spoken out against major polluters and has also produced several environmental documentaries.
5. Toni Basil – Mickey
I sing this song to myself every morning in front of the mirror. I replace the name “Mickey” with my own name but the rest is the same. It’s a great way to wake up, much better than coffee. Toni Basil reached the top of her fame after “Mickey” but had an almost thirty year acting career and has more recently turned her efforts to choreography. She has been a judge in numerous dancing competitions and has continued to work choreographing major events such as performances honoring Prince William and Kate.
4. The Vapors – Turning Japanese
Another great hit from 1980 was “Turning Japanese” by the English group The Vapors. The song was biggest in Canada and Australia, reaching number one status on both countries, but also hit major success in the UK and United States. The song is actually a tragic song about losing in the game of love, but fans of the Jackass movies may think of it as a great track for pandas dancing with pedestrians.
David Fenton, who sang for The Vapors, is now a lawyer who works for the Musicians’ Union, helping artists with their legal problems and inquiries. He has had this job for over fifteen years.
Edward Bazalgette, the guitarist for the band, stayed in show business as well, having produced and directed for television shows. Some of his more noteworthy contributions have been seven episodes of Top Gear and two episodes of Doctor Who.
3. Tag Team – Whoomp! (There It Is)
Steve Gibson (Steve Roll’n) and Cecil Glenn (DC The Brain Supreme) came up with this gem in 1993, and it is one of the catchiest tunes ever made. It’s an upbeat, early 90’s rap anthem that can be used to celebrate or at sporting events. For some background however, when asked about “Whoomp, there it is”, DC commented that it was a reference to a strip club, to paraphrase DC himself; when a dancer finally has everything off “whoomp, there it is!” He was a DJ at a strip club at the time and that onomatopoetic expression became their massive hit.
They were unable to achieve much success with later work, and stopped making music in 1995. There was a lawsuit over the sampling of the song (involving the group Kano), and their label lost a great deal of money, as did the duo. With the amount that the song is still played, whether in movies or television shows, they still collect money every year. DC continued to DJ in strip clubs but more recently, found work voice acting and in the field of marketing. Steve Roll’n sold marijuana for a couple of years but was caught and sat in prison until 2001. He started a record label Merciless Music, but the artists with whom he has worked with have not generated as much hype as “Whoomp”.
2. C.W. McCall – Convoy
The song Convoy, has a place in the heart of any lifelong fan of The Simpsons, but there is some discussion in the country music community over whether C.W. McCall (William Fries) can be considered a one-hit wonder. For our purposes, he is, although his fans will disagree. He performed the song in 1975 and it became a number one in both the United States and Canada. The catchy tune, along with the rebellious trucking theme and McCall’s own storytelling, made this a favorite and helped start the fad of citizens band radio in the United States, which took place in the mid-70’s.
With regard to William Fries (C.W. McCall was a pseudonym), he gradually stopped making music and in 1986, was elected as mayor of Ouray, Colorado, a town of about 1,000 people. He served six years and has been travelling across the country ever since, according to his website.
1. The Sugarhill Gang – Rapper’s Delight
This was the first major rap hit in the United States and many consider the song to have started the popularization of the genre. As a group, Sugarhill Gang did not achieve any other significant hits but they are considered to be among the pioneers of hip hop.
Henry “Big Bank Hank” Jackson died in November 2014 of cancer, but the other two members of the group are still kicking. There has been major criticism of the group due to alleged stealing of rhymes, but for our purposes, Big Bank Hank, Michael “Wonder Mike” Wright and Guy “Master Gee” O’Brien are pioneers in the rap business.
Wonder Mike is a born again Christian and has been mostly quiet in his pseudo-retirement from music. He and Master Gee still tour and perform from time to time, under the name “Rapper’s Delight”.
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