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.
9 Gerardo - Rico Suave
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.
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.
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.
5 Toni Basil - Mickey
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.
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.
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.
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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