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1970s One-Hit-Wonders: 20 Songs to Get Your Groove On

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If you’re anything like us here at FamilyWise, quarantine has made you more retrospective and nostalgic than ever. There is just something about the funk and soul of this decade that has permeated the music and culture of every decade following it. It’s a widely accepted fact that music is one of the best forms of free therapy there is, so if you’re overwhelmed by the state of the world in 2020, you’ve come to the right place.

To quell some of your stress and those pesky “good ole’ days” feels, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best 1970s one-hit-wonders to ever hit the charts. Feel free to put on your dancing shoes, get up off the couch, and shake your groove thing!

20 One-Hit-Wonders of the 1970s

1. “Kung-Fu Fighting” – Carl Douglas (1974)

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Source: spotify.com

If you’ve ever seen the movie Kung-Fu Panda, you could probably belt out this song’s chorus by heart while attempting to karate chop through a block of wood. The 1974 classic was produced as a B-side backup plan in under ten minutes, according to producer Biddo–which makes the fact that it topped the UK charts and sold over 10 million copies worldwide that much more impressive.

2. “Play That Funky Music” – Wild Cherry (1976)

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Source: stereogum.com

There’s a reason it’s impossible to read the words “play that funky music, white boy,” without intuitively singing them in your head. This song is that reason. “Play That Funky Music” was initially recorded as B-side, but when record-label owners heard its groovy bass and sappy vocals, they insisted it be released as A-side. The song was a hit, selling a total of over 2 million copies at the time of its release.

3. “The Boys Are Back in Town” – Thin Lizzy (1976)

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Source: discogs.com

There is no greater way to wake yourself up than to this song blasting at full volume. Who needs coffee when you’ve got three dudes with out-of-this-world hairstyles and guitars screaming confidence at you? This song topped charts in both the US and the UK, and it even made The Rolling Stone’s 500 greatest songs of all time.

4. “Hooked on a Feeling” – Blue Swede (1974)

If you’re like most people of today’s generation, you probably first heard this in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy and thought to yourself “Wow, I really like this song.” The familiar “ooga-shaka ooga-shaka” tune took the #1 spot in the US charts in 1974, despite being performed by an obscure Swedish band that no one at the time had ever heard of.

5. “My Sharona” – The Knack (1979)

This is one of the most iconic seventies songs ever, mostly because of the story behind it. “My Sharona” was inspired by the actual Sharona Alperin, who The Knack’s lead singer Doug Fieger actually met and fell in love with!

6. “You Light Up My Life” – Debby Boon (1977)

This was the love song to top all love songs. Pretty much every romantic event from a high school prom to a wedding reception featured this song, and anyone who lived through the 70s definitely still knows the lyrics by heart.

7. “Dancing in the Moonlight” – King Harvest (1972)

The French-American rock group, King Harvest, took inspiration for this song from a surprisingly sad event. While traveling in the Caribbean, the band’s pianist and songwriter, Sherman Kelly, was brutally attacked by a group of gang members. While in the hospital, he imagined what a peaceful and harmonious world might look like, and from that experience, gained the inspiration for the lyrics to this Billboard’s top 100 hit.

8. “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” – Looking Glass (1972)

This familiar tune is yet another example of Marvel’s far-reaching cultural influence. Showing up on the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 soundtrack back in 2017, this song made a comeback upon release of the film and has been listened to by modern Marvel fans–and their grandparents–with fondness ever since.

9. “I Love the Nightlife (Disco Round)” – Alicia Bridges (1978)

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Source: amazon.com

This OG disco jam topped the charts in France and Germany and made #5 on the US Hot 100 Billboard charts. It was released as a single and became popular in nightclubs across the US and Europe, probably because of its liberating message. When you don’t wanna’ deal with your man, just head out to the disco and boogie the night away!

10. “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” – McFadden & Whitehead (1979)

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Source: discogs.com

To this day, this catchy tune is one of the most motivational melodies of all time. Upon its release, the song soared to #1 on the R&B charts and has maintained its spot in the 70s top 40 for decades. If you’re in need of some high-quality motivation, this is the song for you.

11. “Cruel to Be Kind” – Nick Lowe (1979)

This classic tune peaked at #12 in the US, UK, and New Zealand. Part of the song’s inherent charm is its poetic license. Lowe based the title of the song off of a line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “I must be cruel only to be kind / Thus mad begins and worse remains behind.”

12. “What the World Needs Now / Abraham, Martin and John” – Tom Clay (1971)

At the time of its release, this song was an artistic breakthrough, portraying a political message through music and incorporating historical speeches into its lyrics. It quickly rose to #8 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and sold over 1 million copies at the time of its release.

13. “O-o-h Child” – Five Stairsteps (1970)

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Source: popsike.com

In 2014, the release of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy launched this song to the #1 spot in the US. Though it technically peaked the charts twice, sitting at #8 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in the year 1970, the song still qualifies as a one-hit-wonder. (P.S. It’s also really fun to dance around to in your kitchen.)

14. “Stuck in the Middle With You” – Stealers Wheel (1973)

This widely popular song was initially written as a parody of Bob Dylan’s paranoia with an added pop arrangement. To songwriter Gerry Rafferty’s surprise, however, it sold more than a million copies. In 1992, it also experienced a resurgence in popularity when it was featured in the Quentin Tarantino film, Reservoir Dogs.

15. “Magic” – Pilot (1974)

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Source: amazon.com

Even if you think you haven’t heard this song, you could probably sing the chorus from memory. When it was released, it hit the charts at #5 in the US and #11 in the UK, and has since been covered multiple times by artists like Olivia Newton-John, The Cars, and Selena Gomez.

16. “House of the Rising Sun” – Frijid Pink (1970)

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Source: discogs.com

This song is a classic melody that has been sung by artists for generations. Its historical origins vary, but the song was first ever recorded by Texas Alexander in the 1920s and subsequently reperformed by Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie, Josh White, Nina Simone, and countless other artists. Frijid Pink’s version rose to #4 in the UK and #7 on US charts in 1970.

17. “Mr. Big Stuff” – Jean Knight (1971)

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Source: discogs.com

Jean Knight reemphasized the essence of soul with this 1971 sass melody that charted #2 in America and maintained its #1 position in the R&B category for sixteen consecutive weeks. The song was also nominated for a Grammy and went double platinum. Its blunt and beautiful message is both empowering and unforgettable.

18. “Cat’s in the Cradle” – Harry Chapin (1974)

This is one of the more heartbreaking titles on our list, but it’s a song that tells an important story of a father and son and the complexities of their roles. If you’re in the mood for some more introspective, nostalgic melodies, this would be a good one to start with. Plus, it topped US charts… and that ain’t too shabby.

19. “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” – The Charlie Daniels Band (1979)

If you think you’ve heard country music before, prepare yourself for a whole new level of grassroots and gunslinger! This song’s got the classic western/southern feel with a wonky seventies twist. It rose to the top of the charts, sitting at #1 in country, #3 in the US, and even making #14 in the UK.

20. “Turn the Beat Around” – Vicki Sue Robinson (1976)

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Source: discogs.com

There’s no question that this is one of the more iconic tunes on our list. Vicki Sue Robinson pursued a successful Broadway career both before and after her dive into the commercial music sphere, which technically makes her the literal definition of a one-hit-wonder. This song topped out at #10 on US charts and even won a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Female Vocal.

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