• Music

What Was The Biggest One-Hit Wonder The Year You Were Born?

Everybody has their favorite tunes - but do you know the biggest one-hit wonder song the year you were born? Some of the hottest one-hit wonders of the '80s and '90s may seriously surprise you!

Each song has a unique story as to how it was written, what the lyrics mean, and what happened to the artists that performed these classics before and after they had their signature hit. (Hint: some disappeared from the musical landscape completely, while others have ridden a wave of quiet popularity ever since.) 

Enjoy the possible discovery of some new (to you) music or a trip down memory lane!

  • Photo: EMI / Collectables

    1974: 'Magic' By Pilot

    Pilot's "Magic" was a happy-go-lucky hit in 1974. In an interview with Radio Borders, singer David Paton revealed he saw the sunrise in Edinburgh's Blackford Hill neighborhood and found inspiration as it rose over the mountains.

    At about the same time, his wife had told him she'd "never been awake to see a daybreak." Paton committed that line to memory and created the one-hit wonder of the year. 

    • Photo: Carl Douglas / 20th Century Fox / Fair Use

      1975's "Kung Fu Fighting" was a massive hit for singer Carl Douglas, who wrote the song as a danceable homage to the "chopsocky" film genre of the late '60s and early '70s.  The song takes its melody from an easy-to-recognize riff which was created sometime in the 1840s and has lived on as a Western caricature of Chinese music. "Kung Fu Fighting" was recorded in the last 10 minutes of a recording session, and Douglas had no idea he had such a big smash on his hands: 

      I went over the top on the huhs and the hahs and the chopping sounds. It was a B-side. Who was going to listen?

      Well, everyone. "Kung Fu Fighting" sold over 11 million records worldwide and made VH1's 100 Greatest One-Hit Wonders list.


      • Photo: Wild Cherry / Epic

        Wild Cherry was a hard rock band trying to make it in the age of disco. They played gigs in Pittsburgh clubs at the genre's peak, but weren't terribly popular with audiences. During one such show, drummer Ron Beitle ordered vocalist Rob Parissi to “play that funky music, white boy” and inspiration struck. Legend has it Parissi wrote down the phrase on an order slip.

        Parissi didn't quite understand the song's strength, however. He wanted it to be the B-side of the band's cover of the Commodores’ “I Feel Sanctified.” Luckily, he was talked out of this by Wild Cherry's record company, Sweet City, and the rest is history.


        • Photo: Debby Boone / Warner Bros.

          Debby Boone's "You Light Up My Life" was a smash when it was released in 1977 and it sat in the top position on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for seven weeks. However, the song, from a movie of the same name released that summer, has a dark history. It was originally recorded by unknown Kasey Cisyk for the version used in the film, but producer Joseph Brooks went with Boone's version instead. Cisyk never revealed why Brooks didn't use her version, although her husband, Ed Rakowicz, later said it was because she had declined Brooks's advances. 

          He may have been right, as Brooks was charged with forcing himself on nearly a dozen women in 2009. He took his own life before he was scheduled to face trial.