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!
- Video: YouTube
Eric Burdon was a hitmaker in the 1960s as the frontman of the Animals, with songs like "We Gotta Get out of This Place" and "House of the Rising Sun." War is a Los Angeles funk and Latin soul band who had hits with "Why Can't We Be Friends" and "Low Rider." Together, they formed Eric Burdon and War and had a smash in 1970's "Spill the Wine," which came to be because of an accident in which someone - you guessed it - spilled wine on a mixing console. Drummer Harold Brown explains:
One day we were up in San Francisco, just playing and stuff. Lonnie (Jordan, keyboard player) came in acting all drunk... they had a bottle of wine, and some of that wine got spilled in the console. Lee (Oskar, harmonica player) says he felt that the song didn't have anything to do with the wine going into the console, but all I know is after that they moved out of the A studio, they moved us into the B studio, and then we were playing a Latin thing, and even if Eric had been writing "Spill the Wine" all along, and writing the concepts, that's when it all came together. I think that Eric was already working on an idea about leaping gnomes waking up in a grassy field, and then when the wine inadvertently got knocked over, whether it was part of the song or not, it all just came together right at that moment.
"Spill the Wine" made its first appearance on Eric Burdon Declares "War" and peaked at No. 3 on Billboard's Hot 100.
1971: 'Mr. Big Stuff' By Jean Knight
Jean Knight's "Mr. Big Stuff" was almost a non-starter. Made by New Orleans producer Wardell Quezergue for Stax, the label didn't quite know what to do with it as it was different than everything else they had done before. But four years after Aretha Franklin's "Respect," it became its own feminist anthem. The song tells the story of a woman who repels a chauvinist's advances saying, "You're never gonna get my love."
Knight made a few other singles after "Mr. Big Stuff," but they never quite matched its success. However, she continues to tour and record, and was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2007.
- Photo: Epic/Legacy / Sony Music Entertainment
"Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)" topped the charts in 1972 and is often rumored to be based on the story of Mary Ellis, though Looking Glass has continuously refuted these claims. Legend has it, right after the American Revolution, Mary Ellis came to New Brunswick, New Jersey, to visit her sister and fell in love with a sea captain who went back out to sea but promised to return and marry her. She maintained a daily vigil by the shore and waited. She even bought property on the river, but he never came back. Today, her gravestone sits in the parking lot of a movie theater near the very spot she waited for her lover to return.
While the group came together at Rutgers University, which is also in New Brunswick, vocalist and writer Elliot Lurie said that the song was based on someone he knew but was otherwise "fiction" and "an incredible coincidence."
- Photo: King Harvest / Collectables
1973: 'Dancing in the Moonlight' By King Harvest
King Harvest's "Dancing in the Moonlight" was the feel-good song of 1973. However, it couldn't have been written under more adverse circumstances. In 1969, when keyboard player/songwriter Sherman Kelly was playing in bands on the Caribbean island of St. Croix, he was jumped by a crew of hoodlums and severly beaten. As he recovered, he imagined a perfect world in which people from all walks of life experienced joy and peace. They celebrated life while dancing under the moonlight. It was this idea that inspired the song.
Previously unreleased music by Sherman Kelly was put out over 30 years after this song topped the charts, but none of it has garnered as much attention as "Dancing in the Moonlight."