One Hit Wonder: Why the Bad Rap?
I’m not sure why we quickly dismiss the so called ‘one hit wonder’. Sometimes we we’re referring to the song itself, but often, we’re referring to the artist that achieved that feat. In American pop-culture, one hit wonders are simultaneously viewed as an aberration and at the same time, a marvel. And yet here they are peppering the musical landscape world-wide, defiantly living well despite location or genre. So what are they really?
A one-hit wonder is described by music journalist Wayne Jancik as “an act that has won a position on the national, pop, top 40 record chart just once.” This definition can be found in The Billboard Book of One-Hit Wonders.
This seemingly simple definition becomes more confusing when it includes artists who have achieved greater success outside of their one pop hit and who are not typically thought of as one-hit wonders, while excluding artists who have had multiple hits that have been overshadowed by one signature song, or artists who never made the top 40, but had exactly one song achieve mainstream popularity in some other way. A performer may have numerous hits (or none) in one market but be considered a “one-hit wonder” only in one country or a different musical genre.
The band Shocking Blue, started in 1967 by The Motions guitarist Robbie van Leeuwen, is an illustration of this hazy definition. In 1968, they scored a modest hit with “Lucy Brown is Back in Town.”
After De Wilde went to join the Dutch army in 1968, van Leeuwen met Mariska Veres, who was performing at the time with a club band and encouraged her to take over the singing. The group created a global smash with the song “Venus,” which had debuted at number three in the Netherlands debuting at position #12 on the Veronica Top 40 hit parade. The song was later released in the US and the UK at the end of the year, and in February 1970, it debuted at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 and remained there for three weeks. It soon sold over a million copies there, earning a gold record from the Recording Industry Association of America. Over five million copies have been sold worldwide.
The group had several other international hits, but because only one reached the Top 40 in the US, they were forever deemed a One Hit Wonder. Mmmm, still Rock stars to me.
The list goes on. Other sadly cruelly anointed one hit wonders include the band Stories with their hit Brother Louie. Also ‘I Can Help’ by Billy Swan and what about Walter Murphy’s amazing ‘A Fifth A Beethoven’ – an instrumental for Pete’s sake, and it still managed to break the top 40! There are more. You can read the book or browse the clickbait blogs that seem to shame these artists at every turn. I’ve personally written, recorded and published more than three hundred tunes. None of them broke the top 50 in the US, much less the top 40. Getting there is an amazing feat. These artists deserve respect. – Gary Paul Bryant for Only 70s Radio