The term “one-hit wonder” refers to an artist who enjoys a hit on the national US chart — most specifically the Billboard Hot 100’s Top 40. Other factors such as hits on Billboard’s genre-specific charts, success in other regions or countries, or membership in more prominent acts won’t affect an artist’s status as a one-hit wonder. The 80s had lots of one-hit wonders, but we only picked the few who we think made remarkable, albeit quite brief, musical moments in that decade.
American pop-rock singer Amy Holland rose on the Billboard pop chart via her debut single “How Do I Survive.” A cover of The Paul Bliss Band, Holland’s version peaked at #22 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1980. Her self-titled debut album, which contained the single and was produced by Doobie Brother Michael McDonald, reached #146 on the Billboard 200. Her follow-ups, however, failed to chart. Since then, Holland has appeared on several records as a backing vocalist.
American actress, singer and Broadway star Bernadette Peters also made a foray into recording career. In 1980, Peter’s single “Gee Whiz” reached the Billboard Top 40 pop chart at #31; it also peaked at #3 on the Billboard’s adult contemporary singles chart. The singles’ album, also her debut outing named Bernadette Peters, reached #114 on the Billboard 200 chart that same year.
Although her recording career is not successful as her acting career, Peters otherwise has recorded a total of six albums and has released several singles.
Englishwoman Charlie Dore is a multifaceted talent — she is a singer, songwriter, actress, and comedienne who specializes in improvisation. Starting her music career by playing in clubs and pubs around London, Dore attained success in early 1980 with her memorable single “Pilot of the Airwaves,” a self-penned song. The single rose to #13 on the Billboard Hot 100, but only reached #66 in her home country, the UK.
Although Dore would never achieve another big hit, her song “Pilot of the Airwaves” will always be an enduring radio airplay favorite.
British singer-songwriter and musician Gary Numan started his musical journey by joining several punk and new wave bands. In 1979 he released his debut album The Pleasure Principle, whose single “Cars” made its American chart debut in March 1980. It eventually peaked at #9 on the Billboard Hot 100. It topped the UK charts as well during the same period.
Although Numan went on to have a string of hits in his homeland, “Cars” would be his only US Top 40 hit. Nevertheless, the song has been a classic new wave/electro-pop/synth-pop staple ever since its release. As for Numan himself, he has been enjoying his status as a cult figure.
Funk/disco/R&B act Lipps Inc. reached the pinnacle of success with their single “Funkytown.” It went all the way to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming their highest-charting and only Top 10 pop hit in early 1980s. It also went to #1 on the Billboard dance singles chart. The group, the brainchild of songwriter and producer Steven Greenberg, scored several other Top 10 dance hits.
“Funkytown” was actually a massive worldwide hit, reaching number in 28 countries. But disco had begun to decline later, and so had Lipps Inc. chart action. They disbanded in 1985.
Jim Steinman is an American songwriter and record producer, known principally for his work with singer Meat Loaf. But Steinman did have a stint as a recording artist… well, sort of. In 1981, he released his solo album Bad for Good, which carried the single “Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through.” The single was written and produced by Steinman (as were the rest of the songs on the album). Although singer Rory Dodd did the vocals of the song, it was otherwise credited to Steinman himself. In fact, in the single’s music video, Steinman is seen lip-synching the lyrics.
“Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through” reached the Billboard Top 40, peaking at #32 in 1981. It was to be the only charting single of Steinman’s career as a recording artist. Meat Loaf also recorded and released his own version of the song in 1994, which reached #14 on the pop chart.
Rocky Burnette has an interesting background. He came from a family of musicians: his father is the late rock and roll and rockabilly pioneer Johnny Burnette, his uncle is the late rockabilly musician Dorsey Burnette, and his cousin is country musician and former Fleetwood Mac member Billy Burnette.
So it’s no surprise that Rocky himself became one of the leading figures who led the rockabilly revival in the 1980s. His single “Tired of Toein’ the Line” rose to #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the summer of 1980. The following year, he embarked on a European tour together with the newest (and final) version of Rock and Roll Trio, a band which both his father and uncle used to lead in the 1950s. Rocky Burnette has continued to record and tour and has become a cult figure.
The daughter of country music legend Johnny Cash and his first wife Vivian, Roseanne Cash embarked on her own career in music. Despite having numerous singles that graced the top 10 country chart, Cash is still regarded as a one-hit wonder.
In 1981, her single “Seven Year Ache” reached #22 on the Billboard pop chart. It also entered the top 10 on the Billboard adult contemporary singles chart, peaking at #6. Her other single, “Blue Moon with Heartache,” bubbled under the Hot 100 in 1982.
Cash was able to come out of her father’s shadow and firmly established her place on the country music scene through her natural talents. She used to be one of the pioneers of the “new country” sub-genre and blossomed into an intelligent songwriter, as well.
West Coast rock band Sneaker had strong connections to Steely Dan, due to the fact that they had actual associations with the latter band’s members. Jeff “Skunk” Baxter stood as Sneaker’s producer, while SD lead singer Donald Fagen and guitarist Walter Becker wrote Sneaker’s minor hit “Don’t Let Me In.”
Sneaker’s only major hit was “More Than Just the Two of Us,” which reached #34 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1982. It also peaked at #17 on the Billboard’s adult contemporary singles chart. The follow-up “Don’t Let Me In” didn’t chart very high, and fell off the charts after a mere five weeks there. After the release of their second album, the band called it quits in 1983.
American pop singer-songwriter Steve Forbert entered the music business in 1978, where he released a critically-acclaimed album Alive on Arrival. Late in the following year, Forbert released his sophomore effort Jackrabbit Slim which contained the single “Romeo’s Tune.” It peaked at #13 on the Billboard Top 40 pop chart, while it landed at its peak position at #13 on the adult contemporary singles chart in early 1980.
Forbert’s lack of other major-league success, however, had him consigned to hit the indie circles. Early in the new millennium, Forbert released two compilations that featured rare and unreleased material as well as several live recordings.
New Jersey’s The Sugarhill Gang formed in 1973, with its original members Wonder Mike (born Michael Wright), Big Bank Hank (born Henry Jackson) and Master Gee (born Guy O’Brien). In 1980 the hip-hop trio released their debut album Sugarhill Gang which contained the single “Rapper’s Delight.” It rose to #36 on the Billboard Hot 100, while it charted high on other territories, including the UK. You can also check out the “Rapper’s Delight” album version which runs considerably longer — approximately 14 minutes.
Even though The Sugarhill Gang achieved their only major hit with the song, “Rapper’s Delight” the trio otherwise made significant contributions in the history of popular music. It became the first rap single to crack the Billboard Top 40, and also helped to ignite the popularity of hip-hop/rap to the US, and to many other parts of the world.