The 1970s was an amazing decade for music. There was disco, funk, progressive rock, soft rock, and punk rock. The decade launched hugely successful artists who reached the peak of fame and set the musical trends of the era. But of course, the music scene isn’t complete without the one-hit wonders who became wildly popular but later vanished after scoring a big hit (or two) particularly on the US Billboard Hot 100. Although these one-hit wonders actually have had other minor chart successes, audiences mostly identify the artists through their sole biggest hits (if they can identify the artists at all). So here are some one-hit wonders who experienced momentary fame in the 1970s.
After scoring hits mostly on the R&B charts (“This Can’t Be True” and “Am I a Loser”), Holman shot to fame when his single “Hey There Lonely Girl” became a huge hit. It peaked at #2 on Billboard Hot 100, and #4 on the R&B singles chart in early 1970. The single, which was Holman’s rendition of the original record “Hey There Lonely Boy” by Ruby and the Romantics, sold over a million copies and went gold.
After his only big hit, Holman scored minor hits on both pop and R&B charts. He had also been a former member of Philly soul groups The Delfonics and The Stylistics. Nowadays, Holman is a Baptist minister and encourages school youths to become more involved in the performing arts.
Initially formed as a studio act, the British pop group later experienced fame and chart success with their 1970 hit “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes).” It went to #5 on the US pop chart and topped the UK charts, where the single stayed for a total of five weeks. Because of the singles’ success, it prompted the band members to quickly re-assemble themselves as a true pop band in order to perform on the UK musical variety show Top of the Pops. “Love Grows” also reached the top 10 charts of several countries including Canada and South Africa.
Edison Lighthouse experienced lineup shifts, like any other band. They had a minor hit with “It’s Up to You Petula” in 1971, but continued to tour in many parts of the world. They disbanded in the mid-1970s, but reformed in the early 2000’s and have been active performing ever since.
Formed in London, England in the late 1960s, Free scored several hits back home that included “The Stealer,” “My Brother Jake,” “Wishing Well,” and “All Right Now.” In the US, however, it was “All Right Now” that became the band’s biggest hit, peaking at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1970; in the UK it went to #4 in that same year.
Despite their biggest chart smash, Free disbanded in 1971 due to the differences between singer Paul Rodgers and bassist Andy Fraser. The band reunited in 1972 but split up again in 1973, this time for good. By the time of Free’s disbandment, they had sold more than 20 million albums worldwide and performed in over 700 arena and festival concerts.
The Detroit, Michigan acid/blues/psychedelic rock group scored their biggest hit in 1970 with their rendition of the Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun.” It peaked at #7 on the Billboard Hot 100, and #4 on the UK singles chart, selling a million copies and earning a gold disc. The band became really popular, especially in their native Detroit area, that a newcomer rock group named Led Zeppelin once opened for them.
However, their follow-ups “Sing a Song For Freedom” and their version of Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel” failed to duplicate the success of their first single. Despite this and their ever-changing lineup, Frijid Pink still soldiered on. The recent version of Frijid Pink, consisting of all new members, released their latest EP in 2012.
Although considered as a one-hit wonder for her only Top 10 pop hit “Rose Garden,” Lynn Anderson has otherwise had numerous Top 10 country hit singles under her belt. Alternatively titled as “(I Never Promised You a) Rose Garden,” it was written by singer-songwriter and musician Joe South. The single peaked at #3 on the Billboard pop chart, #5 on the adult contemporary singles chart, and #1 on the country singles chart in 1970. It also became popular in the United Kingdom where the song peaked at #3. The huge success of the song magnified Anderson’s crossover appeal, and helped her score many top 10 country hits and a smattering of minor pop and easy listening hits.
“Rose Garden” remains one of the most successful country crossover hits ever. Anderson is still active up to the present, always performing her biggest hit in her live performances including her appearance at the Grand Ole Opry.
Mungo Jerry is a British rock group whose debut single “In the Summertime” remains their most recognizable hit of their career. Formed in 1970, the band achieved their biggest chart smash when their first single “In the Summertime” became a hit on both sides of the Atlantic. Written by the band’s lead singer, Ray Dorset, “In the Summertime” went to #3 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and #1 in the UK.
Although the band would never score another big hit in the States, they remained popular at home. Since the band’s formation up to the present, founder and lead singer Dorset has always been Mungo Jerry’s front man. He is also the only original member still remaining in the band, known for its ever-changing lineup.
American rock singer-songwriter and musician Norman Greenbaum is best known for his only big hit “Spirit in the Sky,” which he also wrote. The single rose to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1970; it became an even bigger hit in the UK where the single topped the charts there.
Though Greenbaum would never be able to score another big hit, and thus is considered as a “one-hit wonder,” several of his other singles placed prominently on the charts. In 2015, Greenbaum was involved in a vehicular accident that left the now-72-year old singer critically injured. Fortunately, he survived.
Many people know the song “Venus” but few are aware of its original artists. The song was first recorded by a Dutch rock band named Shocking Blue, who brought “Venus” into a global hit. Written by the band’s guitarist and vocalist Robbie van Leeuwen and sang by lead vocalist Mariska Veres, “Venus” reached #1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 in 1970. It also became a huge hit in the UK, Australia, Japan, France, Italy, Spain, Canada, and other countries.
The band disintegrated in 1974 when Veres left to launch a solo career. Since then the group had staged several comebacks. Veres died of cancer in 2006.
English pop group Bananarama released a dance-pop version of “Venus” in 1986. This version also became a big hit, topping both the US Billboard pop and dance singles charts that year.
The Five Stairsteps
Chicago soul group The Five Stairsteps formed in the mid-1960s, and had already scored moderate successes on both pop and R&B charts. But it is their single “O-o-h Child” that brought the group into prominence. It reached #8 on the Billboard pop chart in mid-1970, while it went to #14 on the R&B singles chart. The single sold over a million copies and was given a gold disc. The band continued to place moderate hits until they disbanded in 1976. Former member Kenneth “Keni” Burke launched a solo career afterwards.
The group resurfaced three years later under the new moniker The Invisible Man Band but in 1981 they broke up for good. After the split, Burke resumed his solo career.
Although “O-o-h Child” was The Five Stairsteps’ only major hit, it otherwise launched a hundred cover versions by other artists. It was also included on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs list, ranking at #392.
The Tee Set
The Tee Set was a pop rock band hailing from the Netherlands who turned their 1970 single “Ma Belle Amie” into a big chart smash particularly in the US. The song was written by band members Hans Van Ejick and Peter Tetteroo, and first became a big hit in their native country, selling over a hundred-thousand copies there.
When “Ma Belle Amie” was later released in the United States, (on Colossus Records imprint) it immediately took off, eventually reaching #5 on the Billboard Hot 100. The single sold over a million copies and was certified “gold.” Their follow-up single “She Likes Weed” was a chart-topper in their native land, but was otherwise banned in the States, reportedly because of its drug reference. Their next single “If You Do Believe in Love” was a minor hit on the Billboard pop chart in 1970. The group broke up in 1975 but later made a couple of brief reunions.
British rock band Christie entered the US Top 40 charts with their single “Yellow River” in 1970. Founder, lead vocalist, bassist, songwriter and the band’s namesake Jeff Christie had written the song originally intended for The Tremeloes. The Tremeloes then recorded but never released it as they changed their minds. Good thing for Christie though, as they turned “Yellow River” into their own hit.
“Yellow River” topped the UK singles chart and peaked at #23 on the US Billboard pop chart in 1970. The single remained on the Billboard pop chart for a total of 23 weeks, which was the longest-staying single on that chart in 1970. “Yellow River” also became a chart-topper in 26 countries.
Christie failed to sustain their career despite their biggest hit, and broke up in the mid-1970s. In the 1990s Jeff Christie reformed the band with newer members, and together they have remained active performing and recording ever since.