What do music artists Divinyls, Hanson, Bobby McFerrin, a-ha, The Pack and Grouplove have in common?

No, it's not that most people only vaguely remember them — if they remember them at all.

They were all one-hit wonders.

Although they may have released multiple albums — a-ha, for instance, released 10 — they only had one hit single in the U.S. throughout their entire careers.

Why bring up these footnotes in history? Because last Thursday was National One-Hit Wonder Day. Don't feel bad if you didn't know there was such a thing. Although it was created in 1990, it doesn't get a whole lot of attention.

Being a one-hit wonder is not necessarily a terrible thing. To have a hit single at all is a major accomplishment. For example, there were 50 one-hit wonders in the 1970s alone, and a couple of them — Starland Vocal Band's "Afternoon Delight" and Debby Boone's "You Light Up My Life" — won Grammys as Record of the Year (although both are absolutely horrid).

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Shawn Ryan

And some of the one-hitters hit No. 1 on the charts, including Wild Cherry's "Play That Funky Music," Sheriff's "When I'm With You," Alannah Myles' "Black Velvet," Vertical Horizon's "Everything You Want," the Chainsmokers' "Closer," to name just a few. There are plenty more.

But yeah, some one-hit wonders are absolute dreck, ice pick-in-the-ears bad: Boone's "You Light Up My Life," "Ice Ice Baby" by Vanilla Ice, "I'm Too Sexy" by Right Said Fred.

Some are pure novelty tunes — "Disco Duck" by Rick Dees, "Gimme Dat Ding" by The Pipkins, "Kung Fu Fighting" by Carl Douglas, "Whoomp! (There It Is) by Tag Team, "Macarena" by Los del Rio — memorable only because they're intentionally stupid or weird.

Even bad ones, though, have value because they can take us back to the time in our lives when we heard them.

For me, it includes songs like "In the Summertime" by Mungo Jerry, "O-o-h Child" by the Five Stairsteps and "Spirit in the Sky" by Norman Greenbaum. I heard them coming out of the crummy little transistor radio that hung from the spider handlebars of my bike while I delivered copies of the Atlanta Journal. It was seventh grade, the year I plunged headfirst into my lifelong love of music.

Those memories are worth keeping, even if, as an adult, you realize the songs are kind of dumb.

Contact Shawn Ryan at


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