National One-Hit Wonder Day
annually on September 25th (since 1990)
Steven Rosen in 1990
Music & Sound
"Earth Angel," "Do You Love Me," "Wipe Out," "96 Tears," "Macarena," "Tubthumping," "MMMBop," and "Flagpole Sitta"—it's almost certain more people recognize these song titles than know who sang them. That's because of something else unique to them—they were all put out by one-hit wonders! National One-Hit Wonder Day, celebrated today, honors the one-hit wonders of rock & roll. It was created in 1990 by Steven Rosen, a music and culture journalist who was then based in Denver and editor of One Shot, a music fanzine, in honor of his 40th birthday. He had realized some of his favorite Top 40 songs were by artists who had never had another Top 40 hit years later—songs like "Psychotic Reaction" by the Count Five and "Smoky Places" by the Corsairs—and began to wonder what else these artists had done that never reached the charts.
What does Rosen consider a one-hit wonder? Any artist who had just one Top 40 hit is the most straightforward definition. But he bends this rule to also include artists who might have had another record that just squeaked into the Top 40, but is largely forgotten today, generally because it is so overshadowed by the other hit record. He places Tommy Tutone's "867-5309/Jenny" into this category. (Hanson's song "MMMBOP"—which was ubiquitous in 1997 and still reverberates today, particularly with millennials—would also fall into this category.) Similar criteria are used by a number of authoritative voices in the music world.
Decades after creating the holiday, Rosen was working as a journalist in Cincinnati, where he originally was from, when the Cincinnati & Hamilton County Public Library asked him to be part of their Musical Monday series. In 2022, he spun one-hit wonder records in honor of the day, at the just-renovated North Plaza at the Downtown Main Library.
How to Observe National One-Hit Wonder Day
- Listen to the hit songs of artists who were one-hit wonders, particularly those in the rock & roll genre. There are a number of reference lists to help you find songs:
- Wikipedia's one-hit wonders in the United States and around the world lists.
- Medium's "The Complete List of True One-Hit Wonders."
- Paste's "50 Greatest One-Hit Wonders of All Time."
- Rate Your Music's one-hit wonder lists of the '70s and '80s.
- Request one-hit wonder songs from a radio station, or, if you are a disc jockey, play one-hit wonders for the day.
- Listen to the discography of one-hit wonders and see what other music they have released besides their one hit.
- Check out work by the creator of the day, Steven Rosen.
- Check if any National One-Hit Wonder Day events are being held near you or elsewhere, such as at the Cincinnati & Hamilton County Public Library.
- Pick up a copy of The Billboard Book of One-Hit Wonders.