The term “one-hit wonder” tends to come with a negative connotation, but many acts who fall under that category created songs that continue to resonate generations after their original release.

Take “Spirit in the Sky,” for example. The Norman Greenbaum classic, with its familiar fuzzed-out guitar sound, was a hit in 1970 and proved to be the only marquee success of his career. Still, “Spirit in the Sky” is undoubtedly one of the most recognizable songs of its era, and has been used in more than 100 TV shows and movies.

Many classic one-hit wonders continued making music even after their initial star faded. Some found further success in different groups, and others changed career paths entirely.

We’ve rounded up 20 one-hit wonders from the '70s and investigated what happened next. For the sake of our list, we defined one-hit wonders as artists who never again reached the U.S. Top 20.

We also used our best judgment regarding acts whose influence cannot be judged on commercial success alone. For example, Thin Lizzy is not on our list. They only had one hit in the U.S. – 1976’s “The Boys Are Back in Town” – but they enjoyed huge success overseas, especially in the U.K. The same goes for T. Rex, whose “Get it On” was the only song to breach the U.S. Top 40 but justly became glam-rock Rock & Roll Hall of Fame honorees.

Got the rules? Good. Here are 20 one-hit wonders from the '70s, with a look back on how they carried on.

Wild Cherry

The Hit: “Play That Funky Music”
Wild Cherry reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1976 with this undeniably catchy hit. “Play That Funky Music” catapulted the Ohio-based funk-rock band's self-titled album to platinum sales and a pair of Grammy nominations, but follow-up releases couldn’t keep the momentum going.

Where Are They Now?:
Wild Cherry broke up in 1979, with its members moving on to various other musical endeavors. Lead singer Rob Parissi became a songwriter and producer, notably co-producing Gary U.S. Bonds’ 1981 album Dedication. He later worked in the smooth-jazz genre. Guitarist/vocalist Donnie Iris had success as a solo artist, releasing 10 studio albums with his backing band the Cruisers. Though he landed a few songs within the Top 40 ("Ah! Leah!" at No. 29 in 1980, "Love Is Like a Rock" at No. 37 in 1981, “My Girl” at No. 25 in 1982), none would come close to matching the heights of “Play That Funky Music.” Keyboardist Mark Avsec joined Iris in the Cruisers, playing on all of the band’s albums and contributing as a songwriter. Avesec also penned “She Don’t Know Me,” which Bon Jovi recorded and included on their debut album.

Stealers Wheel

The Hit: “Stuck in the Middle With You”
The Stealers Wheel lineup was in constant flux from day one. Joe Egan and Gerry Rafferty formed the Scottish folk-rock band then released a self-titled debut album in November 1972. “Stuck in the Middle With You” reached the Top 10, but Rafferty soon left. He returned but Stealers Wheel couldn’t replicate their breakout single's commercial appeal on any of their other tunes. The closest they came was with 1973’s “Star,” which stalled out at No. 29 in the U.S. Stealers Wheel officially broke up in 1975, prior to the release of their third album, Right or Wrong.

Where Are They Now?:
Egan and Rafferty pursued solo careers after Stealers Wheel ended. Of them, Rafferty found the most success, specifically with his 1978 solo album City to City. Powered by the huge hit “Baker Street,” the LP sold more than a million copies in the U.S. and more than 5 million across the globe. Rafferty would go on to release 10 solo albums before liver failure as a result of years of alcoholism led to his death in 2011. Egan contributed to Rafferty’s 1992 LP On a Wing & a Prayer, but stayed out of the public eye. He was reportedly living a quiet life in Paisley, Scotland.

Carl Douglas

The Hit: “Kung Fu Fighting”
In the world of disco novelty songs, none was bigger than Carl Douglas’ “Kung Fu Fighting.” He topped the charts in both America and the U.K. in 1974, selling more than 11 million copies worldwide. That made Douglas, who was raised in England, the first Jamaican artist to ever hit No. 1 in the U.S. He attempted to ride the “Kung Fu Fighting” wave further with follow-up single “Dance the Kung Fu,” but didn’t receive the same response.

Where Are They Now?:
Douglas only released a total of three albums, the last of which came out in 1978. But “Kung Fu Fighting” has maintained a presence in pop-culture over the years, appearing in such films as Wayne’s World 2, Kung Fu Panda and Bowfinger. Royalties and publishing fees likely provided steady income to Douglas, who reportedly ventured into the business side of music after relocating to Germany.

Starland Vocal Band

The Hit: “Afternoon Delight”
Songwriting duo Bill Danoff and Taffy Nivert were married in 1972, shortly after their song "Take Me Home, Country Roads" became a hit for John Denver. The couple recruited Jon Carroll and Margot Chapman to complete the Starland Vocal Band. They scored a No. 1 with their debut single, “Afternoon Delight,” in 1976. The group suddenly won two Grammys, including Best New Artist – where the Starland Vocal Band beat out Boston, among others – and briefly even had their on TV variety show. Interest waned, however, after they were unable to produce another hit song. Starland Vocal Band split in 1981, and Carroll and Chapman divorced. Danoff and Nivert would soon follow suit.

Where Are They Now?:
Danoff continued songwriting after Starland Vocal Band, including several further collaborations with Denver prior to his death in 1997. Danoff has also served as a college professor teaching students about songwriting and the music industry. Nivert occasionally reunited with her ex-husband to perform Starland Vocal Band material, before reportedly retiring to Florida in 2013. Carroll carved out a long career as a songwriter and musician, penning the 1982 hit “Get Closer” for Linda Ronstadt and regularly working with country singer Mary Chapin Carpenter. He continued to maintain a busy performance schedule, touring mainly on the East coast. Chapman married a doctor and retired, splitting her time between New Mexico and West Virginia.

The Buggles

The Hit: “Video Killed the Radio Star”
The Buggles was comprised of singer and bassist Trevor Horn and keyboardist Geoff Downes. The English New Wave duo was only active for a five-year span between 1977 and 1982, but they still cemented their place as one of history’s greatest one-hit wonders. “Video Killed the Radio Star,” a quirky, catchy tune that hit No. 1 in five countries including the U.K., arrived in 1979. The song only reached No. 40 in America, but earned much more attention a couple of years later when it became the first music video to air on MTV in August 1981.

Where Are They Now?:
The Buggles were briefly absorbed into Yes, when Horn and Downes joined for a stint from 1980-81. After Yes broke up and the Buggles disbanded, Downes joined the supergroup Asia, sometimes appearing as its lone original member. Downes also rejoined Yes in 2011. Horn, meanwhile, went on to a highly successful career as a record producer. His resume would include stints with Yes, as well as Paul McCartney, Seal, Tina Turner, Tom Jones, Cher and Simple Minds.

Norman Greenbaum

The Hit: “Spirit in the Sky”
Norman Greenbaum’s music career originally began with Dr. West's Medicine Show and Junk Band, a novelty group for which he served as vocalist and bandleader. In the late ‘60s, he branched into folk as a solo artist. When “Spirit in the Sky” caught the ear of executives at Reprise Records, they handed Greenbaum over to producer Erik Jacobsen, who reworked the track into a thumping, psychedelic rocker. Released in December 1969, “Spirit in the Sky” became a massive hit, peaking at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in April 1970 and selling more than 2 million copies. Greenbaum never approached the top of the chart again, coming closest with his No. 46 1970 single “Canned Ham.” He later revealed that “Spirit in the Sky” had been inspired by his love of westerns.

Where Are They Now?:
Greenbaum only released two more albums following the success of “Spirit in the Sky.” He moved to Northern California and eventually got into the restaurant business, working as a chef, only occasionally returning to the stage to perform his classic track at concert events and charity functions. Meanwhile, “Spirit in the Sky” has been used in a long and impressive list of films and TV shows, including Apollo 13, Remember the Titans, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Simpsons, Shameless and many more.

Terry Jacks

The Hit: “Season in the Sun”
Terry Jacks first made waves as a teen thanks to his band the Chessmen, who scored a couple of minor hits in Canada before he moved onto his next group, the Poppy Family. The psychedelic-pop group found international success behind tunes like “Which Way You Goin' Billy?,” which peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1969. By 1972, however, the the Poppy Family had broken up. Jacks, who occasionally released material outside of his respective groups, began focusing on solo material. “Seasons in the Sun” had originally been written for the Beach Boys, but when they opted not to release it, Jacks recorded his own version. It reached No. 1 in the U.S. and other countries around the world, eventually selling more than 14 million copies. The Canadian singer-songwriter released a total of four studio albums between 1974 and 1987, but “Seasons in the Sun” remains his only solo hit.

Where Are They Now?:
Jacks initially withdrew from the spotlight and instead worked behind the scenes, producing material for various other artists. He then turned his attention away from music and instead focused on a different cause: environmentalism. Beginning in the ‘80s and continuing for decades, Jacks dedicated himself to pollution issues in Canada. He took on pulp mills and paper industries, lobbying for harsher fines against companies that skirted environmental laws. Jacks' work earned him several awards, including recognition from the United Nations.

Looking Glass

The Hit: “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)”
Looking Glass formed at Rutgers University in 1969, co-founded by guitarist/vocalist Elliot Lurie and pianist Larry Gonsky. Drummer Jeff Grob and bassist Pieter Sweval later joined, rounding out the classic lineup. Looking Glass' self-titled 1972 debut album featured the song "Brandy (You're a Fine Girl),” a breezy soft-rock track that told the story of a bartender whose “eyes could steal a sailor from the sea." The song hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in August 1972, but Looking Glass was never again able to reach such lofty heights. The closest they came was with the 1973 single "Jimmy Loves Mary-Anne," which petered out at No. 33. The group went through lineup fluctuation and name changes in 1974, before eventually disbanding in 1985.

Where Are They Now?:
Lurie pursued a solo career after leaving Looking Glass, but found little success. He then began working on material for other artists, becoming an in-house songwriter for Chappell Music. By 1985, he'd been named head of the music department at 20th Century Fox, focusing on their soundtracks. Lurie quickly become a major Hollywood music supervisor, working on films such as Jumpin' Jack Flash, Stuart Little, A Night at the Roxbury and Urban Legend. Gonsky, meanwhile, took his career in a different direction, becoming a music teacher in New Jersey. Grob went even further afield with his career, working as a landscape architect in New York. Fate, sadly, was not so kind to Sweval. The bassist died in 1990 at the age of 41.

King Harvest

The Hit: “Dancing in the Moonlight”
King Harvest’s original four members – Dave "Doc" Robinson (vocals/bass), Ron Altbach (keyboards), Ed Tuleja (guitar) and Rod Novak (saxophone) – initially formed in 1969 in Ithaca, N.Y. They’d break up two years later, but eventually reconvened in Paris later that same year. “Dancing in the Moonlight” followed in 1972, but it took a while to find an audience. In fact, King Harvest temporarily disbanded once more as the tune languished on the charts. “Dancing in the Midnight” slowly began grabbing ears in America, and by 1973 it was a certified hit, reaching No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100. The group toured heavily around this time, but subsequent material never capitalized on their newfound popularity. King Harvest broke up in 1976.

Where Are They Now?:
After King Harvest disbanded, Novak, Altbach and Tuleja toured with the Beach Boys. Altbach co-wrote the Beach Boys song “Lady Lynda” with Al Jardine, while Tuleja and Novak played on Dennis Wilson's 1977 solo album, Pacific Ocean Blue. The four co-founders reunited in 2012 for performances celebrating King Harvest’s 40th anniversary, before Robinson passed away that December. His former bandmates honored his memory with an original song titled “Doc” then released a new album titled Old Friends, followed by the single “Our Old Songs.”

Ace

The Hit: “How Long”
Formed in Sheffield, England, Ace developed an initial following playing at pubs throughout the area. Their first album, Five-a-Side, was released in 1974 and featured the song “How Long.” Penned by frontman Paul Carrack, the track became an unexpected hit, peaking at No. 3 of the Billboard Hot 100 in 1975. Ace released another two albums, Time for Another (1975) and No Strings (1977), before disbanding in July 1977.

Where Are They Now?:
Following the end of Ace, Carrack, bassist Tex Comer and drummer Fran Byrne joined the backing band for Scottish singer Frankie Miller. Carrack later became a keyboardist for Roxy Music before launching a successful solo career with more than a dozen studio albums. Along the way, Carrack also enjoyed a stint in Squeeze and worked as a touring musician for Roger Waters. Still, he is perhaps best-known as a member of Mike + the Mechanics, handling lead vocals on many of their classic tracks, including No. 1 single “In the Living Years.”

Mungo Jerry

The Hit: “In the Summertime”
Founded by guitarist, singer and songwriter Ray Dorset, Mungo Jerry came to wider notice in 1970 after turning heads at the Hollywood Music Festival. Their self-titled debut album was released later that year, but for some reason did not include the stand-alone single "In the Summertime." The happy, carefree tune clicked with audiences across the globe, peaking at No. 3 in the U.S. and reaching No. 1 in more than 15 different countries.

Where Are They Now?:
While “In the Summertime” was Mungo Jerry’s only hit in the U.S., Dorset and company enjoyed much more success in England and further abroad. The 1971 single “Baby Jump” hit No. 1 in the U.K., while “Lady Rose” and “Alright, Alright, Alright” also made the Top 5. Mungo Jerry continued releasing material over the decades, while Dorset maintained a concurrent solo career. Dorset also became a restaurant owner in the English coastal town of Bournemouth, where he settled down. “I should be retired,” he admitted in 2014, “but my brain is like that of an 18 year old.”

Pilot

The Hit: “Magic”
Pilot was formed in 1973 by vocalist/bassist David Paton and keyboardist Billy Lyall, who soon rounded out the classic lineup with drummer Stuart Tosh and guitarist Ian Bairnson. The Scottish rock group’s 1974 debut From the Album of the Same Name spawned the hit song “Magic,” which peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100. They never again reached such heights in America; in fact, none of Pilot's other singles came close to cracking the Top 40.

Where Are They Now?:
Pilot's members had moved on by 1978, as Paton, Tosh and Bairnson joined their debut-album producer in Alan Parsons Project. They occasionally reunited under the Pilot name for performances and recordings, including 2021's The Magic EP. Paton and Bairnson also worked with a long list of other artists, including Kate Bush and Rick Wakeman. Lyall, meanwhile, released a solo album after leaving Pilot and later worked with the band Runner. Sadly, he died of AIDS in 1989.

Ram Jam

The Hit: “Black Betty”
With its thumping beat, infectious guitar and frenetic energy, “Black Betty” was an irresistible rock hit. The tune actually preceded Ram Jam, as vocalist/guitarist Bill Bartlett had laid down the track – his reimagining of an African American folk song – prior to their formation. “Black Betty” peaked at No. 18 in the U.S., while enjoying a long life licensed in films and television shows. Unfortunately, none of Ram Jam’s further output ever matched this 1977 single’s success.

Where Are They Now?:
Bartlett confirmed in 2011 that he “retired long ago” because he no longer “had the stomach” for the music industry. Former Ram Jam guitarist Jim Santoro made a new life as a music teacher in New York, and continued performing as part of the duo Lis and Jim. Myke Scavone, who provided further vocals and percussion in Ram Jam, turned to work with his own band the Doughboys – and also became a member of the Yardbirds in 2015.

Mountain

The Hit: “Mississippi Queen”
Mountain’s career was powerful, yet brief. The group formed in 1969 behind the guitar and vocal prowess of Leslie West. The lineup was filled out by Felix Pappalardi on bass, keyboardist Steve Knight and drummer Corky Laing, whose initial run lasted through three studio albums between 1970-72. The No. 21 hit “Mississippi Queen” was the band’s biggest hit, and their only single to crack the Top 40. Unlike other one-hit wonders, Mountain was highly influential, credited with having aided the rise of heavy metal in the '70s. The group reunited a various times over the years, eventually releasing a total of eight studio albums.

Where Are They Now?:
West’s post-Mountain career included collaborations with a long list of musicians, including Bo Diddley, Ian Gillan, Joe Bonamassa and Ozzy Osbourne. Health issues plagued West later in life, as diabetes and bladder cancer each took their toll. He died in 2020 at the age of 75. Pappalardi retired from performing after suffering partial deafness, but continued a successful career as a producer that began before Mountain with such acts as Cream and the Yardbirds. Tragically, Pappalardi was shot and killed by his wife in 1983. After Mountain, Knight worked as a sound engineer and songwriter, mainly in the jazz genre. He died of Parkinson’s disease in 2013. Laing collaborated with a long list of artists, including Meat Loaf and Mick Ronson.

Nazareth

The Hit: “Love Hurts”
Being a one-hit wonder doesn’t always correlate with a short career. After all, Nazareth boasts an impressive discography with more than two dozen studio albums. Despite a long career and hugely dedicated fan base, however, the Scottish hard rock group has only one hit to their name: “Love Hurts,” which reached No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1974, and spurred their album Hair of the Dog to platinum sales.

Where Are They Now?:
The band’s lineup changed many times over the years, but they kept touring and releasing new music. Dan McCafferty served as Nazareth’s vocalist for more than 40 years, but departed in 2013 due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. That limited McCafferty to only occasional performances and solo albums, including 2019's Last Testament. Manny Charlton was Nazareth’s lead guitarist from 1968-1990, and also served as the band’s producer on many albums, including Hair of the Dog. He went on to produce demos with Guns N’ Roses for what would become Appetite for Destruction, though Mike Clink was ultimately chosen to helm their 1987 debut. Charlton's solo career included 14 albums between 1999-2018 before he died in 2022 at the age of 80. Classic-era bassist Pete Agnew continued forward with Nazareth.

The Ides of March

The Hit: “Vehicle”
With its distinctive horn part and infectious chorus, 1970’s “Vehicle” proved to be a breakout hit for the Ides of March, peaking at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. Formed in Illinois and fronted by vocalist Jim Peterik, the group subsequently found themselves on the road with the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Led Zeppelin. Unfortunately, “Vehicle” marked the Ides of March’s commercial peak. They broke up in 1973, having never landed another song in the Top 40.

Where Are They Now?:
Peterik founded Survivor after the Ides of March, later co-writing their hugely successful single “Eye of the Tiger.” He also penned material for other artists, including Sammy Hagar, 38 Special, Doobie Brothers and Cheap Trick. The Ides of March reunited in 1990 and continued to occasionally tour and release new material. All four of the band’s original members – Peterik, guitarist Larry Millas, bassist Bob Bergland and drummer Mike Borch – returned for the Ides of March reunion.

Brewer & Shipley

The Hit: “One Toke Over the Line”
The duo of Mike Brewer and Tom Shipley came together in Los Angeles in 1968, though both men had their roots in the Midwest. They’d eventually score the only hit of their career in 1970 with “One Toke Over the Line.” The song’s inspiration was exactly what you’d imagine. "One day we were pretty much stoned and all and Tom says, ‘Man, I’m one toke over the line tonight,’” Brewer later recalled. “I liked the way that sounded, and so I wrote a song around it." The single peaked at No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1971 and likely would have climbed higher if it hadn’t been banned in parts of the Bible Belt. Brewer & Shipley released a total of seven albums between 1968 and 1975, but no other single came close to matching the success of “One Toke Over the Line.”

Where Are They Now?:
Brewer & Shipley regrouped in 1989 and continued working together. It was more of a labor of love than a focused career: Shipley worked as a television producer, eventually enjoying a long tenure at the Missouri University of Science and Technology. Meanwhile, Brewer released a handful of solo albums, while also writing material for such artists as Stephen Stills, the Byrds and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Brewer & Shipley's career was chronicled in the 2021 documentary One Toke Over the Line … and Still Smokin’.

Jigsaw

The Hit: “Sky High”
By the time Jigsaw made its way to U.S. shores, the English band had already gone through its share of turnover. As the ‘70s dawned, three of the band’s original members had left. One of the new recruits, Des Dyer, handled drums and vocals and would soon become a main co-writer of Jigsaw’s material alongside keyboardist Clive Scott. They scored a hit with “Sky High,” which peaked at No. 3 in 1975 in the U.S. The following year, they’d reach No. 30 with the song "Love Fire,” but chart success largely eluded them from there. Lineup changes continued into the early ‘80s, until the group officially disbanded in 1983.

Where Are They Now?:
Following the end of Jigsaw, both Dyer and Scott continued working in music. Dyer formed one half of the duo Fingers and Fumbs, which continues releasing material and touring. He also began filling his time working with the next generation of rock stars, teaching drums in schools throughout England. Scott spent years writing material for U.K. pop acts, including the boy bands Blue and Boyzone. He died in 2009 after suffering a stroke while undergoing brain surgery.

Walter Egan

The Hit: “Magnet & Steel”
Walter Egan moved to Los Angeles in the early ‘70s to start his career as a solo artist. He connected with Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, who would soon find stardom as members of Fleetwood Mac. Buckingham produced Egan’s debut, Fundamental Roll, and the 1978 follow-up Not Shy. The latter contained the song “Magnet & Steel,” which soared to No. 8 on the Hot 100. Nicks was featured on background vocals, an interesting twist considering the song was inspired by Egan’s infatuation for her.

Where Are They Now?:
Egan never came close to matching the success of “Magnet & Steel,” but that didn't stop him from enjoying a long and fruitful career. He went on to release more than two dozen solo studio albums, including 2022's Pluck!, while still touring regularly. He also took up painting as a hobby, on top of his musical output, and also wrote a memoir titled Magnetude.

Shocking Blue

The Hit: “Venus”
Formed in the Netherlands in 1967, Shocking Blue went through some early changes before eventually settling on a lineup that featured vocalist Mariska Veres, guitarist Robbie van Leeuwen, bassist Klaasje van der Wal and drummer Cor van der Beek. They struck gold with “Venus,” a catchy, hypnotic 1969 track that hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Shocking Blue’s follow-up single, “Mighty Joe,” only reached No. 43, the final time any of the band’s songs charted in the U.S. The group officially disbanded in 1974.

Where Are They Now:
Shocking Blue got back together in 1979 and toured through the early part of the ‘80s, but they couldn't reignite the spark that briefly made them international stars. Renewed interest finally followed when “Venus” was covered by Bananarama in 1986, and Nirvana recorded a version of Shocking Blue's “Love Buzz,” releasing it as their debut single in 1988. Guitarist Van Leeuwen, who also served as their main songwriter, eventually retired back to the Netherlands to live largely out of the public eye. By then, his other Shocking Blue bandmates had already passed on.

25 Under the Radar Albums From 1972

You've heard classics by David Bowie, the Rolling Stones and Neil Young hundreds of times. Now it's time to go deeper.

More From Ultimate Classic Rock