Sure, their time in the spotlight didn’t last forever, but the sounds of rhythm & blues one hit wonders live on. Like all music genres, R&B has its fair share of one-and-done stars, but what these singers lacked in longevity, they made up for in impact.
Do You Remember These One Hit Wonders?
You may not remember the names of all of these one-time R&B hit makers, but you almost certainly remember some of their work:
Virginia-born and New York-raised Eddie Holman spent much of his early life trying to make it in music. In 1962, he self-released his first record and went on to repeat the process throughout the 60s, albeit with little success. He did a few turns as a session vocalist with The Delfonics and The Stylistics, who were successful acts in their own right, but he was merely a hired hand waiting for his big break.
That break came in 1970, when he released the ballad Hey There Lonely Girl. The song was a slightly altered cover of the 1963 hit Hey There Lonely Boy by Ruby and The Romantics. Holman’s song sold over one million copies and led to a long list of accolades, including high praise from Smokey Robinson, who said Holman was “the man with the voice of an angel.”
Accolades aside, Holman never had another hit and soon left R&B behind for gospel.
To be fair, Carl Douglas didn’t spend much time making his one and only hit, Kung Fu Fighting. He intended it to be a b-side to a much more serious ballad and only invested 10 minutes of studio time making the track. Those 10 minutes didn’t do much to help establish Douglas as a serious musician – his career never recovered from the novelty hit – but they sure paid well. Kung Fu Fighting sold by the boatload and is one of the most sampled, covered and licensed songs of all time. As both performer and songwriter, Douglas laughed all the way to the one hit wonder bank.
MFSB/The Three Degrees
MSFB is not the catchiest name in the world, though the initials are a lot snappier than the full version – Mother, Father, Sister, Brother. From this name-challenged band came one of the most recognizable tunes of all time, TSOP – also known as The Sound of Philadelphia or more commonly, The Soul Train Theme. With the help of vocals from The Three Degrees, MFSP recorded the landmark tune. They never scored again musically, but then, they never needed to. With Soul Train airing weekly and then repeating in syndication, the checks kept right on rolling.
The Weather Girls
The Weather Girls had a forecast that 1982 audiences wanted to hear: It’s Raining Men. Their tune climbed to number one on the club charts and received endless radio plays. It remains a dance club staple, not to mention a karaoke classic. Despite the wild success, The Weather Girls were never able to repeat the popularity of that trick. Still, the end of It’s Raining Men didn’t spell the end for The Weather Girls in the music industry. They went on to become back-up singers for Aretha Franklin, Bob Seger and Sylvester.
K.P. and Envyi
Khia Phillips and Susan Hedgepath – also known as K.P and Envyi – had everyone dancing in the summer of 1998 with their mega-hit Swing My Way. They seemed poised for a longer career than just one song – after all, Swing My Way was a top 10 song in both the US and UK, and they rose to fame at just the right time for female R&B groups. Though no one can explain it, it just didn’t click for K.P. and Envyi, and by 1999, their music careers were all but over. They can take solace in the fact their one hit is now considered a 90s R&B staple.
More R&B One Hit Wonders
Ready to explore more one hit superstars of R&B? Don’t miss these artists who hit it big, just that one time:
- The Five Stairsteps
- Jean Knight
- The Soul Children
- Shirley Brown
- Lipps, Inc
- Oran “Juice” Jones
- Kut Klose