Posts Tagged ‘Debby Boone’

One Hit Wonder No. 1

Thursday, November 1st, 2018

Having delved into the origins of the cult of Onehit, I thought we’d start looking at so-called One Hit Wonders on an occasional basis. Our basic guide will be a slender volume I picked up in the early 1990s, one titled Billboard Top 1000 Singles.

Compiled by chart maven Joel Whitburn, the book covers the period from January 1955 through February 1993. Obviously, much has happened since then, including – unless I’m mistaken – at least one very large change in how the various Billboard charts are calculated. Thus, I’d guess, a current book of the top 1,000 singles of all time would include many more current records than historic ones. That would no doubt be accurate but would be a hell of a lot less fun than looking into the 1993 book.

And here’s some necessary housekeeping before we dig in: What, exactly, is a One Hit Wonder? My definition: It’s a record by a group or artist who focused on releasing singles that was the only record by that group or artist to reach the Top 40. Similarly, one can call the group or artist a One Hit Wonder as well. (The bit about being focused on singles is the best way to accommodate records like Jimi Hendrix’ cover of “All Along The Watchtower,” which went to No. 20 in 1968. It would be ludicrous to call Hendrix a One Hit Wonder as an artist, as singles were clearly not his focus.)

And before we start, let’s remind ourselves of how the all-time singles chart looked in 1993. Here’s the Top Twenty in that Top 1000 book. All of then went to No. 1 for at least eight weeks.

“I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston (1992, 14 weeks)
“End Of The Road” by Boyz II Men (1992, 13)
“Don’t Be Cruel/Hound Dog” by Elvis Presley (1956, 11)
“Singing The Blues” by Guy Mitchell (1956, 10)
“Physical” by Olivia Newton-John (1981, 10)
“You Light Up My Life” by Debby Boone (1977, 10)
“Mack The Knife” by Bobby Darin (1959, 9)
“All Shook Up” by Elvis Presley (1957, 9)
“Bette Davis Eyes” by Kim Carnes (1981, 9)
“Hey Jude” by the Beatles (1968, 9)
“Endless Love” by Diana Ross & Lionel Richie (1981, 9)*
“The Theme From ‘A Summer Place’” by Percy Faith (1960, 9)
“Rock Around The Clock” by Bill Haley & His Comets (1955, 8)
“The Wayward Wind” by Gogi Grant (1956, 8)
“Sixteen Tons” by Tennessee Ernie Ford (1955, 8)
“Heartbreak Hotel” by Elvis Presley (1956, 8)
“Every Breath You Take” by the Police (1983, 8)
“Jump” by Kris Kross (1992, 8)
“Night Fever” by the Bee Gees (1978, 8)
“Tonight’s The Night (Gonna Be Alright)” by Rod Stewart (1976, 8)

That Top Twenty serves as a reminder of the power of Elvis. Sixteen years after his death, he still had three of the top twenty singles of the Top Forty era, all of them nearly forty years old. And it’s actually not a bad bunch of singles, with only three I’d skip: I’m not fond of the Kris Kross record, but that’s a generational and societal thing. Neither am I crazy about the Whitney Houston single at the top of the list; I find it oversung and overbearing. And I’ve always believed the Rod Stewart single to be a blight on the world.

The other seventeen would be – in these precincts, anyway – a decent bunch of listening. Not really my favorites, but some fun listening, even the single One Hit Wonder of the bunch, a record that I admit I first kind of liked, then was tired of, and finally, was greatly annoyed by as it spun out its twenty-one weeks in the Top 40 in 1977 and 1978: Debby Boone’s “You Light Up My Life.”

I was surprised when I began digging this morning to learn that “You Light Up My Life” was a One Hit Wonder. But then, being afflicted with Boone fatigue by late 1977, I paid no attention to Debby Boone’s career, not caring what she’d done either before or after her massive hit. And it seems, digging this morning into Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, there wasn’t much to pay attention to, as least as far as the Hot 100 was concerned.

“You Light Up My Life” was the first charting single for Pat Boone’s daughter. As well as topping the Billboard pop chart for the above mentioned ten weeks, the record was also No. 1 for one week on the magazine’s Easy Listening chart and went to No. 4 on the country chart.

After that, Boone had two singles reach the Hot 100, but both fell short of the Top 40: “California” went to No. 50 and the two-sided single “God Knows/Baby, I’m Yours” (the latter being a cover of Barbara Lewis’ 1965 hit) stalled at No. 74, both in 1978. Boone did have a better time of it on the Easy Listening/Adult Contemporary chart, with five more singles beyond “You Light Up My Life” reaching the Top Forty there into 1981.

“You Light Up My Life” was, of course, the title theme to a 1977 movie, sung for the soundtrack by Kasey Cisyk and lip-synched in the movie by actress Didi Conn. In the movie, it’s a love song, but the very devout Boone, according to Wikipedia, “interpreted it as inspirational and proclaimed that it was instead God who ‘lit up her life’.”

(There was some nasty hoo-ha in 1977 and beyond about songwriter and producer Joe Brooks not paying Cisyk or crediting her for her performance as well as something about Brooks’ recording Boone’s version of the song over the same instrumental tracks used for Cisyk’s version. But then nasty hoo-ha might have been Brooks’ default mode, as he committed suicide in 2011, says Wikipedia, while awaiting trial “on 91 counts of rape, sexual abuse, criminal sexual act, assault, and other charges.”)

Billboard has since released at least two more lists of its top all-time records; in the last of them, in 2013, “You Light Up My Life” was at No. 9. I do not know if any of the eight records ranked above it are One Hit Wonders, and I really don’t care. In the era I care about most, reflected by the 1993 volume, Debby Boone’s hit is the top-ranking One Hit Wonder of all time.

*One might argue that “Endless Love” is a One Hit Wonder as it’s the only time that the duo of Diana Ross and Lionel Richie charted. But that would be silly.