One Bad Apple

Album: The Osmonds (1970)
Charted: 1
Play Video


  • "One Bad Apple" was written by George Jackson, a staff songwriter at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. The Osmonds were a young family group from Ogden, Utah, and made a name for themselves performing at Disneyland and on The Andy Williams Show. When they signed with MGM records in 1970, the label sent them to FAME in an effort to duplicate the success of The Jackson 5. George Jackson had written this song with The Jackson 5 in mind, and with production by FAME owner Rick Hall and vocals by 13-year-old Donny Osmond, it sounded very much like a Jackson 5 record. It performed like one too, spending five weeks at #1 in the US.

    Rodney Hall, who took over operations at FAME from his dad, told Songfacts how Rick discovered The Osmonds: "My dad heard them in Vegas. Mike Curb flew him out there to see them and said, 'I'm not going to tell you who it is, because you won't go if I tell you who it is,' because they'd done The Andy Williams Show, but they hadn't had a hit or a big record. So he flew out there and he dug 'em and decided to cut them like the Jackson 5. He told George to write them a Jackson 5 song and that was it. I've heard the rumor that Barry Gordy sent my dad a Western-Union that said, 'Stop stealing my f--king music.'"
  • In this song, The Osmonds are singing to a girl, trying to convince her that one bad experience shouldn't dictate her behavior, and that he deserves a chance because he's not like the guy who hurt her. It's a similar sentiment to "I Want You Back" by The Jackson 5.
  • Most people think of Muscle Shoals, Alabama, as a place for soul music, since Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Wilson Pickett and many other soul legends recorded there. Many white acts recorded there as well - Bob Seger, Rod Stewart, Cher - and they don't get much whiter than The Osmonds. When the group came to town, it caused a particular stir in the young girl population of Muscle Shoals. Rodney Hall told Songfacts: "All the 12-year-old girls weren't crazy over Clarence Carter, but they were crazy over The Osmonds, and they’d come and hang out. One time my two brothers and Donny got on their bikes and they went around the block. By the time they got back around the block there were girls chasing them down the street. We had to have a 10-foot tall double boarder all the way around the fence, because the girls would come up and look through the peepholes in the backyard. It was pretty crazy."
  • Many think of "One Bad Apple" as a Donny Osmond song because he's the lead vocalist, but he didn't start recording as a solo artist until a year later. The song was released in 1970 on the first major-label album by his family group The Osmonds - Donny was the youngest member at the time, just 12 years old.

    When Donny started recording as a solo artist a year later, he was still part of The Osmonds, but while he made teen pop, the group veered into rock and roll, which was a tough sell after "One Bad Apple." Their rockers didn't do well in America, but did in much of Europe; their 1972 track "Crazy Horses" went to #2 in the UK.

    Donny's solo material was a bigger seller; he had a string of hits that included "Puppy Love," "The Twelfth Of Never," and "Go Away Little Girl." From 1976-1979, he and his sister Marie hosted a variety show called Donny & Marie, which was produced by their older brothers. Donny fell out of favor in the '80s, but made a comeback at the end of the decade with his hit "Soldier Of Love."
  • There was only one other US #1 hit with a fruit in the title, and it was also an apple: the instrumental "Cherry Pink And Apple Blossom White" by Perez Prado hit the top spot in 1955.
  • Donny Osmond recalled to Uncut the "One Bad Apple" recording sessions with Rick Hall.

    "We always ordered McDonald's for lunch at Fame. Rick loved the fish fillet sandwich, but he hated the secret sauce they always put on it. While they were out getting the order, we recorded the track. It was a little long, so Rick cut out this section of the song and just threw the cake in the garbage.

    It turned out he cut the wrong section out of the song! We got it out, laid it out on the floor and spent forever wiping all this secret sauce off. But he spliced it back in, we did our vocals and finished everything up. I imagine that if we ever found the master, it would be completely destroyed. But that's what we used: 'One Bad Apple' with secret sauce. That must be the reason it went to #1."
  • "One Bad Apple" was written with Michael Jackson in mind, but Jackson's first #1 solo hit, "Ben," was intended for Donny Osmond. Jackson and Osmond were good friends and sometimes talked about this. They each joined their family bands when they were very young and started their solo careers around the same time.

Comments: 7

  • Allona from CanadaHow do you guys only have two songs by The Osmonds on here? They had way more hits than that.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn August 21st 1971, the Osmond Brothers performed "One Bad Apple" on the ABC-TV program 'American Bandstand'...
    Nine months earlier on December 27th, 1970 it entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #78; and on February 7th, 1971 it peaked at #1 {for 5 weeks} and spent 15 weeks on the Top 100 {and for 9 of those 15 weeks it was on the Top 10}...
    And on February 27th, 1971 it also reached #1 {for 2 weeks} on the Canadian RPM 100 Singles chart...
    Between 1971 and 1976 the brothers had twelve Top 100 records; with four making the Top 10, their other Top 10 records were "Yo-Yo" {#3 in 1971}, "Down By The Lazy River" {#4 in 1972}, and "Love Me A Reason" {#10 in 1974}...
    Extra fact; "Cherry Pink And Apple Blossom White" by Perez Prado was #1 for 10 weeks on Billboard's Best Sellers chart, and it took rock's first #1 record to knock it out of the top spot went Bill Haley's "Rock Around the Clock" became #1 for 8 weeks.
  • Dannie from Los Angeles, CaThis song was written by George Jackson for the Jackson Five who gave it a pass. Merrill Osmond's soulful voice is what you hear as the lead and Donny is singing the refrain. Donny was not the lead singer of the Osmonds or of this song. Merrill was the lead singer. He had a perfectly beautiful soulful voice and deserved more credit for his singing ability than what was given. I was a kid who followed their career and I never understood why Donny became more popular than his brother Merrill for anything other than his youth and cuteness.
  • Mike from Matawan, NjThis song is a very thinly veiled reference to fanny fornication. Some ne'er-do-well obviously gave the young lady a 'dry ride' and did not properly lube her black cherry before sticking in his meat thermometer. "Oh, Give it one more try....", is Donny and the boys plea but(t)," can I when you won't give me the chance". I don't know how you could draw any other conclusion.
  • Musicmama from New York, NyDoesn't anybody realize that Satan is trying to sneak his message to impressionable young minds with this song. He's trying to tempt everyone to eat off that tree all over again by saying that one bad apple is no danger. You'll definitely be seeing Adam and Steve or Madam and Eve after hearing this song. LOL
  • Ron from Burtchville, Miactually its merril doing the main lead,,this song was the beginning of donny being the teen idol,,,sweet and innocent was donnys first solo hit..
  • Karl from Akron, , OhI was to understand that originally one of the other Osmond brothers was concidered the lead vocal ( Alan I believe ), but Donny got the credit for being the lead vocal on this song even though he pretty much sang as a back up on it.
see more comments

Editor's Picks

The Untold Story Of Fiona Apple's Extraordinary Machine

The Untold Story Of Fiona Apple's Extraordinary MachineSong Writing

Fiona's highly-anticipated third album almost didn't make it. Here's how it finally came together after two years and a leak.

Art Alexakis of Everclear

Art Alexakis of EverclearSongwriter Interviews

The lead singer of Everclear, Art is also their primary songwriter.

Joe Jackson

Joe JacksonSongwriter Interviews

Joe talks about the challenges of of making a Duke Ellington tribute album, and tells the stories behind some of his hits.

Millie Jackson

Millie JacksonSongwriter Interviews

Outrageously gifted and just plain outrageous, Millie is an R&B and Rap innovator.

Psychedelic Lyrics

Psychedelic LyricsMusic Quiz

Whoa man! Do you know which band came up with these cosmic lyrics?

Susanna Hoffs - "Eternal Flame"

Susanna Hoffs - "Eternal Flame"They're Playing My Song

The Prince-penned "Manic Monday" was the first song The Bangles heard coming from a car radio, but "Eternal Flame" is closest to Susanna's heart, perhaps because she sang it in "various states of undress."