Tony Orlando was a top of the pops headliner for years. But, there are some very fascinating stories behind his life in music you might not know.
Tony Orlando’s baby sister was born with a number of serious health problems, which also had a complication of mental retardation. She would often cry and cry as a child when young Tony would take care of his sister. So he looked for ways to entertain her to soothe her crying. Soon he found out that singing and later playing guitar was the only way to make her content. Tony kept getting better and better with practice, because everyday was like a singing audition. Eventually, all of those hours of practice made Tony very good. So good, that he eventually formed Tony Orlando & Dawn, and had a long string of top ten pop music hit songs during the 1970’s.
Some people loved Tony Orlando’s music, while others thought it to be lightweight and not very serious. But, this music had it’s roots in being a lightweight form of entertainment for his handicapped sister. Millions have loved Tony Orlando’s music including his sister, his biggest fan.
One of his biggest hits was a song, “Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Ole Oak Tree”, which actually had a couple of very serious meanings. In the 1800’s, women used to use yellow ribbons to signify that they had a loved one serving in the calvary. It was a sort of way of honoring soldiers at the time. But, there was also a very serious story in which a young man committed a serious crime in his hometown, and was set for release. But, he was unsure whether his father and family could ever forgive him and whether he would ever be welcome back home again. He asked that the family just tie one yellow ribbon on a familiar oak tree as his train pulled around the corner where his station was. If he saw one ribbon, he’s get off the train, otherwise he’s ride on and never bother the family ever again.
As his train pulled around the corner, he looked for a yellow ribbon on a tree. First he saw one ribbon, then another. Then another one. There had to be a hundred ribbons on trees. This meant that he was more than welcome and more than forgiven. It was a heartwarming story.
Tony Orlando’s music reflected his strong sense of family, whether it was rooted in his love for his sister or in a great message of redemption in “Tie A Yellow Ribbon Around The Ole Oak Tree”.
Strangely, it was Jerry Lee Lewis who introduced Tony Orlando to a friend, Elaine, who became his wife until they divorced in 1983, but they have one son, Jon, who became a comedian. Tony Orlando has since remarried. His father was Greek and his mother Puerto Rican, making Tony Orlando one of the most successful entertainers among the American Puerto Rican community.
At the age of 67, Tony Orlando still performs to this day. His career actually started in 1961, a full nine years before he hit #3 on Billboard with his hit “Candida”, which introduced his fresh new pop style with Dawn as his backup singers. “Candida” actually was attributed to Dawn, as Tony Orlando had actually retired as a cover singer by 1970, instead working for music publishers April-Blackwood. His voice was dubbed over the male vocals on the song, and the song became a big hit, allowing Tony Orlando to quit his job at the music publisher and to embark on a huge career as a front-man performer. Not a bad ride for someone gave up performing, only to come back bigger and better than ever. Tony Orlando and Dawn were so hot that they even had their own comedy -variety TV show from 1974-1976 on CBS. That’s big.
Not bad, Tony Orlando. Not bad at all.