Saturday, January 23, 1971

Tony Orlando & Dawn hit #1 with “Knock Three Times”

First posted 3/16/2021.

Knock Three Times

Tony Orlando & Dawn

Writer(s): L. Russell Brown, Irwin Levine (see lyrics here)


First Charted: November 21, 1970


Peak: 13 US, 12 CB, 14 HR, 2 AC, 15 UK, 12 CN, 11 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, -- UK, 7.0 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 2.0 radio, 7.27 video, -- streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

Tony Orlando had two top-40 hits (“Halfway to Paradise,” “Bless You”) as a teen idol in 1961. It looked like his career had dried up by 1963 so he went to work doing music publishing. One day he was approached by producers Hank Medress and Dave Appell to record a song called “Candida.” Tony obliged but wanted his name left off the project. It was released under the name “Dawn,” named after Stacy Dawn Siegal, whose father was in the Tokens with Medress. BR1 Apparently, there were actually three guys claiming the project was named after their daughters, though. SF

Orlando didn’t expect to hear the song again. Two months later it was in heavy rotation on every radio station in New York. BR1 Now a follow-up was needed. Orlando had heard a song called “Knock Three Times” which he was certain could be a hit if he could produce it. Once again, he recorded under the name Dawn, worried that if he put his name on it, he could lose his job as a producer since the recording was with a different record label. WK

The song was about a guy who falls for his neighbor who lives beneath him. He leaves her a note to knock three times on the ceiling if she’s interested or bang twice on the pipe if she isn’t. As Songfacts.com says, “We don’t find out how she responds, but he would probably have better luck if he just talked to her.” SF

Toni White and Linda November sang on the song as well. WK When “Knock Three Times” became a hit, an actual group was needed to promote the song. Orlando reached out to backup singers Telma Hopkins and Joyce Vincent Wilson, who lived in California and had never met Orlando, about touring. Joyce wasn’t interested, but figured if she demanded something outrageous enough, he’d leave her alone. “I’d like a first-class trip to Europe,” she said. He called her bluff and a tour was scheduled. BR1


Resources and Related Links:

  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for Tony Orlando & Dawn
  • BR1 Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 287.
  • SF Songfacts
  • WK Wikipedia

Thursday, January 21, 1971

Marvin Gaye charted with “What’s Going On”

What’s Going On

Marvin Gaye

Writer(s):Marvin Gaye/ Renaldo Benson/ Al Cleveland (see lyrics here)


First Charted: January 21, 1971


Peak: 2 US, 11 CB, 2 HR, 15 RB, 80 UK, 76 CN, 69 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): -- US, 0.2 UK, 0.2 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 0.2 radio, 44.87 video, 156.76 streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

As the seventies rolled around, Marvin Gaye was Motown’s top star, RS500 building a career on sensual love songs manufactured by the record company’s hit factory. However, Gaye had become so depressed by the assembly-line nature of his hits RS500 that he pondered retirement. TB

His mental state wasn’t helped by the death of Tammi Terrell, his frequent duet partner, and a rocky marriage to the sister of Motown head honcho Berry Gordy. RS500 Outside of his Motown family, life wasn’t any less stressful. Gaye had to deal with a puritanical father RS500 and his brother, Frankie, recently home from Vietnam. TC

When Renaldo “Obie” Benson of the Four Tops offered Gaye a song he’d written with fellow Motowner Al Cleveland, RS500 Gaye seized the opportunity to make a dual statement of political beliefs and artistic freedom. While Gaye rarely took part in songwriting, SF he added lyrics to “What’s Going On” about the war and racial disharmony RS500 and did some tinkering with the melody. TC On top of that, Gaye had an unheard of demand at Motown – he wanted to produce it himself. TC

When Gaye cut the tune, he was backed by the famed Motown session crew the Funk Brothers. RS500 Bassist James Jamerson reportedly came home from the studio and informed his wife that they’d just cut a classic. TC

However, Motown still wasn’t sold on the song, initially declining to release it. Gaye held out, though, refusing to record anything else. His stubbornness proved founded; in its first week, the record shipped 700,000, making it one of the label’s fastest selling records. Gaye had secured his creative freedom; no one from the record company was going to mess with his vision after that. TC


Resources and Related Links:

  • DMDB Encyclopedia entry for Marvin Gaye
  • TC Toby Creswell (2005). 1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time. Thunder’s Mouth Press: New York, NY. Page 611.
  • RS500 Rolling Stone (12/04). “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time
  • SF Songfacts.com
  • TB Thunder Bay Press (2006). Singles: Six Decades of Hot Hits & Classic Cuts. Outline Press Ltd.: San Diego, CA. Page 125.

First posted 1/21/2013; last updated 4/24/2021.