It is hard to drive down the street without seeing those familiar awareness ribbons on the back of a car. While the pink ribbon for breast cancer is familiar to most Americans, the most widely recognized is the yellow ribbon which supports American soldiers deployed across the globe.
The custom of tying a yellow ribbon around a tree to symbolize waiting love is believed to date back as far as the days of Nero. The song/poem She Wore a Yellow Ribbon has appeared in various forms for at least four centuries. It is based upon the same general theme: A woman is under some sort of test or trial as she waits for her beloved to return.
In 1973 Tony Orlando and Dawn released Tie a Yellow Ribbon, a story about a released convict who asked his lover to tie a yellow ribbon round the old oak tree to indicate that she would welcome him home.
The song re-entered the public consciousness in 1981, becoming an anthem during the Iranian hostage crisis as American citizens regularly tied yellow ribbons around trees as a symbol of their hopes and prayers for the hostages’ safe return. Since then, many groups have adopted various colored ribbons as symbols of support or awareness.
It seems fitting that the 16th annual JCC Special Needs fundraiser on Saturday, March 24, is titled Tie a Yellow Ribbon: A Night with Tony Orlando. The event both fosters awareness and raises much needed funds for children and adults with special needs.
In addition to the concert, the evening features a fabulous silent auction, cocktails and gourmet dessert reception at Alper JCC Sablotsky Cultural Arts Center. All proceeds benefit the Shirley and Chester Paul Special Needs Program.
From million-selling records (five number one hits), a popular television variety series, movies and Broadway, Orlando has conquered every facet of show business. He was one of the biggest pop stars of the early ’70s, best remembered for the mammoth hit Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Ole Oak Tree.
He entered the music business at the age of 16 after auditioning for producer Don Kirshner. Orlando’s first hit, 1961’s Halfway to Paradise, was written for him by Carole King, who also authored the Top 20 follow-up, Bless You.
In early 1970, Orlando was asked to lay down a lead vocal over a demo recorded by a Detroit-based act called Dawn. The record, Candida, became a massive hit, rising to number three on the singles charts. He immediately cut another record with Dawn, and Knock Three Times topped the charts in early 1971.
Released in 1973, Tie a Yellow Ribbon became Orlando’s biggest hit and was named the top-selling single of the year. Tony Orlando and Dawn had subsequent Top Ten hits with 1973’s Say, Has Anybody Seen My Sweet Gypsy Rose?, 1974’s Steppin’ Out (Gonna Boogie Tonight), and 1975’s chart-topping He Don’t Love You (Like I Love You).
Orlando then set his sights on television, which resulted in his highly rated weekly variety series on CBS. The show, which ran for four seasons, welcomed the biggest names in show business.
Tony Orlando became a staple of the Las Vegas club circuit and later opened the Tony Orlando Yellow Ribbon Music Theater in Branson, Missouri. He is the recipient of three American Music Awards, a People’s Choice Award and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
For more information on the March 24 event, A Night with Tony Orlando, call 305-271-9000, ext. 273, or check the special needs page at www.alperjcc.org.