January 21

The ’70s Worldwide Hit: “Tie A Yellow Ribbon ‘Round The Ole Oak Tree”

Thinking of any classic song that you want to listen to? Well, you are in the right place! This song that I am about to talk about is indeed one of the timeless hits that sprang in the ‘70s.

A worldwide hit as many would say, this tune has charted at No. 1 on 13 charts in 11 different countries in 1973. Also, by the end of the year, it still managed to clinch the first spot on six charts. Any song in mind? Well, I bet you already know. It has a long title but it’s easier said than written. It is the renowned hit of Tony Orlando and Dawn called “Tie a Yellow Rainbow ‘Round the Ole Oak Tree.”

A 1970s Smash Hit

Penned by lyricist and composer L. Russell Brown and Irwin Levine, “Tie a Yellow Rainbow ‘Round the Ole Oak Tree” was released on February 19, 1973. It was popularly rendered by the ‘70s musical group Tony Orlando and Dawn for their album Tuneweaving. Produced by Hank Medress and Dave Appell, the tune features the backing vocals of Motown/Stax vocalists Telma Hopkins, Joyce Vincent Wilson, and Pamela Vincent.

The '70s Worldwide Hit: "Tie A Yellow Ribbon 'Round The Ole Oak Tree" 1
TONY ORLANDO AND DAWN, Telma Hopkins, Tony Orlando, Joyce Vincent, circa 1970s | MeTV

Immediately after its release, “Tie a Yellow Rainbow ‘Roundthe Ole Oak Tree” caught the attention of many. Not only was it a hit in theU.S. and the U.K., but it also penetrated the other parts of the world to as far as Australia and South Africa.

In fact, Billboard ranked it as the 37th biggest song of all time in its 50th anniversary of the Hot 100.

The Story of the Song as Narrated By Fans

“Tie a Yellow Rainbow ‘Round the Ole Oak Tree” is told from the perspective of someone who has “done his time.” However, he is uncertain if he will be welcomed home.

Hence, he writes to his love, asking her to tie a yellow ribbon around the ole oak tree. The said tree is in front of the house which the bus will pass by. Well, the thing is, if she wants him to return to her life, she must tie the yellow ribbon. But, if he does not see such a ribbon, he will remain on the bus taking him to the place where he is unwelcome.

Fearful of not seeing anything, he then asks the bus driver to check. To his surprise, he saw 100 yellow ribbons tied around the tree. The entire bus bursts into cheers as it is a sign that he is very much welcome.

The Genesis and ‘Truth’ Behind the Song

In a statement as told by the songwriter himself, L. Russell Brown, it sheds light to what the story really is about.

The '70s Worldwide Hit: "Tie A Yellow Ribbon 'Round The Ole Oak Tree" 2
L. Russell Brown | Photo Credits: secondhandsongs.com

“This is NOT the story of a convict who had told his love to tie a ribbon book to a tree outside of town. I know because I wrote the song one morning in 15 minutes with the late lyrical genius Irwin Levine. The genesis of this idea came from the age-old folk tale about a Union prisoner of war — who sent a letter to his girl that he was coming home from a Confederate POW camp in Georgia… Anything about a criminal is pure fantasy….”

 L. Russell Brown

The origin of the idea of a yellow ribbon as remembrance may have been the 19th-century practice that some women allegedly had of wearing a yellow ribbon in their hair. It is to signify their devotion to a husband or sweetheart serving in the U.S. Cavalry. The song “‘Round Her Neck She Wears a Yeller Ribbon”, which later inspired the John Wayne movie She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, is a reference to this.

Whichever story the song may anchor on, still, there is no denying that the song has conquered the world and that many fans have wholeheartedly loved it.

Let’s have a throwback and listen again to this timeless piece:



Dawn, Tony Orlando

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