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An influential American Folk singer named Earl Robinson wrote this in 1954 with lyricist David Arkin (who is the father of actor Alan Arkin). The song is about racism, and was inspired by a US Supreme Court ruling that segregation in public schools is illegal. The original Folk song (but not Three Dog Night's version) includes the line, "Their robes were black, their heads were white" which refers to the judges.
Jamaican Reggae group Greyhound recorded this in 1971, where it hit #6 in the UK. Greyhound went on to have 2 more hits: a cover of Henry Mancini's "Moon River
" and another message song called "I Am What I Am," which was a plea for recognition in a white dominated society.
When Three Dog Night recorded this, it came at a time when civil rights was a big issue in America. The message of racial equality was emphasized by their use of a children's choir in the repeated chorus during the closing moments of the song.
Other artists to record this include Gregory Isaacs, Freddie McGregor and Inner Circle. (thanks, Edward Pearce - Ashford, Kent, England, for all above)
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