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.
The Jamaican reggae group Greyhound recorded this in 1971; their version made #6 in the UK. Greyhound went on to have two 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.
Three Dog Night had three lead vocalists: Danny Hutton, Chuck Negron and Cory Wells. Hutton sang lead on this track.
George from Vancouver, CanadaHere's Freddie McGregor's folk original: https://youtu.be/RXIhYJO0564
George from Vancouver, CanadaWhat I especially like about this song is it's not a gloomy protest song, but, rather, a celebration of the SCOTUS decision that effectively ended racial discrimination (change starts with the children)
Dozens of antiwar songs, but not one to celebrate when Nixon brought the soldiers home!
Wyatt from Anywhere, United StatesTom, can you read??? It says exactly that up above, Kevin already informed you of that fact and you still haven't bothered to look!!!! I just saw it but in case you can't scroll up I'll paste it for you, here it is.... Are you ready now?
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.
Brian from Paris, TxI don't know about you guys, but this has always been my favorite TDN song!
Dave from Oak Park, MiEh, it's a POST-Flower Power, Feel-Gone song! (Flower Power was what I thought was back with the Hippie enui)
The GRAYHOUND version of this b/w "Moon River" was a one-and-only A&M Single. I don't know what label "I Am What I Am" was released on or released with.
Tom from Green Bay, WiKevin, DC... Then the part about the Robes lyric should be posted under Earl Robinson, not the TDN listing. (or should be plainly labelled that that particular lyric was not used in the TDN remake).
Kevin from Washington, DcDoes anybody read the actual songfacts before they comment?!?
Tom & Mike - the black robes/white heads line is cleary in reference to the original composition of the song by Earl Robinson. They never said that TDN recorded those lines; they said the original lyrics included that line.
Mike from Fort Worth, TxRemove the "robes" part!!!!!! It's not in the 3 dog night version....okay? Typical flower power, feel good song.
Tom from Green Bay, WiBetter check the lyric sheet... There is NO mention of black robes or white heads. (Does anybody check this stuff before it's posted?!)