Eli's Coming

Album: Suitable For Framing (1969)
Charted: 10
  • songfacts ®
  • This hit song finds Three Dog Night breaking the bro-code by warning their female friend that a heartbreaker named Eli is coming back to town. The song was actually written from a female perspective by Laura Nyro, a singer who found commercial success as a songwriter. This joined two other Nyro compositions in the Top 10 of the Hot 100 in 1969: "And When I Die" by Blood, Sweat & Tears and "Wedding Bell Blues" by the 5th Dimension.
  • Nyro's powerful rendition, found on her 1968 album, Eli and the Thirteenth Confession, suggests the singer was one of Eli's conquests and she pleads with her friend, or herself, not to make the same mistake. She begins with a quiet warning that builds into an explosion of aggressive multi-tracked harmonies and lush orchestration, as if she's screaming at her friend to listen, before settling back into repose.

    Alan Merrill, founder of the UK pop group the Arrows and co-writer of "I Love Rock And Roll," was a cousin of Laura's and tried to advise her against incorporating shifting tempos in her tunes. He told us: "I watched Laura write all of her first songs. I'd go, 'You can't speed up like that, you'll never have a hit. You can't slow down, speed up, slow down, speed up.' And she just smiled at me, like, 'I know what I'm doing.' I said, 'Listen to the Byrds and the Beatles, they don't slow down and speed up.' A year or two later I was looking at the numbers 1, 2, 3, and 4 songs on the Billboard charts and Laura had written them all!"
  • Three Dog Night had three lead vocalists: Chuck Negron, Cory Wells and Danny Hutton. Negron used to watch Nyro perform in New York City and liked her sound. He brought the song to the group, thinking it would be a good fit for Wells' voice. In an era when every band was trying to be the Beatles and write their own tunes, Three Dog Night preferred to revamp existing songs into hits. "That was our forte, basically," Wells explained in Soul Picnic: The Music and Passion of Laura Nyro by Michele Kort. We would take songs that either were not palatable to the public, like Randy Newman stuff, and change it and make it commercial, or we'd do it in a completely different direction to sort of give it another character."

    He called "Eli's Coming" a "great, upbeat, 'come-and-see-me' record, a number that people would turn out to see in concert."
  • Also in 1969, this was included on Three Dog Night's live album, Captured Live at the Forum, and it was covered by the girl group Honey Ltd. The following year, jazz trumpeter Maynard Ferguson recorded it for his album M.F. Horn, and in 1989 the Nylons included it on their album Rockapella.
  • This was also the name of a 90-minute stage production created by Bruce Buschel and Diane Paulus in 2001 in honor of Nyro's music.
  • This was used on the TV series Sports Night in the 1999 episode "Eli's Coming."
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