Orlando, Tony 1944-
ORLANDO, Tony 1944-
Agent—David Brokaw, 9255 Sunset Blvd., Suite 804, Los Angeles, CA 90069.
Pop singer and employed in music publishing, 1960-67; April-Blackwood Music, New York, NY, manager, 1967-71; member, with Telma Louise Hopkins and Joyce Elaine Vincent-Wilson, of Tony Orlando and Dawn, 1971-77, star of variety television show Tony Orlando and Dawn, 1974-76; solo performer, occasionally appearing with Dawn, 1977—. Stage work includes Barnum, New York, NY, 1981; film work includes A Star Is Born, Warner Brothers, 1976; Three Hundred Miles for Stephanie, Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), 1981; The Rosemary Clooney Story, CBS, 1982; and Waking Up in Reno. Has appeared in episodes of television comedies, including Chico and the Man and The Cosby Show. Makes regular appearances on annual Jerry Lewis telethon for muscular distrophy. Record albums include Candida, 1970; Tony Orlando and Dawn's Greatest Hits, 1975; and The Best of Tony Orlando and Dawn, 1994. Top forty hits include "Halfway to Paradise," "Bless You," "Candida," 1971, "Knock Three Times," 1971, "Tie a Yellow Ribbon 'round the Old Oak Tree," 1973, "Hey, Has Anybody Seen My Sweet Gypsy Rose," 1973, and "He Don't Love You (Like I Love You)," 1975.
Two American Music Awards for best vocal performance with a group; one People's Choice award; awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, 1990.
(With Patsi Cox) Halfway to Paradise, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2002.
Tony Orlando's pop music career is singular in that he contributed a song that has shaped the American psyche and become a part of the nation's cultural history. Little did Orlando know in 1973, when he and his group Dawn released "Tie a Yellow Ribbon 'round the Old Oak Tree," that the upbeat tune would be identified with returning soldiers from the Vietnam era onward. In times of unease it is commonplace to see yellow ribbons on trees of those waiting word from loved ones—the practice can be traced directly to the song. If this were Orlando's only laurel he would still be remembered, but in fact he has other credits upon which to draw. Orlando gave star billing to the two black women who backed him up on his pop hits, and thus Tony Orlando and Dawn became one of the first successful multicultural pop groups. As a contributor to Contemporary Musicians put it, "Tony Orlando and Dawn proved that pop music need not only appeal to the young. Their vaudeville-styled numbers with their shameless Tin Pan Alley lyrics found an audience that broke the barriers of age and race. Few multiracial groups have enjoyed more commercial success, and fewer still have left a lasting cultural legacy with such irrepressibly cheerful music."
Born Michael Anthony Orlando Cassavitis, Tony Orlando grew up in New York City with a father of Greek ancestry and a mother who was a Puerto Rican immigrant. He began singing as a youngster, persisted through his teens, and finally auditioned for a record producer at the age of sixteen. In the early 1960s he had two hits, "Halfway to Paradise" and "Bless You." When his fleeting popularity faded, he was able to find work in the publishing end of the music business, and he thought his own recording career was at an end. In 1970, as a favor to a friend, he overdubbed his voice onto a recording of the single "Candida" for a group named Dawn out of Detroit. No one was more surprised than Orlando when the single reached number three on the charts the following year. In pursuit of more success, Orlando began recording with the two young women—Telma Hopkins and Joyce Vincent—and a string of hits followed, including "Knock Three Times," "He Don't Love You (Like I Love You)," and the number one "Tie a Yellow Ribbon 'round the Old Oak Tree." By 1974 the group had landed their own variety television show, Tony Orlando and Dawn.
Success proved stressful for Orlando, and he briefly used drugs, including cocaine. This led to an emotional collapse and the dissolution of Tony Orlando and Dawn in 1977. Orlando successfully underwent rehab and returned to entertaining, although his years as a pop star were effectively over. Since the 1990s he has principally performed in Branson, Missouri, with an occasional national tour. In an interview with ET Online, Orlando said: "Everybody has that new time in their life when they are the new act and hot. That moment in your career only comes once and you're probably not as good in your craft until you get to the point in your career where you say this is my forty-third year. So right now when I do a show I know what I am doing, and I have the same enjoyment now as I did when I had the dream.… As I say in the book I am Halfway to Paradise. "
The book to which Orlando referred is his autobiography, Halfway to Paradise, published in 2002. It offers Orlando's candid reflections on his many decades in the music business, both in the limelight and behind the scenes. Written with Patsi Cox, Halfway to Paradise is a "proudly inspiring story," to quote Mike Tribby in Booklist. The work drew praise from some critics for Orlando's admission that he never felt like a big star and always held other entertainers in awe. To quote Karen Jenkins Holt in BookReporter, "Orlando writes with a self-effacing candor, humility and lack of animosity that gives this book a gentle appeal absent from many celebrity autobiographies." Holt also observed that Orlando can rest assured of his place "as part of the national soundtrack of the late twentieth century."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Contemporary Musicians, Volume 15, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1995.
Contemporary Theatre, Film, and Television, Volume 6, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1988.
Booklist, October 15, 2002, Mike Tribby, review of Halfway to Paradise, p. 374.
People, July 17, 1995, "Tony Orlando," p. 39.
Publishers Weekly, September 15, 2002, review of Halfway to Paradise.
BookReporter,http://www.bookreporter.com/reviews/ (January 28, 2003), Karen Jenkins Holt, review of Halfway to Paradise.
ET Online,http://www.etonline.com/celebrity/a12705.htm/ (January 28, 2003), Mark Steines, "Tony Orlando: Halfway to Paradise. "
Tony Orlando Online,http://www.tonyorlandoonline.com/ (January 28, 2003).*