Advertisement

Singer Tony Orlando Plans His Final Concert Ever For March 22

Singer Tony Orlando will perform his last concert next week, but the veteran entertainer insists he’s not retiring.

The man who sang hits like 1973′s “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree” and 1970′s “Knock Three Times” in the trio Tony Orlando & Dawn, was scheduled to perform Saturday night in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and will have a final concert March 22 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.

But anyone expecting Orlando to shuffle off to a shuffleboard court are sadly mistaken.

“I’m not retiring from show business,” Orlando, who turns 80 on April 3, told HuffPost. “I’ve reinvented myself many times, and now I want to flex my creative muscles writing.”

Orlando said he’s working on screenplays and a novel, adding, “I even wrote a Broadway show.”

None of the projects has been produced, but that’s not necessarily Orlando’s main concern ― he says he just wants to be creative.

The retirement from live performances comes at a time when other seasoned entertainers, such as Elton John and Gladys Knight, have stepped back from the stage.

For Orlando, the decision was affected by what he calls a combination of demographics and timing.

“I’m 79, soon to be 80, and to go on a plane for a show is a 12-hour, sometimes 24-hour experience,” he said. “I’ve had enough!”

In addition, he admits his audiences are usually filled with people 50 and older, who aren’t as excited about going out, “especially with COVID or the flu. Plus, the average person who goes to a casino is 25-30.”

Orlando and fellow Dawn members Telma Hopkins and Joyce Vincent Wilson, were among the biggest stars of the early and mid-1970s, thanks to hits like “Candida,” “Say, Has Anybody Seen My Sweet Gypsy Rose” and, of course, “Tie A Yellow Ribbon,” which inspired the yellow-ribbon campaigns to mark vigils for soldiers, hostages and other absent loved ones.

But success was a long time coming, and, as Orlando said, required a lot of reinvention. He started out as a teen idol in the early 1960s with two Top 40 hits, “Bless You” and “Halfway to Paradise.”

At least one member of The Beatles was a fan, he said.

“John Lennon came up to me one year at the Grammys and joked, ‘Tony, and to think we thought ‘Bless You’ was funky.”

When his early singing career fizzled, Orlando worked in the music industry for Clive Davis and helped sign Barry Manilow to an early contract.

That would have been his career if some friends at another company hadn’t asked him to moonlight as a singer for a studio group called Dawn.

Orlando’s participation was supposed to be secret, but the song “Candida,” released under the band name Dawn, became a huge hit, and its next recording, “Knock Three Times,” climbed to No. 1.

The group name was changed to Dawn Featuring Tony Orlando and the band had more minor hits until things broke big with 1973′s “Tie a Yellow Ribbon.”

“We first performed that at the Cotton Bowl to welcome home POWs,” Orlando said.

Since then, the vaudeville-style song, about a man coming home after “doing his time” and wondering if his loved ones still want him, has been played at all sorts of homecomings, including the ending of the 1979-80 Iran hostage crisis.

Fifty years later, Orlando still sees the song’s emotional appeal.

“People are wearing yellow ties in honor of the Israeli-American hostages in Gaza, at demonstrations in Hong Kong,” he said. “There are 14 different countries where the yellow ribbon is currently being used.”

The song’s success pushed the group into the pop culture stratosphere. After that, the band had another old-timey hit in “Sweet Gypsy Rose,” a catchy tune about man searching for his wife, who’s ditched her family to become a burlesque dancer.

“Sweet Gypsy Rose” hit No. 3 on the charts, but when Orlando was asked if it could be a hit today, he’s not sure.

“Nothing’s safe anymore,” Orlando said. “That’s with most things today. I don’t think Cyndi Lauper could sing “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.”

The pop music success turned Orlando, who is part Puerto Rican, into the biggest Latino star of his day, even as the band’s songs were labeled as square by music critics.

“Queen did some similar songs, but they were highly respected,” Orlando said matter-of-factly.

But the popular appeal led to a hit variety show for three seasons on CBS for the band with a Latino lead singer and two Black women as backup vocalists to become part of mainstream America.

Orlando ― and Dawn’s ― star faded in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and the band broke up in the late 1970s, though there have been reunions.

Orlando has also kept busy as a solo performer, as well as an actor and an advocate for military veterans.

And he isn’t automatically dismissing the possibility of one more reunion at one of the upcoming shows.

“Who knows?” he cheekily hinted.

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the date of Orlando’s second-to-last show.