Named for the coldest night in the Australian outback, when allegedly an indigenous Aussie would need to dig a hole in the ground and have three dogs sleep on top of him to combat the bitter cold, Three Dog Night dominated the American music singles chart from 1969-1974.
Major achievements. Three Dog Night placed 21 songs in the top 40 on the “Billboard” singles chart and 11 in the top 10, including three number one hits and seven gold singles, according to “The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits.” In addition, their record label, Dunhill Records, reported the band has sold over 40 million albums, including 13 gold albums.
Unique group. Three Dog Night was an unusual group in that they featured three lead singers, Danny Hutton, Cory Wells and Chuck Negron. Each of them sang lead on a number one hit. Also unusual was the fact that the group was racially integrated during their heyday.
A number one song for the whole year. Three Dog Night’s second number one song, the infectious sing-along “Joy To The World,” was the number one single for the entire year of 1971.
Song of social significance. Three Dog Night’s third and final number one hit, “Black and White,” was written as a celebration of the historic U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. Board of Education, which banned segregation in public schools.
Great at handling other artists’ material. In 2013 Randy Newman was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a songwriter/performer. Three Dog Night helped him get there by taking a song he penned and had first recorded, “Mama Told Me (Not To Come),” to the top of the chart. Three Dog Night’s cover of the song reached number one in 1970 and was the only song written by Newman that reached the summit. Three Dog Night also recorded “Eli’s Coming,” written by Laura Nyro, “One,” penned by Harry Nilsson, and “The Show Must Go On,” by Leo Sayer. In most of these cases Three Dog Night provided a boost to artists who were not as well-known at the time as they would later become.
“Hair.” The off-Broadway rock musical “Hair” was groundbreaking in many ways. However, no one who was associated with the music from “Hair” has yet made the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The obvious choice would be the Fifth Dimension, who had the biggest hit from “Hair” when they took “Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In” to number one for six weeks in 1969. Another choice could be Three Dog Night, who sang “Easy To Be Hard,” from “Hair” and took the song to number four on the charts.
Music did not travel well. Three Dog Night was a hit-making machine for half a decade. It seemed every three months they had another smash single soaring up the charts. However, that was the case only in the U.S. and perhaps Canada. The band’s music did not travel well and they rarely broke onto the UK chart. Only two of their songs (“Joy To The World” and “Mama Told Me (Not To Come)”) ever cracked the British chart. That may be a major reason the group has not received more consideration for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The voters in Britain and other places in Europe are not very familiar with their work. But for those of us in America who fully recognize what they accomplished, we can only hope that Three Dog Night will soon be voted into the Hall.
“The Billboard Book of Number One Hits, 5th Edition,” Fred Bronson, Billboard Books, 2003
“The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 9th Edition,” Joel Whitburn, Billboard Books, 2010