Tony Orlando grew up in New York near Hell's Kitchen, the son of a Greek father and a Puerto Rican mother. He chose a career in music early, and was still a teenager when he started a doo-wop group called the Five Gents. By his 20s, Orlando believed his performing career was over, and in 1966 went to work at the April-Blackwood imprint of CBS Records. But his time away from the stage would not last.
He was asked to provide a vocal for a demo of a new song called “Candida,” but the results were strong enough that it was released under the group name Dawn and reached No. 3 on the pop chart. The B-side was another hit, “Knock Three Times.” The singer left his label job and formed Tony Orlando & Dawn with back-up vocalists Telma Hopkins and Joyce Vincent Wilson.
In 1973, the trio hit No. 1 in both the U.S. and England with “Tie a Yellow Ribbon 'Round The Ole Oak Tree,” a song linked to a tradition dating back to the Civil War of wearing or displaying yellow ribbons for absent servicemen. It became an anthem for military families.
The trio's popularity led to a CBS variety show that lasted four seasons, featuring such guests as Jackie Gleason, Jerry Lewis and George Carlin. After the show was canceled, the band broke up and Orlando spent time in a psychiatric hospital to beat a nine-month cocaine addiction. He returned with a 1979 solo album, “I Got Rhythm,” but his career was waning.
During the Gulf War, Orlando was inspired to record a sequel to his best-known hit, “With Every Yellow Ribbon,” on Quality Records in 1991. He relocated to Branson, Mo., and opened the Tony Orlando Yellow Ribbon Music Theatre, which closed in a dispute with partner Wayne Newton.
His career got an unexpected boost from being the subject of an episode of VH1's “Behind the Music” in 1998. He appeared in the 2002 film “Waking Up in Reno,” and the same year released an autobiography, “Halfway to Paradise.” He wrote about his most famous song in a 2005 book of poetry, “Tie a Yellow Ribbon: While We Are Apart.”
Orlando got his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1990.