Black and White (Pete Seeger song)

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"Black and White"
Black and White - Three Dog Night.jpg
Single by Three Dog Night
from the album Seven Separate Fools
B-side"Freedom for the Stallion"
ReleasedAugust 1972
GenrePop
Length3:51 (album)
3:24 (single)
LabelDunhill
Songwriter(s)David I. Arkin, Earl Robinson
Producer(s)Richard Podolor
Three Dog Night singles chronology
"The Family of Man"
(1972)
"Black and White"
(1972)
"Pieces of April"
(1972)

"Black and White" is a song written in 1954 by David I. Arkin and Earl Robinson. It was first recorded by Pete Seeger featuring an African American child, in 1956 from the album Love Songs for Friends & Foes.

The most successful recording of the song was the pop version by Three Dog Night in 1972, when it reached number one on both the Billboard Hot 100 and Billboard Easy Listening charts. Billboard ranked it as the number 63 song for 1972.[1] This was one of the few hits for Three Dog Night on which Danny Hutton sang the lead vocals.

Early recordings[edit]

Following Seeger's version, the song's writer Earl Robinson released his own recording in 1957, on the Folkways album A Walk in the Sun and other Songs and Ballads. (The album title refers to a song written for the 1945 film A Walk in the Sun.[2]) Sammy Davis Jr. released his version also in 1957.[3]

Reggae groups the Maytones, from Jamaica, and Greyhound, from the UK, both recorded the song in 1971, the latter achieving a top ten hit on the UK Singles Chart at No. 6.[4]

Having heard the Greyhound version, Three Dog Night covered the song and included it on their 1972 album Seven Separate Fools.[5] Their version, which featured a group of children, plus a freely spoken recitation by Danny Hutton in the coda section of the song, peaked at number one on the U.S. Pop chart on September 16, 1972, and topped the Easy Listening chart on October 7.[6] Billboard ranked it as the number 63 song for 1972.[1]

Other versions[edit]

Inner Circle recorded a cover for their 1989 album Identified.[7][8]

Meaning[edit]

The song was inspired by the United States Supreme Court decision of Brown v. Board of Education (1954), which outlawed racial segregation of public schools.

The original lyrics of the song opened with this verse, in reference to the court:

Their robes were black, their heads were white,
The schoolhouse doors were closed so tight,
Nine judges all set down their names,
To end the years and years of shame.

However, the version of the song recorded by Greyhound, and subsequently covered by Three Dog Night, did not include this verse, making the song more universal and less historically specific.

Chart history[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
United States (RIAA)[17] Gold 1,000,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1972
  2. ^ Earl Robinson. "A Walk in the Sun and Other Songs and Ballads". Retrieved February 19, 2015.
  3. ^ "Second Hand Songs database, Decca records 45: Sammy Davis Jr., 'Songs for Americans to live by', rec. 20 Feb. 1957".. This has not been reissued and is now a rare collector's item.
  4. ^ Trojan Records box set, The Trojan Story (1972, reissued 1980)
  5. ^ "Liner notes". Ultimate Seventies: 1972. Time Life Records.
  6. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1996). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits (6th ed.). Billboard Publications.
  7. ^ "Inner Circle – Black & White". Discogs.
  8. ^ "Inner Circle – Identified". Discogs.
  9. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (doc). Australian Chart Book, St Ives, N.S.W. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  10. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. 1972-10-28. Retrieved 2019-07-01.
  11. ^ "flavour of new zealand - search listener". Flavourofnz.co.nz. Retrieved 29 April 2021.
  12. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955-1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  13. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1993). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961–1993. Record Research. p. 240.
  14. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 Singles, September 30, 1972". Archived from the original on September 13, 2016. Retrieved January 13, 2018.
  15. ^ "Musicoutfitters.com". Archived from the original on 2017-04-27. Retrieved 2018-01-13.
  16. ^ "Cash Box Year-End Charts: Top 100 Pop Singles, December 30, 1972". Archived from the original on September 28, 2018. Retrieved January 13, 2018.
  17. ^ "American single certifications – Three Dog Night – Black & White". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved February 14, 2019.

External links[edit]