The same year the Doors released, L. A. Woman” (and sadly the same year Jim Morrison died) 1971 also saw the release of the album Fragile from Yes which featured “Roundabout.” Pink Floyd released Meddle in 1971. The Rolling Stones released the album Sticky Fingers in 1971 which featured “Brown Sugar,” “Wild Horses,” and “Bitch.” Carol King released the mega selling Tapestry album, Rod Stewart released Every Picture Tells a Story, Black Sabbath released Masters of Reality, The Moody Blues released Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, and to top it all off, The Who released Who’s Next. That’s just a small sampling of the incredible music that was released in 1971.
Despite the barrage of classic rock songs that would become timeless, AM radio in 1971 pretty much ignored so many of those rock and roll artists. The songs that we think back on like “Wont Get Fooled Again,” and Roundabout had not yet infiltrated the culture. Over time, especially in the 1970’s that music would dominate, but early 1970’s radio paid more attention to bubble gumish sweet songs, and more singer songwriter type material. There was still the dominance of the Motown sound and the after effects of the Stax label, but AM radio was a safe haven.
Three Dog Night’s “Joy To The World,” took advantage of what was popular on AM radio and turned it up a bit. There was a soulfulness to the song that resonated with everyone. Yet it was a safe soulfulness. Utilizing the name Jeremiah and its biblical connotations was a very clever addition to the song’s opening line. Many people at the time would refer to the song as Jeremiah was a bullfrog as the song’s acapella opening line was incredibly strong at catching the listener’s attention.
Three Dog Night was one of the most popular bands of the early 1970”s The band had a long string of hits for a good five year period. However, none of their other songs came close to the popularity of “Joy To The World.” The band was fronted by three singers who pretty much received all the attention. Those three singers Chuck Negron, Danny Hutton and Cory Wells took turns singing lead vocals on the band’s albums. However it was Chuck Negron who for the most part appeared to be the face of the band. Chuck Negron’s good looks defined by his long hair and thick mustache was plastered on all the band’s promotional material.
Three Dog Night was a cover band. Most of the materiel the band recorded was written by artists or songwriters. However in a time period where harmony was often so deservedly celebrated, Three Dog Night could hang with the best of them. The song “Joy To The World,” hit at just the right time. As the peace movements intensified during the Vietnam Era, a song like “Joy To The World,” was celebrated in incredible fashion. Was “Joy To The World,” a protest song? Well it had the impact of a protest song without the politics. There were many non-political protest songs during the time period. Songs that celebrated brotherhood and love were not written as protest songs literally, but their meaning was entirely bathed in protest.
Thousands were dying in Vietnam and so songs like “Joy To The World,” were celebrated in concepts of hope and in some retrospects maybe ignorance. However one may want to interpret the true meaning of the song, one thing is quite historically clear, in a year in which some of the greatest rock and roll songs of all time were released, Three Dog Night’s “Joy To The Wold,” reigned as the number one song of the year. In the end, we believe that it was the Vietnam era that played a large role in the song’s popularity. There was a spit between protesters and non protesters. Music and art tended to choose sides. However Three Dog Night’s Joy To The World was a songs that both sides seemed to relate too. In terms of universal themes, Joy To The World is one of those songs that just cut across all boundaries. For that reason alone, is why the song was so popular at the time.