'Knock Three Times' By Dawn: Lyrics And Strange Story Of The 1971 #1

By Cyn Felthousen-Post
Tony Orlando and Dawn circa 1975. L-R: Telma Hopkins, Tony Orlando, Joyce Vincent Wilson. (Photo by GAB Archive/Redferns)

"Knock Three Times" became a #1 hit in 1971 for Dawn, an act later known as Tony Orlando and Dawn -- even though the group didn't really exist and Tony Orlando was a freshly-minted alter ego. Nonetheless, the lyrics in this simple and somewhat corny plea to a lover to "knock three times on the ceiling if you want me" tugged at listeners' heart strings and kept them swaying to the mid-tempo beat. 

It wasn't just Americans who dug the tune -- "Knock Three Times" topped the pop charts in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United Kingdom, and made the Top 5 throughout Europe. The story of how Dawn came together to support the surprise hit shows what happens when the fickle finger of pop-music fate points at an act that doesn't yet have its act together.