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Artist: Three Dog Night
Album: It Ain’t Easy
“Mama told me not to come; that ain’t the way to have fun!”
Three Dog Night, from 1969 to 1975, was a hit-making machine. They had 21 songs on the charts, and 11 of them were in the top ten, not to mention 12 gold albums in a row. Yet, they wrote few of their own songs. Instead, they recorded songs from songwriters who, relatively unknown at the time, went on to become highly successful and well-known. Mama Told Me was just such a song, written by Randy Newman, a multi-award-winning songwriter and film composer, well-known for his movie scores. The most well-known song recorded by Newman himself is the classic sardonic song Short People, which went to number two in 1978.
Three Dog Night wasn’t the first to record a Randy Newman song. The Fleetwoods are credited by Newman for giving him his “first big break” by recording They Tell Me It’s Summer, and many other artists had covered his songs. Newman wrote Mama Told Me for Eric Burdon and subsequently recorded it on his own album. Eric Burdon, who also recorded two other Newman songs.
Cory Wells, one of the three lead vocalists in Three Dog Night, along with Danny Hutton and Chuck Negron, and famous for singing Joy to the World, had heard both the Burden version and Newman’s original version of Mama Told Me before Three Dog Night was formed. Wells played the song with his own band in Arizona and had wanted Three Dog Night to record it right from the start, but the other band members didn’t think it had a lot of commercial potential.
The band didn’t give in until the third album, It Ain’t Easy, and it went to number 1 in July 1970, spending 15 weeks on the Billboard charts. It was Randy Newman’s only number one hit, and one of three for Three Dog Night, along with Black & White (Greyhound) Joy to the World (just as well known as Jeremiah the Bullfrog song, written by Hoyt Axton).
Want Some Whiskey In Your Water
Sugar in your tea?
What’s all these crazy questions they’re askin me?
Other Three Dog Night Hits
- One – No. 5, June 1969 (written by Harry Nilson)
- Easy to be Hard – No. 4, September 1969 (from the rock musical Hair, written by Galt MacDermot, James Rado, and Gerome Ragni)
- Eli’s Coming – No. 10, November 1969 (written by Laura Nyro)
- Celebrate – No. 15, March 1970 (written by Gary Bonner and Alan Gordon)
- Out in the Country – No. 15, October 1970 (written by Paul Williams)
- One Man Band – No. 19, January 1971 (written by Billy Fox, Tommy Kaye, and January Tyme)
- Liar – No. 7, August 1971 (written by Russ Ballard of Argent)
- An Old Fashioned Love Song – No. 4, December 1971 (Paul Williams)
- Never Been to Spain – No. 5, February 1972 (Hoyt Axton)
- The Family of Man – No. 12, April 1972 (Paul Williams)
- Pieces of April – No. 19, January 1973 (written by Dave Loggins)
- Shambala – No. 3, July 1973 (written by Daniel Moore)
- Let Me Serenade You – No. 17, December 1973 (written by John Finley)
- The Show Must Go On – No. 4, May 1974 (written by Leo Sayer)
- Sure As I’m Sittin’ Here – No. 16, August 1974
Fans of the TV show Supernatural may remember Shambala from the 2nd episode of the second season, ‘Everybody Loves a Clown.’ The song plays as Dean fixes the Impala (my first car was an Impala, too, but not a 67, alas), which had been smashed by the yellow-eyed demon driving the truck.
Three Dog Night “Mama Told Me (Not To Come)” Video
More 1970s Music
- Who Did Cum On Feel the Noize First Before Quiet Riot?
- Who Sang It Never Rains In Southern California?
- What Is Barracuda by Heart About?
- I’m Not In Love, It’s Just a Silly Phase I’m Going Through
- You Don’t Have to Be a Star to Be in My Show
More Classic Rock Music
- What Is Barracuda by Heart About?
- So Caught Up In You – Don’t Let This Good Love Slip Away
- What Was Boston’s First Hit Song?
- I’m travelin’ down the road and I’m flirtin’ With Disaster
- Evil Woman: Who Recorded It Before Black Sabbath?