Why Three Dog Night Sings ‘Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog’ in ‘Joy to the World’

TL;DR:

  • Three Dog Night’s “Joy to the World” includes the famous lyric “Jeremiah was a bullfrog.”
  • The song took a winding path to get to Three Dog Night.
  • It was almost about a prophet instead of a bullfrog.
"Joy to the World" era Three Dog Night posing between walls
Three Dog Night | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

One of the most famous classic rock songs about an animal is Three Dog Night’s “Joy to the World.” The song is known for the lyric “Jeremiah was a bullfrog.” But it almost was written about a prophet named Jeremiah. A member of Three Dog Night revealed why the final song is about a bullfrog.

The line ‘Jeremiah was a bullfrog’ was inspired by a cartoon

During a 2021 interview with Goldmine, Three Dog Night’s Chuck Negron discussed the origin of “Joy to the World.” “Hoyt Axton had been working on songs for a television cartoon and the show fell through,” he recalled. “One of the characters was a frog.”

Three Dog Night’s Danny Hutton wasn’t a fan. Negron said: “When the song was brought in, Danny said ‘No,’ and they didn’t even think of me doing it because I had never done anything like that. My musical area was different from that type of song.”

Eventually, the song found its way to Negron. “Later, I was working on some music and Hoyt walked in and asked if I had heard his song that the guys turned down,” Negron remembered. “I said, ‘No, I hadn’t.'”

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Three Dog Night’s ‘Joy to the World’ was almost rewritten to be about a prophet instead of a bullfrog

At that point, the song didn’t mention a bullfrog. “[Axton] sat down and played me a new demo, and at that point Jeremiah was a prophet,” Negron revealed. “I said ‘That wouldn’t work.'”

Negron wanted “Joy to the World” to be about a bullfrog. “Hoyt originally had Jeremiah as a bullfrog, but had just changed it,” Negron added. “I knew that if I could just scream that line from the rooftops, ‘Jeremiah was a bullfrog,’ I could make it a hit.” Negron also liked the joyful sentiment of the track.

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How ‘Joy to the World’ and its album performed on the U.S. and U.K. charts

“Joy to the World” became a massive hit in the United States. The song topped the Billboard Hot 100 for six weeks, staying on the chart for 17 weeks total. “Joy to the World” appeared on the album Naturally. The album peaked at No. 14 on the Billboard 200, remaining on the chart for 64 weeks.

The Official Charts Company reports “Joy to the World” was a more modest hit in the United Kingdom. The song reached No. 24 in the U.K., lasting nine weeks on the chart. Meanwhile, Naturally did not chart there.

“Joy to the World” became a massive hit, and it might be the most famous song ever about a bullfrog.

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