Why Are Yellow Ribbons a Symbol of Fidelity and Who Wrote the Song “Tie a Yellow Ribbon”?

Yellow ribbons were first used during the Vietnam War.

The inspiration came from a Civil War legend about a soldier returning home from the infamous Andersonville Prison.

He had written his wife to hang a yellow handkerchief on the oak tree in the town square if she still loved him; otherwise he would stay on the stagecoach and move on.

A modernized version became the hit song “Tie a Yellow Ribbon,” and a new custom was born.

L. Russell Brown was inspired to write the song one late spring morning, and he drove thirty-three miles to Irwin Levine’s house to tell him the story.

Irwin changed the yellow handkerchief to a ribbon so as not to offend anyone with the reality of what makes handkerchiefs yellow. They also updated the story by changing the stagecoach to a bus.

The song was released in February 1973. It was the number one hit by April 1973.

The song became a hit again in 1981 when the fifty-two Iran hostages were returned after 444 days of captivity.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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