“The Lion Sleeps Tonight” Is 60!

Sixty years ago on this day, The Tokens‘ “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” hits #1 on the CKWX Fabulous Forty. The song was a big part of the folk music revival sparked by The Kingston Trio. They covered the song two years earlier. Folk was a favourite among college students. It lacked the power of Rock, but folk music did offer a balance in those early days.

The Tokens — more of a doo-wop group than folk artists — were brothers Phil and Mitch Margo, along with Jay Siegel and Hank Medress. Neil Sedaka was an original member of The Tokens but left the group in 1958 to launch his solo career. Phil Margo passed away a couple of weeks ago at the age of 79.

“The Lion Sleeps Tonight” was written by South African musician, singer and composer Solomon Linda in 1939. American lyricist George Weiss added the English lyrics: “In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight.” Linda’s descendants succesfully sued Disney for using the song in “The Lion King” without paying royalties.

“The Lion Sleeps Tonight” was dethroned two weeks later by the return of Chubby Checker‘s “The Twist”. My career path was twisting as well: my short-lived return to CKWX earlier in 1961 was almost over. One of the reasons CKWX wanted me back was to stem the flow of listeners to C-FUN but it was to no avail. Now baseball play-by-play was going to cut into my nightly show and CKWX had no hope of competing for the rock’n’roll music audience. In four months I would leave for a new adventure… at C-FUN.

Ever wondered who sings the amazing soprano on “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”? That’s American singer and actress Anita Darian (1927-2015).

Stay in touch with The Tokens at thetokens.com and enjoy their music on YouTube and Spotify.