Philip Margo, a member of the close-harmony group the Tokens, which earned enduring pop-music fame with the No. 1 hit “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” in 1961, died on Saturday in a hospital in Los Angeles. He was 79.
The trigger was a stroke, his household mentioned.
Mr. Margo had a diversified profession, performing with the Tokens and its offshoots, producing data and writing for tv. However nothing had an even bigger impression than the recording he was a part of when he was 19: “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” turned one of the crucial recognizable songs in American music, immediately identifiable from Jay Siegel’s opening falsetto. Mr. Margo sang baritone.
The track had its origins in South Africa, the place Solomon Linda and the Authentic Night Birds recorded a easy tune they known as “Mbube” — Zulu for “the lion” — containing the now-familiar melody. Within the early Nineteen Fifties the American people group the Weavers, whose members included Pete Seeger, started performing it however rendered the phrase of the title as “wim-o-weh.” The Kingston Trio and others picked up on that model.
In 1961 the Tokens had been on the lookout for a follow-up to their first file, “Tonight I Fell in Love,” and Hugo Peretti and Luigi Creatore, producers at RCA Data, introduced within the lyricist George Weiss, who added the English lyrics that start “Within the jungle, the mighty jungle.”
Philip Margo and a few of the others within the group didn’t have loads of confidence within the ensuing recording.
“We had been embarrassed by it and tried to persuade Hugo and Luigi to not launch it,” he mentioned in an interview quoted in “The Billboard E book of No 1 Hits” by Fred Bronson. “They mentioned it will be an enormous file and it was going out.”
They had been proper. It hit No. 1 on the Billboard chart in December 1961, remained there for 3 weeks and have become a cultural touchstone. A complete new era was launched to it in 1994 when a model turned up within the Disney film “The Lion King.”
“Now that it’s present, we’re present,” Mr. Margo mentioned on the time. “I’m thrilled.”
Philip Frederick Margo was born on April 1, 1942, in Brooklyn to Leon and Ruth (Becker) Margo. He grew up within the Brighton Seaside part of Brooklyn. In 1959 he returned there from a summer season job enjoying piano within the Catskills and, along with his youthful brother, started attempting doo-wop harmonizing with Mr. Siegel and Hank Medress, seeing what they might do with songs like “A Teenager in Love,” successful on the time for Dion and the Belmonts.
“We sounded so good we began writing songs ourselves,” Mr. Margo informed The Spokesman-Overview of Spokane, Wash., in 1992. One track they got here up with was “Tonight I Fell in Love,” which they recorded and dropped at the small Warwick label, whose proprietor, Marty Kraft, mentioned they wanted a reputation.
“We needed to name ourselves These Guys, however that was unheard-of in 1960,” Mr. Margo mentioned within the Billboard ebook interview. “It needed to be ‘The Somethings.’”
So that they took the title from an earlier group Mr. Medress had been in, turning into the Tokens.
The Tokens launched a lot of different singles through the years, together with “I Hear Trumpets Blow” (1966), and a string of albums. Collectively the group additionally produced data for others, together with the Chiffons and the Happenings.
Mr. Margo continued to carry out along with his brother, who died in 2017, and with Mr. Medress, who died in 2007. He settled in Beverly Hills and was a fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Through the 1998 baseball season his model of the Tokens (Mr. Siegel has his personal) carried out the nationwide anthem in each main league ballpark, and is claimed to have been the primary pop group to have achieved that feat.
Within the Nineteen Eighties and Nineties Mr. Margo wrote and produced tv motion pictures and wrote episodes of reveals together with the sitcom “Benson.” He additionally managed the profession of that present’s star, Robert Guillaume, for a time.
Mr. Margo is survived by his spouse, Abbie S. Margo, whom he married in 1966; two sons, Noah Margo and Joshua Ginsberg-Margo; a daughter, Neely S. Irwin; a sister, Maxine Margo Rubin; and eight grandchildren.
The Margo brothers appeared on “CBS This Morning” in 1994, selling a not too long ago launched album known as “Oldies Are Now.” Paula Zahn, one of many present’s hosts, requested them about “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” together with a query — “What number of methods are you able to butcher a-wim-o-weh?” — that they wanted no prompting to reply.
“Wingle-whop, wingle-whetta, wing-away,” mentioned Phil.
“Wing-o-wack,” mentioned Mitch.
“Wing-o-wack,” agreed Phil.
To which Mitch added, “After which some that we are able to’t repeat.”
Supply: NY Times