Billboard #1 Hits: #63: “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”- The Tokens. December 18, 1961. #1 for 3 weeks. Released on RCA Victor. Written by Solomon Linda, Hugo Peretti, Luigi Creatore, George David Weiss and Albert Stanton. Genre: R&B and Doo-wop. Time: 2:41. B-side:”Tina” Grade: A+
There were 21 #1 hits on the Billboard Pop Hot 100 in 1961- and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” was the final one. The song was originally written by Solomon Linda in 1939 as Mbube in South Africa and written in Zulu. Mbube is Zulu for lion. The song was translated into English by George David Weiss and became a popular song played at folk festivals in the 50’s and 60’s. Over the years the song has been recorded by many artists but in the United States the two versions that were hits were The Tokens version which went to #1- and on the UK Singles Chart #11- and the Robert John #3 hit in 1971. In the UK in 1982 Tight Fit had a #1 hit with the song. The song is best known today for its inclusion in 1994’s Disney animated movie “The Lion King.”
The Tokens were a vocal group from Brooklyn, New York. One of the original members- who left in 1958 long before this hit was a young Neil Sedaka. The Tokens had 4 Top 40 hits in their career. One of their members Hank Medress went on in the 70’s to produce Tony Orlando and Dawn.