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Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Philip Margot of The Tokens, who sang about a slumbering lion, dies at the age of 79

Philip Margot, a member of the close harmony group Tokens, which earned enduring popularity in pop music with the # 1 hit “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” in 1961, died Saturday in a Los Angeles hospital. He was 79 years old.

According to his family, the cause was a stroke.

Mr. Margot has had a varied career, performing with Tokens and its subsidiaries, producing records and writing for television. But nothing had more impact than the recording he participated in when he was 19: “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” became one of the most recognizable songs in American music, instantly recognizable by Jay Siegel’s opening falsetto. Mr Margot sang the baritone.

The song originated in South Africa, where Solomon Linda and the Original Evening Birds recorded a simple melody, which they named Mbube (the Zulu name for lion), containing a familiar melody. In the early 1950s, the American folk group The Weavers, which included Pete Seeger, began performing it, but the word in the name became “wim-o-weh”. The Kingston Trio and others have taken up this version.

In 1961, the Tokens were looking for a sequel to their first recording, “Tonight I Fell in Love”, and Hugo Peretti and Luigi Creatore, producers of RCA Records, brought in lyrics by George Weiss, who added English lyrics starting with “In the jungle, mighty jungle.”

Philip Margot and some of the other members of the band were not very confident in the recording they received.

“We were embarrassed by this and tried to convince Hugo and Luigi not to let him out,” he said in an interview quoted by Fred Bronson in Chart Number 1. “They said it was going to be a big album and it was coming out.”

They were right. It peaked at number one on the Billboard charts in December 1961, stayed there for three weeks, and became a cultural touchstone. A whole new generation appeared in it in 1994, when a version of it appeared in the Disney movie The Lion King.

“Now that it’s relevant, we are relevant,” Mr. Margot said at the time. “I am excited.”

Philip Frederick Margot was born on April 1, 1942 in Brooklyn to Leon and Ruth (Becker) Margot. He grew up in the Brighton Beach area of ​​Brooklyn. In 1959, he returned there from a summer job playing the piano in the Catskills, and along with his younger brother began trying to harmonize doo-wop with Mr. Siegel and Hank Medress, seeing what they could do with songs like A Teenager in Love “. at the time, a hit for Dion and the Belmont.

“We sounded so good that we started writing the songs ourselves,” Mr. Margot said in a 1992 interview with a Spokane, Washington, spokesman. One song they came up with was “Tonight I Fell in Love,” which they recorded and brought to Warwick, a small label whose owner Marty Kraft said they needed a name.

“We wanted to call ourselves ‘Those Guys,’ but in 1960 it was unheard of,” Mr. Margot said in an interview for the Billboard book. “It must be” Something. “

Thus, they took the name from the earlier group that Mr. Madress was in and became Tokens.

The Tokens have released a number of other singles over the years, including “I Hear Trumpets Blow” (1966) and a number of albums. Collectively, the group has also released recordings for others including Chiffons and The Happenings.

Mr. Margot continued to perform with his brother, who died in 2017, and Mr. Medress, who died in 2007. He settled in Beverly Hills and was a fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers. During the 1998 baseball season, his version of Tokens (Mr. Siegel has his own) played the national anthem in all major leagues stadium and is said to be the first pop group to accomplish this feat.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Mr. Margot wrote and produced television films and wrote episodes for shows, including the sitcom Benson. For a while, he also directed the career of the star of this show, Robert Guillaume.

Mr. Margot is survived by his wife, Abby S. Margot, whom he married in 1966; two sons, Noah Margot and Joshua Ginsberg-Margot; daughter Neely S. Irwin; Maxine’s sister Margot Rubin; and eight grandchildren.

The Margot brothers appeared on CBS This Morning in 1994, promoting their recently released album Oldies Are Now. Paula Zahn, one of the hosts of the show, asked them about “The lion is sleeping tonight,” including the question, “What ways can you get rid of someone?” – that they didn’t need a prompt to answer.

“Wingle-boo, wingle-uetta, wing-off,” Phil said.

“Wing-o-wack,” Mitch said.

“Uh-ah,” Phil agreed.

To which Mitch added: “And one more thing that we cannot repeat.”

World Nation News Desk
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