Video: The Tokens – The Lion Sleeps Tonight

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About: The Tokens

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The Tokens were an American male doo-wop vocal group from Brooklyn, New York. They are perhaps best-known for their chart-topping 1961 single “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.”

The original version of the group was formed in 1955 at Brooklyn’s Lincoln High School. Featuring Neil Sedaka, Hank Medress, Eddie Rabkin, and Cynthia Zolitin, the group was known as the Linc-Tones. After Rabin was replaced by Jay Siegel in 1956, the Linc-Tones recorded their first single. Two years later, Sedaka and Zolitin left the band; Sedaka would go on to make a name for himself as a popular solo artist during the 1960s and 1970s. By 1960, the classic group lineup was in place, containing Siegel, Medress, and brothers Phil and Mitch Margo. The group renamed itself The Tokens.

In early 1961, The Tokens released a single for Warwick entitled “Tonight I Fell In Love,” which went to #15 on the charts and spurred them to an appearance on American Bandstand. This proved to be a prelude to the unleashing of their signature song for RCA, The Lion Sleeps Tonight (which had earlier been recorded by South African artist Solomon Linda, as well as U.S. doo-wop group The Weavers). Jay Siegel’s characteristic lead vocals made the song rise all the way to #1, where it remained for three weeks.

From 1962 to 1970, the group would put nine more songs in the Top 100, including “I Hear Trumpets Blow” and “Portrait of My Love.” They also began producing for other artists, such as The Chiffons. In 1973, Siegel teamed with the Margo Brothers to form the group Cross-Country; this trio had a minor hit with “In The Midnight Hour.”

Today, Phil and Mitch Margo continue to tour as The Tokens, and Phil’s son Noah serves as the group’s drummer.

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