Lion Sleeps Tonight Singer, Philip Margo Passed Away This Week Aged 79

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Philip Margo, founding member of The Tokens, the doo-wop foursome behind the ‘60s hit “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” died Saturday (Nov. 13th).

Founding member and singer of The Tokens, Philip Margo, sadly passed away this past Saturday, at the age of 79. The musician behind ‘60s hit, The Lion Sleeps Tonight, passed at a hospital in Los Angeles, after suffering a stroke.

Speaking to The New York Times, family members lovingly revealed, “With a final roar we announce the passing of our incredible lion, Philip Margo”.

Baritone singer, Margo, and his younger, tenor brother Mitch, formed The Tokens in 1960 with frineds, Jay Siegel, and Hank Medress. Following their formation, the band quickly made their mark with an adaptation of South African singer, Solomon Linda’s hit Mbube, and The Weavers’ Wimoweh, for RCA Victor.

Titled, The Lion Sleeps Tonight, the hit reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in December 1961, where it remained there for three weeks. Although the Brooklyn band had success with other tracks, - Tonight I Fell in Love, I Hear Trumpets Blow, Portrait of My Love, and He’s in Town -, The Lion still roars to this day.

The Tokens continued touring right until 2017 as a family business. Phil’s son, Noah, toured with the band as a drummer and musician for 25 years, along with close friends Jay Leslie, Mike Johnson and on occasion Phil’s daughter Neely. The business grew into publishing company, Bright Tunes Publishing, producing records for The Chiffons, The Happenings, Randy & the Rainbows and Tony Orlando & Dawn.

From his music career Margo branched off into the film, tv, and theatre industries, contributing the music and lyrics for the Broadway show A Matter Of Time. He also managed the career of Hollywood actor Robert Guillaume, and wrote for TV shows such as iconic, Saturday-morning television classic - Diff’rent Strokes, and Small Wonder. 

Margo became an author with his first novel, The Null Quotient, published in 2010, and also possessed the skill of martial arts.

He was a black belt in Kung Fu San Soo as well as an avid softball player,” the tribute reads. “He owned and flew planes into his 70s. He loved the space program, Hallmark movies and salt-water taffy but he loved family most of all.”

The late artist is survived by his wife, three children and eight grandchildren, with his brother Mitch passing in November 2017, aged 70.


Check out The Token's classic track, played with Phil Margo and his son:


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