Hakuna Matata

Cover songs bring out the animal in me...

Cover songs bring out the animal in me…

It’s another Monday funday here at The Nest, which has been starting your week off with only the finest musical earworms for 14 months now.  This is a very special Monday, as it marks the start of our venture into the upper crust of my Top 30 Cover Songs of All Time countdown!  Yes, if you thought the records being spun on Scratchy’s turntable over the past 20 weeks left you with an indescribable feeling inside…. well, you’ll really be thrown into a musical coma by what’s to come now that the dust jackets have come off and the vinyl is really going to hit the fan!  Crank up your hearing aids to eleven and let’s really get ready to explore the very best of the recycled best!


#10. “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” – Robert John

Way back in 1961, a consortium of American musical geniuses decided to hijack an old Zulu standard that was popular among the black population of South Africa and turn it into a whitebread hit that would make them lots of money.  “Mbube,” or “Wimoweh” as it was also called, was carefully cobbled into a catchy pop ditty and dubbed “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” which was then handed to a teeny pop group called The Tokens to record.  It hit the top of the charts and became the only reason anyone remembers that a group called The Tokens even existed.

And they recorded it AFTER Neil Sedaka left the group!

And they recorded it AFTER Neil Sedaka left the group!

Many artists in many different genres have recorded versions of both the Solomon Linda original “Mbube” as well as the more familiar pop sounding “Lion,” both before and after The Tokens made it a worldwide hit.  It’s truly one of the most covered songs of all time.  But there’s only one king of the jungle when it comes to wimowehing, and that is none other than 70’s singing sensation Robert John.

Turn the other way!

Turn the other way!

Like The Tokens, Robert John didn’t exactly put a whole of lot of music on the charts, and he’s basically only remembered for his 1979 #1 hit “Sad Eyes.”  But before he had women everywhere bawling to his mellow sounds, he took a stab at “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” in 1972, which made it to #3 despite being largely forgotten these days due to the popularity of The Tokens “original.”  I don’t know why people continue to cling on to the dusty old black and white version, because Robert John’s “Lion” is one of the most awesome feel good songs in the history of musical Prozac!

Wow!  Where do I even start rattling off all of the qualities of John’s song that makes it better than the extremely dated Tokens version?

John’s backup singers are the bomb!

gladys knight

Sometimes the Pips make the song, and not the Knight.

No annoying soprano!

The lion may sleep, but the hippo is on the loose.

The lion may sleep, but the hippo is on the loose.

And any pop song that can totally rock the tuba deserves some kind of special award…

The tuba players get all the chicks.

The tuba players get all the chicks.

And though I have never seen “The Lion King,” I’m pretty sure it doesn’t use the Robert John recording of this song… and really, isn’t this version exactly what Timon and Pumbaa should be dancing to?  It’s got a fun and carefree attitude the stodgy old original doesn’t.  Hell, use some of those special CGI effects to throw this song into The Wizard of Oz as well…

Hush my darling, don't cry my darling!

Hush my darling, don’t fear my darling!

But enough about Leo.  Be sure to return next Monday as we unveil song number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9….


About evilsquirrel13

Bored former 30-something who has nothing better to do with his life than draw cartoon squirrels.
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33 Responses to Hakuna Matata

  1. I liked this song as I was a child, I always tinkered my own africa together while I listened to that song. And as I saw the real africa… it wasn’t like that song… but it was great anyway to be there. Even when monkey poop stays in your shirt forever :o)

  2. I think for The Lion King they actually had Nathan Lane (voice of Timon) record a version with Ernie Sabella (voice of Pumbaa)

  3. 1jaded1 says:

    I love that song. I don’t care who knows.

  4. NotAPunkRocker says:

    I like the one that plays at the beginning of “Coming to America” (I think it is the same song…close enough tune in the beginning, at least 🙂 )

    • Now I have seen “Coming To America”, but it’s been 25 years or so since I saw it… so I looked up the soundtrack. Looks like they used a recording of the original South African version of the song… performed by Ladysmith Black Mambazo. LBM also contributed to the soundtracks of such legendary movies as Ferngully, Dude Where’s My Car, and of course… The Lion King Part II! I remember when Simba’s Pride came out straight to VHS (Yes, VHS!), it was my first year at Mecca, and my Mom MADE me buy a copy for my sister the morning it was released….

  5. Wow. So I clicked on your song after remembering to remove the mute on the sound … and Garry was reduced to helpless laughter. I don’t understand why.

  6. Trisha says:

    This is definitely one of those tunes you just have to play once and it will play in your head for a week. Luckily, it’s one of the fun ones and not one by Taylor Swift. Or, even worse, that one about kissing a girl by Katy Perry. That’s one a middle aged woman doesn’t want to walk around singing to herself all day.

    • LOL, I wrote this post a week and a half ago and scheduled it… and you can best believe “Lion’s” been in my head every single one of those past 10 days. Since I have a tendency to automatically replace “girl” with “squirrel” in every song, it doesn’t seem as strange when I’m caught singing Katy’s breakout song to myself… er, scratch that.

      • Trisha says:

        “I kissed a squirrel and I think I liked it.” Hm, you might want to sing that very quietly! 🙂

        Now I’m going to hear “squirrel” instead of “girl” in every song. I can hear Keith Urban now – “I want to kiss a squirrel!”

  7. reocochran says:

    Okay, I don’t mind Hakuna Matata nor some of Neil Sedaka and even, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” but please no “Sad Eyes!” Evil Squirrel your post had me cracking up, thanks so much. Big 🙂

  8. gentlestitches says:

    The three movies guaranteed to quiet young squirrels for a short time.
    Wizard of Oz.
    Lion king.
    Rat Race.
    I also LOVE Pumbaa and Timon’s version as shown above.

  9. Mental Mama says:

    I *think* the is the one I typically think of when I bring this one up in my brain, but you never can tell with me. And in all honesty, every damn version of this song sounds almost identical.

    • This one stands out for me because it just seems like a much more fun version than most of the others I’ve heard. They definitely don’t use the Robert John version in that new Sleep Number commercial I’ve been seeing…

  10. draliman says:

    That’s really good! I listened to the version I know (by Tight Fit, 1982) and I’m not sure which I prefer. Tight Fit’s video is not to be missed, though 🙂

    • Wow… a new wave version! I like it, though I’ll still take Robert John. I had never heard of Tight Fit, but there were more obscure bands in the early 80’s than you could shake a elephant gun at. Was the video the Musik Laden version? If so, someone needs to tell those girls that’s not lion print! 😉

      • draliman says:

        That video was the height of cool 30 years ago :-). Tight Fit had a couple of fairly big hits, but probably not outside of the UK. This song was at number one for 3 weeks!

    • Nevermind, I found the real deal. Not sure why it was so far down the search results on YouTube when I specifically searched for the band, song and “video”…

  11. markbialczak says:

    No sad eyes for your gem of a cover to start the upper crust! Robert John beats the Tokens, and I ain’t Lion, Bill. (Of course, that Ladysmith BM version of which J and you converse is the bestest and beastiest) …

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