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.
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.
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!
No annoying soprano!
And any pop song that can totally rock the tuba deserves some kind of special award…
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…
But enough about Leo. Be sure to return next Monday as we unveil song number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9….