On this day in 1946, Steven Spielberg, who will become one of the most successful directors in modern movie history with such blockbusters as Jaws, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan,is born in Cincinnati, Ohio. For a complete list of productions Spielberg was involved in, see his entry in the Internet Movie Database. Find Spielberg at the library, on hoopla and in Freegal.
The Tokens earn a #1 hit with “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”. The song that topped the Billboard pop chart on December 18, 1961, was an instant classic that went on to become one of the most successful pop songs of all time, yet its true originator saw only a tiny fraction of the song’s enormous profits. The story begins in Johannesburg, South Africa, where in 1938, a group of Zulu singers and dancers called Solomon Linda and the Evening Birds stepped into the first recording studio ever set up in sub-Saharan Africa and recorded a song called “Mbube”—Zulu for “the lion.” “Mbube” was a regional hit, and it helped make Solomon Linda into a South African star. But the story might have ended there had a copy of the record not made its way to New York City in the early 1950s, where it was saved from the slush pile at Decca Records by the legendary folklorist Alan Lomax. Without actually hearing any of the records in a box sent from Africa, Lomax thought a friend of his might be interested in the box’s contents. That friend was the folksinger Pete Seeger.
Unable to understand the lyrics of “Mbube,” Seeger transcribed the central chant as “Wimoweh,” and that became the name of the song as recorded by the Weavers and released in early 1952, just as the group was about to be blacklisted thanks to the McCarthy hearings. Eventually, Jay Siegel, the teenage lead singer of the Tokens, would hear and fall in love with “Wimoweh” through the Kingston Trio’s cover version of the Weavers’ song. The Tokens’ label commissioned English-language lyrics for the song, which was re-titled “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” and went on to become not just a #1 song on this day in 1961, but one of the most-covered, most successful pop songs of all time. Find the Tokens on hoopla and in Freegal.