Mitch Margo, one of the original members of The Tokens, has died at the age of 70.
The Tokens posted to social media:
The Lion went to sleep…Mitch Margo, co-founder of The Tokens passed away peacefully in his sleep. The shock is still reverberating though our family as we try to make sense of this loss. Much will be said about Mitch in the upcoming days, but we wanted our incredibly dedicated fans to know.
Mitch left an indelible mark on the world with both his art and music. We hope that all of you who love listening to The Tokens explore the work of this amazingly talented individual. So “hush my darling, don’t fear my darling, the lion sleeps tonight.”
Prior to the Tokens, there was The Linc-Tones which included Neil Sedaka, Hank Mendress and Jay Siegel. In 1960, Mitch Margo, who was only 13, and his brother Phil Margo were recruited for the group and the name was changed to The Tokens.
Their first hit, “Tonight I Fell in Love” (1961 / #15) was written by the Margos and Mendress but it was the late 1961 hit “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”, a song that was adapted from the Zulu song “Mbube” and, later, changed to “Wimoweh” when it made its original run through the folk circuit of the 50’s. The Tokens’ version hit number 1 and the opening falsetto became one of the most recognized of the rock era.
After “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”, the group wasn’t able to find another major hit although they did reach number 30 in 1966 with another song that Margo co-wrote, “I Hear Trumpets Blow”.
During the 60’s, Margo and the other Tokens also worked as record producers for artists like the Chiffons and the Happenings along with forming their own record company, B.T. Puppy.
In 1973, the Margo Brothers and Jay Siegel formed a new group, Cross Country, who recorded one album and went to number 30 with a cover of Wilson Pickett’s “In the Midnight Hour”.
Even after Jay Siegel left the Tokens and formed his own version of the band, the Margo brothers continued to tour although the two versions of the group came together in 2000 for the PBS program Doo Wop 51. Mitch was still a member of the group at the time of his death.
Along with the Tokens, Margo also scored a number of TV movies and released his first solo album, ABCDEFG, in 2010. He was also a well known artist whose paintings have been exhibited in galleries, along with his illustrations used in children’s books. His animation has also been seen on the USA Network.