18 December

Pick a Day

18 DECEMBER

In Music History

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2020 Paul McCartney releases McCartney III. He's a one-man band on the album, playing all the instruments and writing all the songs, which he also did on the prequels, McCartney in 1970 and McCartney II in 1980.

2016 Fifth Harmony announce that Camila Cabello has left the group. They soldier on as a quartet but keep the name; Cabello does pretty well on her own, landing a #1 with "Havana" in 2018.

2014 Larry Henley (lead singer of the '60s pop group The Newbeats) dies at age 77 after suffering with Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease. Co-wrote the 1989 hit "The Wind Beneath My Wings."

2012 Songwriter Earl Shuman files a copyright infringement lawsuit against singer Alicia Keys, claiming her Top 20 single "Girl On Fire" sounds too much like Shuman's 1970 song "Lonely Boy," which ended up being recorded by Eddie Holman as "Hey There Lonely Girl." The suit is kind of vague on the details, but apparently it comes down to a few notes; Keys and Shuman later settle.

2011 Ralph MacDonald, a percussionist and songwriter who composed the hit duets "Where Is the Love" (Roberta Flack/Donny Hathaway) and "Just The Two Of Us" (Bill Withers/Grover Washington Jr.), dies of lung cancer at age 67.

2011 One Direction play their first show, performing at Watford Colosseum in London. It does not go well. "We were just a joke," Niall Horan says.

2004 T.I. is arrested on gun possession charges for the third time in three years. Authorities search his home and find a silencer-enhanced weapon, several rounds of ammunition, and photos of the rapper handling guns. He is placed under house arrest after posting a $3 million bond.

2001 Billie Eilish is born in Los Angeles. Working with her brother, Finneas, she composes her Grammy-winning debut album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, which is released in 2019 when she's 17.

2000 British singer Kirsty MacColl, daughter of Ewan MacColl, is killed by a boat propeller while scuba diving in Cozumel, Mexico at age 41.

1981 On his 38th birthday, Keith Richards is playing with The Rolling Stones at a show in Hampton, Virginia, when a fan rushes the stage. Keith sees him coming and hits him with his guitar. As security intervenes, Richards straps his guitar back on and continues playing.More

1972 Shooting begins for Bob Dylan's part in Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid.

1972 DJ Lethal (of Limp Bizkit, House of Pain) is born Leor Dimant in Riga, Latvia, and eventually settles in New York.

1972 The Ringo Starr-directed T. Rex documentary, Born to Boogie, premieres at Oscar's Cinema in Brewer Street, Soho (UK). In attendance are Starr, the members of T. Rex, and Elton John.

1970 Rapper DMX is born Earl Simmons in Mount Vernon, New York. He takes his stage name from the Oberheim DMX drum machine, an instrument he used as a teen.

1970 Segregationist Georgia governor Lester Maddox walks off The Dick Cavett Show when the host implies his supporters are bigots. Randy Newman writes a song about it, "Rednecks," which begins: Last night I saw Lester Maddox on a TV show

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"The Lion Sleeps Tonight" Is King Of The Charts

1961

"The Lion Sleeps Tonight," with a chorus in poorly translated Zulu, tops the Hot 100 for The Tokens.

In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight... When South African singer Solomon Linda recorded the song in Zulu, it was about hunting, with good fortune upon them as the mighty beast sleeps. The Zulu word for lion is imbube; the chorus of the song repeats uyimbube, which means "You're a lion." First recorded in 1939, the song was so popular in South Africa throughout the 1940s that it got the attention of the American folk singer Pete Seeger, who recorded it in 1952 as "Wimoweh," which is how Seeger heard uyimbube. This version didn't have any verses, just vocalizations. When The Tokens recorded the song in 1961, they added a few comprehensible lines in English and and called it "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." Released as a B-side, it quickly became clear the song was no mere novelty, but a mighty hit - once you hear it, you can't stop singing it. The song climbs to #1, where it stays for three weeks. Utterly singable, it endures thanks to constant use in movies and TV, and also through a litany of covers, including one by Robert John that hits #3 in 1972. The Simpsons, The Office and The Big Bang Theory all use the song in memorable scenes, but the biggest revival comes in 1994 when it is featured - appropriately - in the Disney film The Lion King, where it becomes a duet between a meerkat and a warthog. The Tokens version is re-released to capitalize, and reaches #51. Despite the startling success of the song he originated, Solomon Linda got just a pittance from it, as he sold the rights in 1952. He died destitute in 1962 at age 53. This injustice goes unchallenged until 2000, when Rolling Stone publishes an article tracing the origin of the song. Linda's family sues, and in 2006 reaches a settlement with the song's publisher to recover at least some of the royalties.

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