I used to spend a lot of time wasting it by doing this. "Wasted days and wasted niiiights... (sorry, just popped into my head).
Now I know one could argue that climbing up and down rocks amounts to zero overall altitude gain and therefore amounts to a lot of effort and exertion expended for nought, but I don't know... Entire pop songs have been written about this phenomenon (for example "What goes up, must come down, Spinning wheels..." you know the one) .
I could never really explain to another why I enjoyed gouging huge chunks of skin off of all my knuckles stuffing my hands in crystalline cracks, but I did, and I could probably bore many with tales of conquered overhangs and thin crack lines and daunting aretes and scarce protection points and all the other climbing lingo-jargon learned and spewed by climbers as they talk about their passion. But I won't. Not today.
Today I wanted to tell you about the cleansing effect of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight".
Ever have a song stuck in your head that just won't go away? It comes in on a tidbit and blows up in your head, and now the only thing you can mouth out of your mouth is "Breakin' the law, breakin' the law!" or "Hey! You! Get off of my cloud!" or "I don't care what you do! I wouldn't want to be like you, NO oooo!" or "My hump. My hump my hump my hump!" and so on and so forth....
Over time, and since I get hooked almost everyday with ten or twelve of these songs making endless loops around my cranial track, I've learned a sure fire remedy to extricate Paula Abdul's "Do... do you love me? Do.. do you love me? Pah puppa pah pah!" and Cher "Gypsy's, tramps and thieves..." and Steppenwolf's "Born to be wiiiiiii iiiii iiiild!" completely and temporarily, outta my noggin'.
I sing one verse of "The Lion SLeeps Tonight" (See below)
Works everytime. Guaranteed. At least for me.
If you climb anywhere near a city, you will know of rocks and spots that people go to to rope up and practice. Some use climbing gyms. Others, prefer the outdoors even if it is a rock next to a freeway. I knew of several rocks I could go to, depending on where I was working or who I was visiting (this rock is in Mt. Woodson, just outside of San Diego. In fact, it is named after a famous early century Yosemite climber-- yes, rocks can be named after people-- and the crack is called Robbin's Crack) You may have heard of this crack... It is a famous crack, like Pam Anderson's blue eyes are also famous...
But enough about Pam Anderson, already.
There was a wall out on a bluff near the beach in Northern California where I used to like to go practice and work out and strengthen my big toes by standing on their tips for a few hours at a time. Several people could climb at the same time along its' western facing face. On a weekend, there might be three ropes hanging down its' thirty foot wall, with three very different --in skill and body type-- climbers going about their business, stemming and jamming, smearing and ring-gripping, over-legging and under-legging, dancing in Tai Chi slowness on a windy face of rock. A woman next to me was humming and occasionally wording the tune to the song "Stand By Your Man..." I was fifteen feet in the air, clinging next to her, and the irony of this song made me smile and look at this women. She stopped singing, momentarily, blushed a bit, and said "I can't help it. I've had this damn thing stuck in my head since yesterday."
'Horrible song," I said. "I had that one in my head once, way back when, and I kept singing it in public places without meaning to. "Stand by your man," coming from me earned me a few raised eyebrows."
"I can imagine. What did you do to get rid of it?"
"Four or five healthy 'Wimoweh' s"
She stopped flailing and leaned on her safety rope. "'Wimoweh's?"
"'Wimoweh's. If that doesn't get it, then you'll have to do a few choruses, but I sure hate to take it that far."
She looked at me like perhaps hanging on a rope fifteen feet off the ground next to ME was not such a sane thing to be doing. The look was like I had just approached her and asked her how old her 14 year old daughter was. That look.
And I've seen that look. A couple of times. Here and there.
"In the jungle , the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight..." I sang, bordering on a false falsetto. A faux faux, if you will. A wedging climbing harness type of alto soprano with a pinch of scrotum.
She got the idea. She tried the next verse "Near the village, the peaceful village, the lion sleeps tonight."
"Ingonyama ilele." ( I was showing off...)
"You got this down" she said.
"This song saved my life."
"What's in your head?"
She paused. "Nothing! It worked! Thank God that thing is gone."
"Every time!" I bragged. "Every time!"
A few weeks later on a Sunday I met her again under very silmilar circumstances. We were up around twenty feet when I had climbed alongside her. She was singing. She was singing
"Hush, my darling, don't fear, my darlingThe lion sleeps tonightHush, my darling, don't fear, my darlingThe lion sleeps tonight"
I tossed in "He, ha helelemama... Ohi'mbube."
She was not impressed. A look in her eyes suggested lack of sleep and a will to kill. ME, by the looks of it.
"I can't get that damn song out of my head."
"The Lion Sleeps Tonight" began as a 1939 African pop hit "Mbube" that, in modified versions, also became a hit in the US and UK.
The song was first recorded by its writer, Solomon Linda, and his group, The Evening Birds, in 1939 under the title "Mbube" (Zulu for "lion"). Gallo Record Company paid Linda a single fee for the recording and no royalties. "Mbube" became a hit throughout South Africa and sold about one hundred thousand copies during the 1940s. The song became so popular it lent its name to a style of African a capella music, though the style has since been replaced by isicathamiya (a softer version). Solomon Linda died in poverty, in 1962.
American musicologist Alan Lomax brought the song to the attention of folk group The Weavers' Pete Seeger. In 1952, they recorded their version entitled "Wimoweh", a mishearing of the original song's chorus of 'uyimbube' (meaning "you're a lion"), and credited the four group members as the composers (under the group pseudonym Paul Campbell) and published by Folkways. Their 1952 version, arranged by Gordon Jenkins, became a top-twenty hit in the U.S., and their live 1957 recording turned it into a folk music staple. This version was covered in 1959 by The Kingston Trio. Pete Seeger later said in the book A Lion's Trail, "The big mistake I made was not making sure that my publisher signed a regular songwriters’ contract with Linda. My publisher simply sent Linda some money and copyrighted The Weavers’ arrangement here and sent The Weavers some money."
For The Tokens' 1961 cover "The Lion Sleeps Tonight", new lyrics were written by George Weiss, Luigi Creatore, and Hugo Peretti, based very loosely upon the meaning of the original song. The Tokens' version rose to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and still receives fairly frequent replay on many American oldies radio stations. Since then, "Wimoweh"/"The Lion Sleeps Tonight" has remained popular and frequently covered.