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The tune is based on the Brazilian folk song Meu limão, meu limoeiro, arranged by José Carlos Burle in 1937 and made popular by Brazilian singer Wilson Simonal. The song compares love to a lemon tree: "Lemon tree very pretty, and the lemon flower is sweet, but the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat."
The song has been recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary, Chad & Jeremy, The Kingston Trio, The Seekers, Bob Marley and The Wailers, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, Sandie Shaw, and Roger Whittaker. In 1965, Trini Lopez recorded the most successful version of the song which hit number twenty on the Billboard Hot 100 and number two on the Billboard Middle Road Singles chart.