His most enduring song, “Lemon Tree,” was written in Chicago in the late 1950s for a nightclub act he was performing with Dolly Jonah, his wife at the time. The melody was adapted from a Brazilian song, “Meu Limão, Meu Limoeiro,” and it retained its samba-like lilt. Mr. Holt’s lyric tells of a father’s warning about the vicissitudes of love, invoking the title as a metaphor:
Lemon tree very pretty, and the lemon flower is sweet
But the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.
Catnip for folk singers of the era (and others, subsequently), the song was recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary, the Kingston Trio, Chad and Jeremy, the Seekers and Trini Lopez. It was appropriated for a television commercial for Pledge, a lemon-scented wood furniture cleaner.
And made its way into this episode of Seinfeld.