What You Didn’t Know…
The Lion Sleeps Tonight
Now that the remake of the classic 1994 Disney Movie, “The Lion King” is out, let’s discuss one of the famous songs in the original film. “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” is just one of the many iconic and memorable songs from this movie. Many people believe it is the remake of the 1961 hit by The Tokens, but it is not. Let us begin at the beginning.
Solomon Linda was born in South Africa and spoke Zulu. He was a cattle herdsman and one of the main predators were lions. He wrote a song entitled “Mbube,” which in Zulu means lion. The song was considered African Folk music and in 1939 he recorded the song for Gallo Record Company in Johannesburg.
In 1949 the song was brought to the attention of Pete Seeger of The Weavers and he enjoyed it so much that him and his bandmates (The Weavers) decided to sing it at their concerts. They misheard the words of the song and began to sing as “Wimoweh.” In 1952 they decided to finally record it and it charted #6 on the U.S. Billboard charts. This song, like Mbube was covered a few times.
In 1961 George David Weiss was hired by RCA producers to write English lyrics to the music of “Wimoweh.” The song was retitled, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” and of course recorded by The Tokens, and the song charted as #1 in 1961 and became the most popular version to date.
In 1994 Disney covered The Tokens version of the song for their film, “The Lion King.” All three songs (“Mbube,” “Wimoweh,” and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”) have been covered multiple times from 1952–2016.
Disney (2000) along with “The Weavers” (1951) were sent letters from lawyers and are now paying royalties to Solomon Linda’s estate.
So, the next time you hear “that “Lion King” song,” make sure you remember Solomon Linda.