Here’s why this song should be in your collection!
“The Lion Sleeps Tonight” was already iconic when Walt Disney Pictures used the song in 1994 for its award-winning movie, The Lion King. The Linda family ultimately became winners too.
Solomon Linda was a janitor at Gallo Record Company in South Africa when he composed “Mbube” (a Zulu word for lion) in 1939. He recorded the song with backup vocals by The Evening Birds. Gallo gave Linda a small payment and writing credits, but not his copyrights. “Mbube” sold over 100,000 copies.
“Wimoweh” (renamed for the chorus, mispronounced in English) became a hit record and concert favorite in 1951 for The Weavers featuring Pete Seeger. Later, the famous producing team of Hugo & Luigi hired George David Weiss to compose English lyrics. “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” became a #1 hit for The Tokens (featuring opera singer Anita Darian) in 1961. Linda died penniless in 1962.
Seeger donated his royalties to Linda’s family, but the record companies never paid them. Disney was aware of the copyright issues. A Rolling Stone magazine article by Rian Malan in 2000 finally launched a settlement with Linda’s heirs for millions of dollars.
This song is available on various albums in vinyl, CD and MP3 format from major vendors. Please consider purchasing them from a local independent record store.
Here’s an interesting fact!