The Lion Sleeps Tonight  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

"The Lion Sleeps Tonight", also known as "Wimoweh" and "Mbube" is an African song written by Solomon Linda and most notably recorded by The Tokens.



"Mbube" (Template:Lang-zu) was written in 1939 by Solomon Linda and performed by his group, the Evening Birds. "Mbube" became a hit throughout South Africa: it sold about 100,000 copies during the 1940s; and it lent its name to a style of African a cappella music which evolved into isicathamiya.

Alan Lomax brought the song to the attention of Pete Seeger of the folk group The Weavers. In November 1951, after having performed the song for at least a year in their concerts, the Weavers recorded an adapted version entitled "Wimoweh", a mishearing of the original song's chorus of "uyimbube" (Template:Lang-zu). The song was credited exclusively to Paul Campbell, a fictitious entity used by Howard Richmond to copyright material in the public domain. Their version became a top-twenty hit in the U.S., and a live version became a staple covered by groups such as The Kingston Trio.

Seeger explained in one recording that the song referred to a legend similar to the European folklore tale of the king in the mountain: the last king of the Zulus, Shaka the Lion, reputedly went into hiding when the Europeans colonised Africa. Other scholars, such as Veit Erlmann, argue the song has a more literal meaning based on Linda killing a lion cub when he was younger. New lyrics to the song were written by George David Weiss, Luigi Creatore, and Hugo Peretti. The Tokens' 1961 version adapted these lyrics and rose to number one on the Billboard Hot 100. In the United Kingdom, Karl Denver's cover likewise reached the charts. The song remains popular and the subject of several cover versions.


Pete Seeger later regretted in his book A Lion's Trail that he didn't ask his publisher, The Richmond Organization to persuade Linda to sign a contract. Since Linda's version was in the public domain, the Weavers' version was copyrighted under a pseudonym, a customary practice at the time. As Richmond claimed copyright, they secured both the songwriter's royalties and the publisher's share of the profits. Seeger instructed his publisher to donate his share to Linda.

In 2000, South African journalist Rian Malan wrote a feature article for Rolling Stone magazine in which he recounted Linda's story and estimated that the song had earned $15 million for its use in the movie The Lion King alone. The column prompted François Verster to create the Emmy-winning documentary A Lion's Trail

In July 2004, the song became the subject of a lawsuit between Linda's estate and Disney. The suit claimed that Disney owed $1.6 million in royalties for the use of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" in the film and stage production of The Lion King. At the same time, Richmond began to pay $3,000 annually into the estate. In February 2006, Linda's descendants reached a legal settlement with Abilene Music, who held the worldwide rights and had licensed the song to Disney, to place the profits of the song in a trust.

Selected list of recorded versions



The Lion Sleeps Tonight

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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