The Lion Sleeps Tonight

From Academic Kids

"The Lion Sleeps Tonight" was a 1939 African pop hit that, unexpectedly, also became quite popular in the US.

The song was first recorded by its writer, Solomon Linda, and his group, The Evening Birds, in 1939 under the title "Mbube". The song's Zulu lyrics told the story of a group of men hunting a sleeping lion. "Mbube" became a hit throughout present-day Swaziland and sold about one hundred thousand copies during the 1940s.

In 1952, the song was covered as an instrumental by American folk group The Weavers as "Wimoweh", a mishearing of the chorus of 'uyimbube' (meaning "he is a lion"), and again in 1959 by The Kingston Trio. For The Tokens' 1961 cover, a new set of lyrics, "The Lion Sleeps Tonight", was written by George Weiss, Luigi Creatore, and Hugo Peretti, based upon the meaning of the original song. The Tokens' version rose to number one on the Billboard charts and still receives fairly frequent replay on many American oldies radio stations. Since then, "Wimoweh"/"The Lion Sleeps Tonight" has remained popular and frequently covered in the US.

Some other covers of the song include those by Brian Eno, REM, Nanci Griffith, Miriam Makeba, The Nylons, *NSYNC, Sandra Bernhard, Dave Newman, Tight Fit, those heard in the film and Broadway versions of The Lion King, and — with some typically odd alterations — They Might Be Giants' "The Guitar (The Lion Sleeps Tonight)".

In July 2004 the song became the subject of a lawsuit between the family of its writer Solomon Linda and Disney. The suit claims that Disney owes $1.6 million in royalties for its use in the film The Lion King.

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