The Lion Sleeps Tonight – The Tokens
“The Lion Sleeps Tonight”, also known as “Wimba Way” or “Wimoweh” (and originally as “Mbube”), is a song written and recorded by Solomon Linda originally with the Evening Birds (Song by Solomon Linda originally titled just “Mbube”),for the South African Gallo Record Company in 1939. Originally composed only in Zulu, it was adapted and covered internationally by many 1950s pop and folk revival artists, including The Weavers, Jimmy Dorsey, Yma Sumac, Miriam Makeba, and The Kingston Trio. In 1961 it became a number one hit in the U.S. as adapted in English by the doo-wop group The Tokens. It went on to earn at least US$15 million in royalties from covers and film licensing.
In the mid-nineties, it became a pop “supernova” (in the words of South African writer Rian Malan) when licensed to Walt Disney for use in the film The Lion King, its spin-off TV series and live musical, prompting a lawsuit in 2004 on behalf of the impoverished descendants of Solomon Linda.