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The Lion Sleeps Tonight

Updated on January 1, 2016
The lion
The lion

The Story Behind the Song "The Lion Sleeps Tonight"

When listening to the beautiful song "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" I can't forget that the original artist and song writer died in poverty having never received true recognition for this lovely song.

This lens is dedicated to that artist, Solomon Popoli Linda. Thanks to Solomon Linda for enriching the music world.

Photo Credit

Solomon Linda
Solomon Linda

Solomon Popoli Linda

1909 - 8 October 1962

Solomon Popoli Linda was born near Pomeroy in Ladysmith, Natal, in 1909. He was also known as Solomon Ntsele and Linda was his clan name.

Solomon Linda started a group called the Evening Birds which was also the name of a choir he had sung with. The members of the group were Solomon Linda (soprano), Gilbert Madondo (alto), Boy Sibiya (tenor), with Gideon Mkhize, Samuel Mlangeni, and Owen Sikhakhane as basses. They started by singing at weddings.

Solomon Linda began working at Gallo Records in 1939 as a record packer. A talent scout saw the Evening Birds and they were soon recording a selection of songs. At this recording Solomon improvised the song "Mbube". The recording was sold to Gallo Records for only 10 shillings.

After the Evening Birds disbanded in 1948 Solomon married his wife Regina. He continued to perform and was well known in South Africa for "Mbube". Despite this popularity he died a pauper in 1962 and it was 18 years before a tombstone was erected at his gravesite.

It was after a South African journalist, Rian Malan, wrote an article for Rolling Stone magazine that the story of Solomon Linda became common knowledge. By this time Disney had produced "The Lion King" and earnings from the song alone are estimated to be USD15 million. Solomon's heirs sued Disney for not paying royalties to them. In 2006 a settlement finally saw justice done for Solomon Linda's family.

This is the only known picture of Solomon Popoli Linda. One of the most common accetable uses of this image is: "Pictures of deceased persons, in articles about that person, provided that ever obtaining a free close substitute is not reasonably likely."

Source

Solomon Linda and The Evening Birds - Mbube - Mbube is the original name for this song.

The song writer, Solomon Linda, and the the Evening Birds in the first recording of the song we have come to know as "The Lion Sleeps Tonight".

Before coming to this lens did you know about the original song?

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The Lion Sleeps Tonight
The Lion Sleeps Tonight

Taking nothing away from the original artist, Solomon Linda, I love the Tolkens' version. It was my first introduction to this lovely song and they do it very well! I always have to sing along and it makes me feel very happy.

Also available in vinyl! That's a plus as vinyl has made a big comeback in recent times.

 
Lion sleeps
Lion sleeps

Mbube or Wimeweh?

Originally the song was "Mbube" which in Zulu means lion. In 1952 the recording by Solomon was discovered by an American musicologist, Alan Lomax, who gave it to The Weavers. The Weavers recorded a version called "Wimoweh" which is a phonetic spelling of the Zulu refrain "uyembube". It became a hit in the USA reaching the top 20. Karl Denver's 1962 version of "Wimeweh" was more popular with UK audiences.

I was unable to include the YouTube of the Weavers version....

Photo Credit

Karl Denver - Wimeweh

Popular in the UK in 1961-1962

The Tokens - The Lion Sleeps Tonight

This is my favourite version for the song...it was recorded in 1961.

The Tolkens in 2008

The older Tokens in 2008...do they still have it? Oh yes!! And the audience is sure enjoying it...

The Lion King from Disney

Disney's Sing Along Songs - The Lion King Circle of Life
Disney's Sing Along Songs - The Lion King Circle of Life

A collection of an equal mix of Disney classic and Disney current that any child would love and adults too! And, yes, it does have ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’.

Go on Moms and Dads...join in!

 

Beautiful Pictures of Africa and the Sounds of The Lion Sleeps Tonight

Made me quite homesick watching the pictures of Africa....enjoy!

African Versions of The Lion Sleeps Tonight

More Versions of this Lovely Song - ...including humor too

The Lion King - The Lion Sleeps Tonight

The 1994 hit Disney movie "The Lion King".

Disney Lion King

The Lion King Trilogy 1-3 Box Set [Blu-ray]
The Lion King Trilogy 1-3 Box Set [Blu-ray]

These three movies of the Disney Lion King follow the struggles of Simba’s life.

The third movie tells the original story from the perspective of Timon (a meercat) and Pumbaa (a warthog)

 

The Lion Sleeps Tonight

The late Miriam Makeba sings the African version.

Miriam Makeba (4 March 1932 – 9 November 2008) was the first artist from Africa to make African music popular around the world in the 1960s. Nicknamed Mama Africa.

Which is your favorite version?

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pencil sleeping lion
pencil sleeping lion

The Lyrics

We-de-de-de

De-de-de-de-de

De-we-um-um-a-way

We-de-de-de

De-de-de-de-de

We-um-um-a-way

A-wimoweh, a-wimoweh

A-wimoweh, a-wimoweh

A-wimoweh, a-wimoweh

A-wimoweh, a-wimoweh

A-wimoweh, a-wimoweh

A-wimoweh, a wimoweh

A-wimoweh, a-wimoweh

A-wimoweh, a-wimoweh

In the jungle

The mighty jungle

The lion sleeps tonight

In the jungle

The quiet jungle

The lion sleeps tonight

A-wimoweh, a-wimoweh

A-wimoweh, a-wimoweh

A-wimoweh, a-wimoweh

A-wimoweh, a-wimoweh

A-wimoweh, a-wimoweh

A-wimoweh, a wimoweh

A-wimoweh, a-wimoweh

A-wimoweh, a-wimoweh

Near the village

The peaceful village

The lion sleeps tonight

Near the village

The quiet village

The lion sleeps tonight

A-wimoweh, a-wimoweh

A-wimoweh, a-wimoweh

A-wimoweh, a-wimoweh

A-wimoweh, a-wimoweh

A-wimoweh, a-wimoweh

A-wimoweh, a wimoweh

A-wimoweh, a-wimoweh

A-wimoweh, a-wimoweh

Hush, my darling

Don't fear my darling

The lion sleeps tonight

Hush, my darling

Don't fear my darling

The lion sleeps tonight

A-wimoweh, a-wimoweh

A-wimoweh, a-wimoweh

A-wimoweh, a-wimoweh

A-wimoweh, a-wimoweh

A-wimoweh, a-wimoweh

A-wimoweh, a wimoweh

A-wimoweh, a-wimoweh

A-wimoweh, a-wimoweh

We-de-de-de

De-de-de-de-de

De-we-um-um-a-way

We-de-de-de

De-de-de-de-de

We-um-um-a-way

Do you love this song? Did you know the story behind the song? What are your thoughts?

Your comments...

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    • profile image

      JustOneGuy 3 years ago

      @LynetteBell: You are very welcome. Linda's version from the first recording ever made might actually be my favorite because it has such an earthy quality to it. It is my understanding that the soprano part was sung by Soloman and you can hear the exhaustion in his voice. He touches the melody only once, near the end. And I read somewhere that it was an improvisation and not planned. I wonder if my fascination with the song is due to the contrast between the African wild and the creative contemplation of music by men around a fire. I don't know and probably never will. But it sure is fun to think about. :)

    • LynetteBell profile image
      Author

      LynetteBell 3 years ago from Christchurch, New Zealand

      @JustOneGuy: Thank you for your interesting comment...no I didn't know that!

    • profile image

      JustOneGuy 3 years ago

      One more comment.

      Wouldn't it be great if Soloman Linda could hear what has been done with his improvisation?

      What a gift to all of us. Wish it could have brought him some joy.

    • profile image

      JustOneGuy 3 years ago

      yes, I did know the story. Your lens is excellent and I found it after a search on the internet. I too make lenses on squidoo.

      I have been listening to all of the versions on youtube because it is my fa vorite song and brings back so many good memories. I was 13 when it came out and I'd sing it while delivering papers at 4:00 am in Minneapolis (brrrrrr).

      My son plays violin in 3 symphony orchestras and we talked about this song two days ago. He knew all about it and I was surprised because I had no idea it had been part of any curriculum. In his auditions for major orchestras he's had to play Mozart and he has been using the lion sleeps as a study in musicality, which is the main ingredient in the Mozart selections.

      Bet you didn't know that long hair music was related to it, eh? :)

      Great lens.

    • profile image

      Colin323 4 years ago

      I've learned something, and something worthwhile, today, so thank you for this lens.

    • Cynthia Haltom profile image

      Cynthia Haltom 4 years ago from Diamondhead

      I have always enjoyed this song and had no ideas about the history of the original artist.

    • takkhisa profile image

      Takkhis 4 years ago

      Wow! The song is beautiful :)

    • yarfodg profile image

      yarfodg 4 years ago

      Stunning & fascinating... I love this song - It reminds me of Africa!! Thanks for the valuable info, Lyn...

    • PaigSr profile image

      PaigSr 4 years ago from State of Confussion

      Surprised at the first two. I did not realize that they were out there. Thanks for letting me know. Of course I will now have this tune in my head for a few days he says with a smile.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I love the song and the story. I can feel your love for Africa. I wish I know this continent much better.

    • profile image

      SteveKaye 4 years ago

      It's really amazing to watch the senior version of a young group. Wow.

    • Countryluthier profile image

      E L Seaton 4 years ago from Virginia

      I consider my self educated. Wow, how would I have imagined the history of this song I've for longer than I care to mention. Thanks for the lensformation.

    • NightMagic profile image

      NightMagic 5 years ago

      What a tragic story. I never knew that. I do remember the tokens singing the song. I sure enjoyed your video with pictures of Africa. That's one place I always wanted to visit. Now I want to go there even more.

    • vinodkpillai lm profile image

      vinodkpillai lm 5 years ago

      I love this song but never knew the fascinating, tragic story behind it. Thanks!

    • Tracie-Fisher profile image

      Tracie-Fisher 5 years ago

      Loved hearing all these versions. Thanks for a great lens.

    • Stacy Birch profile image

      Stacy Birch 5 years ago

      Awesome song.

    • DIY Mary profile image

      DIY Mary 5 years ago

      I've always loved this song. I think it would make a great lullaby.

    • dave-sutton profile image

      dave-sutton 5 years ago

      When I was a boy I lived in a Transport cafe that had a juke box and that song was one of the favourites, it was played constantly virtually every day.

    • tfsherman lm profile image

      tfsherman lm 5 years ago

      Ever read the Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwambe? He talks about relatives eaten by the lions. It's a campfire song for us, but even at this emotional distance we can catch the relief of a village which can be peaceful because the lion sleeps.

    • profile image

      ryanhx64 5 years ago

      @favored: Haha, i might sing all night too! Thanks for the lens, soundfinance!

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile image

      William Leverne Smith 5 years ago from Hollister, MO

      It has always made me happy as well. Thanks, so much, for sharing! ;-)

    • LynetteBell profile image
      Author

      LynetteBell 5 years ago from Christchurch, New Zealand

      @favored: I know just what you mean...it's one of those tunes that get stuck in your head. But oh, it makes me happy!

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 5 years ago from USA

      I didn't want to stop here for one reason - I knew I'd be singing this all night. As you see I had to anyway. So much fun; this song always makes me feel good. Wish I could bless it over and over. Thanks for the celebration.

    • junecampbell profile image

      June Campbell 5 years ago from North Vancouver, BC, Canada

      I had no idea Thanks for sharing the history of this beautiful music. So sad that the original artist received no recognitiion.

    • LisaDH profile image

      LisaDH 5 years ago

      I love this song. It's so sad that the original artist didn't live to see or profit from its popularity. I'm glad the family was able to receive some compensation.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I didn't know any of the history behind this song. Thanks for sharing it with us.

    • profile image

      cmadden 5 years ago

      I had no idea this wonderful song went back that far, or that the original artist fared so poorly! I am very glad that the story became known, for his family and for his legacy. Great lens!

    • LittleLindaPinda profile image

      Little Linda Pinda 5 years ago from Florida

      This is a great song.

    • Wednesday-Elf profile image

      Wednesday-Elf 5 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

      Thank you for giving us the story behind the song. I never knew it. I've loved this song since the early '60s, having first heard it sung by my favorite folk group 'The Kingston Trio'. I also have a recording of it by 'Bud & Travis' - folk singers in the early 1960s. I actually did not know that "The Lion Sleeps Tonight' was featured in the Disney movie "The Lion King". By the time the movie came out, my 'kids' were grown or in college and we were 'beyond' watching Disney movies--- :), so I never saw the movie (Gasp!) or heard the song in that movie until this page!

    • profile image

      AnimalHouse 5 years ago

      I can't help but dance whenever I hear this song.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I love The Lion Sleeps Tonight and really enjoyed listening to the original version by Solomon Linda.