The Lion Sleeps Tonight

28 05 2010

Yesterday I was listening to one of my favorite songs, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” While surfing around on YouTube, I discovered a number of other versions of the famous song. Some of them are pretty catchy and the Jimmy Cliff version is like, my new favorite song.

So today I am sharing you a brief look at this song and it’s history and covers. I’ll start with the original song, which might surprise you, isn’t by The Tokens. “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” in fact, started off it’s life as a traditional African song. I guess, this shouldn’t come as a surprise.

As you can imagine, these are just a few of the numerous renditions. It was difficult for me to narrow down all the versions to these five. But I felt that the selections I included here make up a good representation of the different types of adaptations that there are. Along with the original; gospel a capella, reggae, the most well known/early rock n’ roll, and pop.

Many more interpretations can be found on this person’s YouTube channel: youtube.com/user/FLORENCOM. There you can find other renditions by the likes of The Muppets, They Might Be Giants, Veggie Tales, The Stylistics, and Desmond Dekker, among others. There’s even an 80’s Techno remix. It’s an interesting study of how a traditional African song can be modernized and brought into Western culture.

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3 responses

28 05 2010
Katie

I love this song! My parents listened to oldies when I was growing up and this was always my favorite. I also love the REM version.

29 12 2010
Favorite Posts of 2010 Part 2 « C.A.P.S.love.

[…] also brought one of my all-time favorite posts of the year. In that post, I explored a song that basically everyone knows. But I played DJ and discovered a ton of amazing versions of this […]

10 03 2012
Eric Baldwin

Even Pete Seeger got it wrong. This was written by an African musician named Solomon Linda. When Pete Seeger introduced it in the USA, he claimed it to be a Zulu hunting chant, “Wimoweh”, which was in fact a misinterpretation of the underlying “Uyimbube” (WEEM-boo-BAY). The translation of the Zulu, is literally rendered as “You’re a Lion”.

When Pete Seeger learned that Solomon Linda was actually the composer of the song, he gave him his due credit and a portion of the royalties (not much in the fifties). Unfortunately, the rest of the recording industry has not followed suit.

You can hear the original 1939 recording by Solomon Linda and the Evening Birds on YouTube. You can even buy a copy on Amazon. The song is titled “Mbube.”

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