When I was in high school (a long time ago...) I remember a time when my folks took me and a friend to the carnival. My friend and I got off one of the rides and I remember my mom saying "I love that song." This really surprised me since she never liked any of the music of those days. At the time I had no idea how long the song had actually been around and how it has touched so many lives.
Back story if you have a minute:
"Mbube" (Zulu: lion) 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. "Mbube" became "Wimoweh" or "The Lion Sleeps Tonight". wikipedia
In 1948, the Evening Birds broke up, and a year later Linda married Regina. While raising a family he continued to perform. His song "Mbube" had made him a star in South Africa.Linda is credited with a number of musical innovations that came to dominate the isicathamiya style. Instead of using one singer per voice part, the Evening Birds used a number of bass singers. He introduced the falsetto lead voice which incorporated female vocal texture into male singing. His group was the first to use striped suits to indicate that they were urban sophisticates. At the same time, their bass singing retained musical elements that indicated an attachment to traditional ways of singing choral music. wikipedia
"Despite the mass appeal of The Tokens' (version in 1961) "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," Solomon Linda never got the financial reward for his composition. Under apartheid, South African blacks were not allowed to receive royalties and died nearly penniless in 1962. " source
In 2000, South African journalist Rian Malan wrote a feature article for Rolling Stone magazine, highlighting Linda's story and estimating that the song had earned US $15 million for its use in The Lion King alone.
In February 2006, Linda's heirs reached a legal settlement with Abilene Music, who held the worldwide rights and had licensed the song to Disney. This settlement applies to worldwide rights, not just South African, since 1987. The money will go into a trust, to be administered by SA Music Rights. wikipedia