But beyond the exploitation and legal battles lies a more inspiring story. Sung by Solomon Linda and the Evening Birds, Mbube was released in 1939 by South Africa’s oldest independent label, Gallo Record Company, for whom Linda worked as a packer in the pressing plant. In 40s South Africa, Linda became a star. But the song’s long, complicated history was just beginning. In 1951, US folk singer Pete Seeger was handed a copy and decided to record a version with his band, the Weavers. In the hands of four white voices from New York City, the looped chorus of “uyimbube” (“You are a lion” in Zulu) became “wimoweh”, and the title of their cover. After spreading deeper into the US , another set of musicians, doo wop group the Tokens, added English lyrics, creating the 1961 US No 1 hit The Lion Sleeps Tonight, although Linda’s name was absent from the credits. Three decades later the song would become a centrepiece of Disney’s animated classic The Lion King.
SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN