JOHANNESBURG — The original recording of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” composed 62 years ago by South African Solomon Linda, is being released again to benefit his family.
Versions of the song also will be recorded by top South African groups Ladysmith Black Mambazo and the Elite Swingsters and released as a compact disc.
Royalties will go to Linda’s three daughters and their families in Soweto, near Johannesburg. The value of all the songwriter’s royalties and associated revenues generated by the song is estimated at $15 million. Linda died penniless at the age of 53, more than 20 years after he and his band, the Original Evening Birds, recorded the song “Mbube” for the first time.
“Mbube” was obtained by folk singer Pete Seeger, and his version of the song, called “Wimoweh,” soon went on to chart success in 1951 in the U.S. A second version of the song, dubbed “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” by the Tokens in 1961, generated millions of dollars.
Around 160 recordings have been made of different versions of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” It has been used in 13 movies, half a dozen TV commercials and the hit play “The Lion King.”