The Lion Sleeps
There's an interesting article in the Times today about the origins of the song "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." It started out as a song called "Mbube" (the Zulu word for lion), which was written by a black South African in 1939. In the 1950s, Pete Seeger recorded it with the Weavers, mispronouncing Mbube as "Wimoweh." The melody was then used to make the doo-wop song "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" in the 1960s, which was ultimately used in "The Lion King" in the 1990s. Sadly, but not really surprisingly, the author did not get anywhere near the royalties he should have, but -- to his credit -- Pete Seeger is now trying to help his family.
I had always known the doo-wop version, but was introduced to the older folk version by Nanci Griffith's fantastic 1993 album Other Voices Other Rooms, which includes a really great rendition of "Wimoweh" featuring Odetta. This story reminds me that I really need to get that album on cd.