I knew that Pete Seeger had recorded a folk version of "The Lion" in the early 1950s called "Wimoweh," but did not know the song's amazing history until the New York Times ran a wonderful piece tracing its roots to Solomon Linda and the Original Evening Birds, who toiled in a squalid laborer's township in Johannesburg. (That's Linda at the left in the photo.)
Writes the Times' Sharon LaFraniere:
As Solomon Linda first recorded it in 1939, it was a tender melody, almost childish in its simplicity — three chords, a couple of words and some baritones chanting in the background.
But the saga of the song now known worldwide as "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" is anything but a lullaby. It is fraught with racism and exploitation and, in the end, 40-plus years after his death, brings a measure of justice.
You can read the story here.