My next Big Fat Music Party is coming up, where all my students get together and play. For a sing along number I’m planning on doing The Lion Sleeps Tonight. The beauty of this song is that not only does it contain only three chords, it has the same four bar structure repeated throughout. It never changes, so people can relax and sing without spending all their brain power on the chord changes. Moreover, it’s such an enjoyable tune to sing, everyone likes it, and one half of the crowd can sing ‘wimoweh’ while the others sing the ‘ooh’s.
We will be playing it in the key of A because I have a couple of new guitarists, and I find that A, D and E are the easiest three chord trick. C would be the easiest key for piano players, and it doesn’t matter for the ukulele players as everything is easy on the ukulele!
Here are the charts–
Here’s our raucous effort!
This song was originally titled, ‘Mbube’ (Zulu for lion) and was written and performed by Solomon Linda, who was a cleaner and record packer for a record company. The English lyrics were added in 1961 for the recording by the Tokens.
I had heard that Linda sold the song to the record company for a small fee, but reading further into it, that small fee was actually payment for his performance. Ownership of the song was later attributed to a fictitious name, made up so that the company could reap the royalties. In 2004, Linda’s descendants successfully sued Disney, who held the rights at that point.
Visit the Wikipedia page for a more comprehensive history; it really is fascinating, and have a listen to the original recording of Solomon Linda performing it with The Evening Birds. The original and best!