Issued by Gallo as a rpm phonograph record in ,  and marketed to black audiences, "Mbube" became a hit and Linda a star throughout South Africa. By , the song had sold over , copies in Africa and among black South African immigrants in Great Britain.
Linda also lent its name to a style of African a cappella music that evolved into isicathamiya also called mbube , popularized by Ladysmith Black Mambazo. In , Alan Lomax , then working as folk music director for Decca Records , brought Solomon Linda's 78 recording to the attention of his friend Pete Seeger of the folk group The Weavers.
In November , after having performed the song for at least a year in their concerts, The Weavers recorded an adapted version with brass and string orchestra and chorus and released it as a 78 single titled "Wimoweh", a mishearing of the original song's chorus of " Uyimbube ", Zulu : You are a lion.
Their version contained the chanting chorus "Wimoweh" and Linda's improvised melodic line. The Weavers credited the song as "Traditional", with arrangement by "Paul Campbell", later found to be a pseudonym used by the Weavers in order to claim royalties.
The song was also covered extensively by other folk revival groups such as The Kingston Trio , and exotica singer Yma Sumac. However, Miriam Makeba , in , recorded the same song as "Mbube", with the writing credit given to "J. Weiss wrote the English lines " In the jungle, the mighty jungle, The lion sleeps tonight Weiss also brought in soprano Anita Darian to reprise Yma Sumac's version, before, during and after the soprano saxophone solo.
Weiss' Abilene Music Inc. Social historian Ronald D. Cohen writes, "Howie Richmond copyrighted many songs originally in the public domain [sic] but now slightly revised to satisfy Decca and also to reap profits. Howie Richmond's claim of author's copyright could secure both the songwriter's royalties and his company's publishing share of the song's earnings.
Although Linda was listed as a performer on the record itself, the Weavers thought they had recorded a traditional Zulu song. Their managers, publisher, and their attorneys knew otherwise because they had been contacted by—and had reached an agreement with—Eric Gallo of Gallo Records in South Africa. The Americans maintained, however, that South African copyrights were not valid because South Africa was not a signatory to U. The folksinger apparently trusted his publisher's word of honor and either saw no need, or was unable to make sure these instructions were carried out.
In February , Linda's descendants reached a legal settlement with Abilene Music Publishers, who held the worldwide rights and had licensed the song to Disney, to place the earnings of the song in a trust. In , "Mbube" fell into the public domain due to the copyright law of South Africa.
In the mid to late s, the song was used in a viral video with Pat and Stan. In the s, "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" began to be used online in meme videos in which someone is about to get hurt.
The song has been recorded by numerous artists, and is a standard that has become a part of popular culture. Weiss wrote English lyrics:. In the jungle, the mighty jungle The lion sleeps tonight But ultimately, they allowed themselves to be persuaded. For his performance of "Mbube", Solomon Linda was paid a small fee. Social historian Ronald D. Cohen writes, "Howie Richmond copyrighted many songs originally in the public domain [sic] but now slightly revised to satisfy Decca and also to reap the profits.
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