"The Lion Sleeps Tonight", also known as "Wimoweh", "Wimba Way" or "Awimbawe", is a song written and recorded originally by Solomon Linda with the Evening Birds for the South African Gallo Record Company in 1939, under the title "Mbube". Composed in Zulu, it was adapted and covered internationally by many 1950s pop and folk revival artists, including the Weavers, Jimmy Dorsey, Yma Sumac, Miriam Makeba and the Kingston Trio. In 1961, it became a number one hit in the United States as adapted in English with the best-known version by the doo-wop group The Tokens, which reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, where it remained for three weeks. It went on to earn at least US$15 million in royalties from cover versions and film licensing. "Mbube" (Zulu: lion) was written in the 1920s, by Solomon Linda, a South African singer of Zulu origin, who later worked for the Gallo Record Company in Johannesburg as a cleaner and record packer. He spent his weekends performing with the Evening Birds, a musical ensemble, and it was at Gallo Records, under the direction of black producer Griffiths Motsieloa, that Linda and his fellow musicians recorded several songs including "Mbube," which incorporated a call-response pattern common among many Sub-Saharan African ethnic groups, including the Zulu. Issued by Gallo as a 78 recording in 1939, and marketed to black audiences, "Mbube" became a hit and Linda a star throughout South Africa. By 1948, the song had sold over 100,000 copies in Africa and among black South African immigrants in Great Britain. For more info about copyright issues with The Weavers, check out Wikipedia.
A video for this song: