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Memories: The Lion Sleeps Tonight…

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“Memory… is the diary that we all carry about with us.” Oscar Wilde

Memories: The Lion Sleeps Tonight… Wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh

Happy Hippo & Stan – “The lion sleeps tonight

The Lion Sleeps Tonight… Lyrics from submitted by Naj Uyanik

Wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh
Wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh
Wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh
Wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh

In the jungle, the mighty jungle
The lion sleeps tonight
In the jungle, the quiet jungle
The lion sleeps tonight

In 1939, when Solomom Linda and The Evening Birds sang and recorded his famous song – Mbube – for the South African Gallo Record Company, he had no idea that it would eventually earn millions for others, and be recorded internationally by many well known singers of the century; from The Weavers, The Tokens, Jimmy Dorsey, Yma Sumac, Miriam Makeba, to The Kingston Trio. The original song evolved into other versions; particularly two popular versions, Wimoweh (US charts, 1952,#6) performed by The Weavers, and The Lion Sleeps Tonight (US charts #1,1961,UK #11) by The Tokens. Much has been said on how Solomon was cheated out of royalties but more on that later. My memory of the song is tied to my mother… Read on.

“Gratitude changes the pangs of memory into a tranquil joy.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Memories: The Lion Sleeps Tonight… Setting Sun

Solomon Linda’s Original Evening BirdsMbube (ORIGINAL VERSION OF WIMOWEH)

Wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh
Wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh
Wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh
Wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh

Near the village, the peaceful village
The lion sleeps tonight
Near the village, the quiet village
The lion sleeps tonight

My siblings and I gathered in the living room. Mother had called us to come downstairs for a surprise. I’ve always hated surprises but when your mother calls… well, it’s a surprise alright. We sat on the carpeted floor and looked expectantly at our mother who was ensconced in a comfortable stuffed armchair. She smiled at us, “Now be quiet,” she whispered and then said nothing more. We sat and waited; waiting and wondering when the shit would hit the fan or the surprise would land… Finally, when I thought it might be time to say something to mother, who, by the way, was busy sewing another baby outfit, she got up and turned the radio on. It crackled, buzzed, and then filled the room with melodious voices.

“Yesterday is but today’s memory, and tomorrow is today’s dream.” Khalil Gibran

Memories: The Lion Sleeps Tonight…

Miriam Makeba – Mbube – The Lion sleeps Tonight 1960

Wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh
Wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh
Wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh
Wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh

Hush my darling, don’t fear my darling
The lion sleeps tonight
Hush my darling, don’t fear my darling
The lion sleeps tonight

At first, we weren’t sure what was going on, but then we heard the announcer (what we’d call a DJ today) say something to the effect of “Ladies and gentlemen, today we bring you a few new contestants. Each will sing a favorite song of their choosing and you can call in and nominate your favorite singer in the group. First up is Mr X from XYZ.”  Mr. X sang a popular song. I think it was I’m Leaving on a Jet Plane by John Denver. We thought Mr. X was quite good… Then the announcer paused for a commercial break, came back on the air and announced the next performer… “Ladies and gentlemen, Welcome Mrs… Yes, it was Mother! And her song of choice?  The Lion Sleeps Tonight.

“In memory everything seems to happen to music.” Tennessee Williams

Memories: The Lion Sleeps Tonight… Ee-e-e-um-um-a-weh, Ee-e-e-um-um-a-weh, Wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh…

The Weavers – Wimoweh

Wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh
Wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh
Wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh
Wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh


♫ ♪ ♬Ee-e-e-um-um-a-weh, Ee-e-e-um-um-a-weh♫, ♫Wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh…♫ ♪ ♬ Mother’s voice filled the air. We were shocked and then stifled fits of laughter… Only my mother would be daring enough to thwart the social mores of her tight-knit community, and sing a popular song in a contest on the radio. ♫ ♬Ee-e-e-um-um-a-weh, Ee-e-e-um-um-a-weh, Wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh… In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight… ♫ ♬ She sang Happy Hippo’s version and put all her passion and pride in that song.  As her voice got stronger, it took on a tone of defiance. ♫Wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh… Hush my darling, don’t fear my darling, The lion sleeps tonight…♫♩  At the end of the song, we applauded loudly and assured Mother she should and would win. From then on, The Lion Sleeps Tonight became one of my favorite songs and has remained so for years.  More below!

“Time and memory are true artists; they remould reality nearer to the heart’s desire.” John Dewey

Memories: The Lion Sleeps Tonight…

The Tokens – The Lion Sleeps Tonight (1969 clip)

Wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh
Wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh
Wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh
Wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh


I’d love to say my mother did win the contest, but I don’t remember the final outcome. It didn’t matter anyway.  What mattered was my mother’s boldness in a time when many among her milieu stayed home, burying their voices and dreams in  endless housework. It was a revelation to see that side of her emerge, and she continued to surprise us with moments like this as she paid more visits to TV and Radio stations for one contest or some other adventure…
As for Solomon, he died poor at age 61 in 1962. Other record companies bought and sold rights to the song. Eventually in 2004, Solomon’s family sued Disney  to get compensation for his song. The following three news pieces shed some light on the story:  The Lion Sleeps Tonight. BBC World Service Documentary by Paul Gambaccini first broadcast 16th July 2010; Penniless singer’s family sue Disney for Lion King royalties; and  Family of ‘Lion Sleeps Tonight’ Writer to Get Millions
by Felix Contreras| Thankfully, his family won a settlement and the song remains popular around the world.

What about you? What are your thoughts? What musical memories do you hold dear? Have you heard music that triggered an old memory? What was the song? What do you remember? Do share! Thank you. 🙂

*Please bear with me as I recover… and continue to catch up on your blogs and commenting. Thank you all for your patience! 🙂

Positive Motivation Tip: Good memories add to our joy and sense of belonging to something more; something greater than ourselves. Reminisce!

PHOTO CREDITS/ATTRIBUTIONS: All photos Lion sleeps byJurvetson, Setting Sun by Andre Abu, Sleeping lion by Fammy, Another Lion Sleeps by MrsWoman, via Flickr. Female lion with mouth open  via Wikipedia.

Until Next Time…
Ask. Believe. Receive. ©
Elizabeth Obih-Frank
Mirth and Motivation
Positive Kismet

73 Comments leave one →
  1. 24/07/2012 6:45 am

    You are so incredibly wise – your posts are like gold – thank you so much.

    • 26/08/2012 8:20 pm

      TY for your kind words… and for your wisdom too. 😉

  2. 24/07/2012 6:50 am

    Your mother sounds like a fantastic woman. And I love this song; it has a special meaning for me also. A different kind of memory that with time..”Time and memory” …patience and perseverence, I’ve come to hear as a reminder of my strength.

    • 26/08/2012 8:22 pm

      TY for your comment… and I’m glad you have a special memory tied to it too… Some day you might wish to share it. 🙂

  3. 24/07/2012 6:53 am

    Such a fun, happy song! What a character your mom was! It must’ve been very inspirational for you to have a role model like that. Great story! And that song will now be stuck in my head all day. 😉

    • 26/08/2012 8:26 pm

      Yes, it was stuck in my head for a while too… TY! 😆

  4. 24/07/2012 6:53 am

    Beautiful memory and encouraging.

  5. 24/07/2012 7:07 am

    Great memory, great post. I love that song. Thanks for reminding me of it. I will download it today!

    • 26/08/2012 8:45 pm

      I love it too…and with the memories, it’s special in my book. TY! 🙂

    24/07/2012 8:28 am

    Just one word. AWESOME!!!

    • 26/08/2012 8:48 pm

      TY so much Pastor David. You are AWESOME too! 😉

  7. 24/07/2012 8:30 am

    Thank You for sharing this story with us. :+) Such a wonderful story it touches my heart just reading about it. Such courage for your Mom to be willing to sing her song. In more ways then one. What a great example.
    Some songs I hear do remind me of growing up in my family one is All the leaves are brown. I can’t remember the title to the song, but that is one of the lines in the song. I guess I can google it.

    • 26/08/2012 8:53 pm

      TY for sharing your song too. I think it is important to have family stories and they serve as reminders of our loved ones and give us food to share with our kids. 😉

  8. 24/07/2012 8:34 am

    found it from the Mama’s and Papa’s. [youtube
    Love the song The Lion Sleeps Tonight.

  9. 24/07/2012 8:39 am

    “In memory everything seems to happen to music.” I so relate to that Elizabeth! Every memory seems to have its own soundtrack! My music would be too strange and too many to list here 🙂
    Hope you are feeling better.

    • 26/08/2012 8:57 pm

      TY for inquiring about my health, Madhu. I’m much better now… it was pretty awful! Yes, we remember varnished versions for sure with music thrown in. 😆

  10. 24/07/2012 10:00 am

    This sure brought back memories. What a great post. I grew up listening to the Weavers and the Kingston Trio singing this song. I love getting the history of it, and I loved listening to the original version! We still listen to more folk music than anything else–those folk songs were the first stories I shared with others.
    That is a wonderful story about your mother.

    • 26/08/2012 9:02 pm

      TY Naomi! I love your shared story too… Until my mom sang it, I was not aware of its history… It is a catchy tune. 😉

  11. Richard permalink
    24/07/2012 10:29 am

    that’s where you get your unique way with words.. too bad they didn’t have the Idol shows on TV back’re mother would have auditioned for sure.

    • 26/08/2012 9:06 pm

      TY Rich! Yeah, too bad as she would have applied too. 😆

  12. 24/07/2012 11:28 am

    Ventura Highway by America reminds me of the (literally) golden-hued days of my childhood spent on the California beaches. There’s something that just takes me right back in that guitar riff! Wonderful post. And you can never have too many pics of lions!

    • 26/08/2012 9:07 pm

      Haha! TY for your comment… There are things that jump us right back to those days… Lions? Who knows! 😆

  13. 24/07/2012 12:07 pm

    I love this song – always have since the first time I heard it. Funny thing is now I can’t help but think of Pumbaa and Timon from the Lion King singing that song every time I hear it. Those two crack me up!
    Such a great story and memories about your Mom!

    • 26/08/2012 9:22 pm

      TY Fergie! I love the song and the memories it holds. 😉

  14. 24/07/2012 12:13 pm

    Great post! I learned a lot. What a wonderful story. Thanks so much for taking the time to put all that together.

  15. 24/07/2012 12:19 pm

    I do love that song, too. I can’t point to one specific song that brings a vivid memory like that but I can usually drift back to where I was when I first heard it. Sometimes that’s a good thing…sometimes not.

    • 26/08/2012 9:59 pm

      Yes… it all depends on what was happening when the song played…. I’m glad the memory is good. TY! 🙂

  16. 24/07/2012 1:11 pm

    What an awesome mum! and thanks for Miriam too x

  17. 24/07/2012 1:49 pm

    What a great memory…and it sounds like you had a unique Mother with talent and determination…just grand!…~mkg

  18. 24/07/2012 3:46 pm

    What a wonderful and wise mother you had Eliz; I have a feeling you have many of her unique qualities!
    I remember that song very well, and it has special memories for me too. I remember Karl Denver singing it. I’d gone out with my next door neighbours who were singing in the same show, and they introduced me to Karl backstage; it was quite a moment for me, as that song had gotten right under my skin.
    Thanks for the memory!

    • 26/08/2012 10:49 pm

      Good for you and what a lovely memory… TY! My mom was a riot back in the day! 😉

  19. 24/07/2012 4:20 pm

    I love all your lion images…and of course, your memorable post. 🙂

    • 26/08/2012 11:08 pm

      TY for the feedback! It was fun to write. 😉

  20. 24/07/2012 5:16 pm

    I have always loved the Lion Sleeps Tonight, maybe because I’m a Leo. Bravo to your mom for daring to sing this song for the contest you described, and kudos to you for writing about her courage and joie de vivre. 🙂

    • 26/08/2012 11:17 pm

      TY Karen! I admired her courage and joie de vivre too. 🙂

  21. 24/07/2012 6:56 pm

    This song is one of my greatest childhood memories, I just adored it (didn’t even know it was African for a while!) I have never heard the original version though. I am glad the family got compensation for this wonderful song… Thanks, I “grabbed” the video for my lockerz collection! 🙂

    • 26/08/2012 11:19 pm

      Glad you grabbed the video. It is a great song too. TY! 🙂

  22. 24/07/2012 10:36 pm

    Eliz, I love it when you share personal stories about your childhood with us. Thanks! Miriam

    • 26/08/2012 11:31 pm

      TY Miriam! I share what I can but not everything… 🙂

  23. 25/07/2012 1:30 am

    Hi Elizabeth, i gave you the very inspiring blogger award! 🙂

    Lots of smiles, ioanna

    • 26/08/2012 11:37 pm

      TY Ioanna! I do hope I stopped by to say thank you properly. 😉

  24. 25/07/2012 3:35 am

    Brings me back memories.

  25. 25/07/2012 12:35 pm

    I feel the lion spirit within me yawning and drifting away to dream land right now, just from soaking up this evocative post!

  26. 26/07/2012 2:19 am

    Such a lovely post Eliz. And amazing photos too! Memories are indeed something to cherish, especially great ones. 🙂 Thank you for sharing.

    • 27/08/2012 12:22 am

      TY dear! Should visit your blog soon… So much to do and so little time. 😉

  27. 26/07/2012 11:18 am

    our little grandsons like the hippo cartoon so much – it’s their ritual to dance with the dog and the hippo every evening …

  28. 26/07/2012 4:25 pm

    A truly bold woman with a beautiful statement. Lovely post, Elizabeth.

    • 27/08/2012 12:40 am

      Yes, my mother is remarkable in her won way. TY! 🙂

  29. 27/07/2012 6:14 am

    Amazing how music evokes memories – and what a memory! A lovely story.

    • 27/07/2012 6:24 am

      TY! I’m glad I shared it because it is one of my fondest memories of my mom. 🙂

  30. 27/07/2012 3:52 pm

    Pinned this on my Family Fun Board. Here is the pin.

    Hope it lures you to pinterest. Your blogs should be there.

  31. 28/07/2012 6:13 am

    There are no words, Elizabeth. Just lovely.

  32. 03/08/2012 1:22 pm

    Wonderful story! Thanks for sharing.

    • 03/08/2012 3:32 pm

      TY Leanne for stopping in… Blessings and will check in soon. 🙂

  33. 04/08/2012 7:52 am

    As soon as I saw the title to your post, I began humming the song not knowing that your post was about the song and more importantly, your mom’s rendition of it.
    That was a gutsy move on her part. Good for her! Winning the contest wasn’t as important as going out there and proving to the world and herself that she had a voice.

    • 27/08/2012 1:41 am

      TY Marcia! She was fighting for her voice… Yes, and it was more important. 🙂

  34. 25/08/2012 5:50 am

    for you, Eliz:

  35. 09/12/2012 5:36 pm

    Very interesting! I remember “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”, but more as an oldie but goodie, as I never started listening to music until the years following. I don’t remember hearing The Weavers hit version of the song until now, but only hearing The Tokens version, which I really like and, in fact, I think I have it on my mp3 player.

    I’m an Oldies-a-holic and have a great deal of oldies CDs in my collection. Most don’t bring me back to any particular memory, although “Patches” by Dickie Lee brings to mind my walking home from school singing the song at the top of my lungs. It still makes me sad to hear the last verse of that song because there’s so much truth in what the song portrays.

    I don’t have a favorite oldies because there are just too many. I would even have a hard time listing my all-time top ten favorites.

    I had never heard the original version of the song until now. Very interesting. Too bad about Solomon. However, that wasn’t all that unusual back in the day—a lot of swindling going on, such as people stealing others’ songs and claiming them for their own.

    I just listened to The Weavers’ version and must say that I much prefer The Tokens’ version. 🙂

  36. 26/12/2012 12:03 am

    hi Eliz,
    a little Christmas gift for you:


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