> Martin Carthy > Songs > Wimoweh

Wimoweh / The Lion Sleeps Tonight

[Paul Campbell, Solomon Linda]

The Thamesiders sang Wimoweh in 1963 on their EP The Thamesiders and Davy Graham. An excerpt from it was included in 2001 on the anthology The Carthy Chronicles. Another 1963 recording of this song, sung by Emma Hannah accompanied by Paul Brand and titled Quiet Jungle, can be found on the EP The Folk Attick Presents. This record is one of the first with Trevor Lucas on it, just not on this track.

This song is based on an African doo-wop song with the original title Mbube (pronounced “EEM-boo-beh”) which means “Lion” and it was sung with a haunting Zulu refrain that sounded, to English-speaking people, like “wimoweh”. Sung by South African Solomon Linda, it was a big hit in what is now Swaziland in the 1940s and wandered over Alan Lomax to Pete Seeger and the Weavers who had a Top 15 hit with what until then was named Wimoweh. In 1961, The Tokens transformed this further into The Lion Sleeps Tonight and reached Top 1 with it. This success was duplicated by Robert John 10 years later.

You can find much more about the history of this song on Bob Shannon's Behind the Hits website.

Lyrics

The Lion Sleeps Tonight

We-de-de-de, de-de-de-de-de de, we-um-um-a-way (drum fill)
We-de-de-de, de-de-de-de-de de, we-um-um-a-way

A wimoweh, a-wimoweh a-wimoweh, a wimoweh
A wimoweh, a-wimoweh a-wimoweh, a wimoweh
A wimoweh, a-wimoweh a-wimoweh, a wimoweh
A wimoweh, a-wimoweh a-wimoweh, a wimoweh
In the jungle the mighty jungle the lion sleeps tonight
In the jungle the quiet jungle the lion sleeps tonight

(repeat Wimoweh chorus--with vocal ad lib similar to the intro in the foreground)

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

(repeat Wimoweh chorus)

Hush my darling, don't fear my darling. The lion sleeps tonight.
Hush my darling, don't fear my darling.The lion sleeps tonight.

(repeat Wimoweh chorus with vocal ad lib)