The Tokens – The Lion Sleeps Tonight (Chords)

The Tokens – The Lion Sleeps Tonight (Chords)

This song has a tortured and unpleasant history. There’s an overview of the song’s history here (including a link to the brilliant Rolling Stone article by Rian Malan on the subject).

The short version: The song Mbube was written and performed by South African Solomon Linda in 1939. Folk song collector, Alan Lomax heard the song and suggested it to Pete Seeger. Pete Seeger adapted it under the misheard name Wimoweh with none of the royalties going to Linda. That was adapted again for the startling song The Lion Sleeps Tonight with none of the royalties going to Linda. Most profitably it was using by Disney in The Lion King without any royalties going to Linda’s family. Initially. After legal wrangles the family eventually got some money. But not before Solomon Linda died in poverty and his youngest daughter contracted AIDS and died, unable to afford retroviral drugs.

But despite its disheartening back-story the song has produced three incredible records (it’s the Disney one I don’t think is up to much).

Suggested Strumming

For the strum start of like this:

d u x u d u x

Then change to the next chord for the final upstrum and play the pattern again:

u d u x u d u x

And keep repeating that.

Which sounds like this:


If you prefer you can replace the chnk with a strong down strum.


Buy Solomon Linda’s Mbube
Buy Pete Seeger’s Wimoweh
Buy The Tokens’ The Lion Sleeps Tonight
More Pete Seeger chords

View Comments


  1. cardboardfrog February 11th, 2014 11:21 pm

    hey woodshed, great chords but i think you put ‘avoid retroviral drugs’ when you meant ‘afford’.
    i’m going to play the crap out of this.

  2. Woodshed February 12th, 2014 9:14 am

    cbf: Thanks very much. That makes a lot more sense!

  3. Grumpy November 28th, 2014 4:46 am

    i think my mother drip fed me this song when I was a small child! My mother, being a Port Glasgow lass, only played one version, that was Karl Denver trio. I don’t think their version/style has ever been copied, unlike the others. If you’ve heard it, you’ll know why, if you haven’t check it out … I have to admit, there are a couple of great Acapella versions on YouTube.

  4. Woodshed November 29th, 2014 7:45 am

    Grumpy: Thanks for the link. I hadn’t heard that version. He really goes for that “AYEEEEEEEEE”!

  5. Grantober April 8th, 2015 2:07 am

    I found using a “palm slap” method of making drum style beat on the strings directly over the sound hole as a much easier to play and a much cooler sound than the recommended chinks. Thanks for the chords.

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