Celebrating The Music Of The Lion King 25 Years Later

The animation and voice talent got all the love, but what REALLY made The Lion King pop was that soundtrack.

Back when it was originally released, few people imagined The Lion King would be such an overwhelming success.

It was released on this day 25 years ago and it was such an international phenomenon that the powers that be over at Disney thought it would be an excellent idea to reboot the classic animated movie into a live action version that stars Donald Glover, Alfre Woodard, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Seth Rogen, Beyonce, and James Earl Jones among others in a stellar cast.

Funny thing is, The Lion King remake is scheduled to drop July 19, a little less than a month after the original debuted years ago.

Starring the voice talents of James Earl Jones, Matthew Broderick, Jeremy Irons, Whoopi Goldberg, and Cheech Marin, among many other talented actors, the original Lion King tells the story of a wayward lion cub who is tricked into believing he is responsible for the death of his own father.

Full of intrigue, pride and overcoming fear and doubt, The Lion King is easily one of the most watched Disney animated movies of all-time with over 968 million raked in worldwide.

A peculiar if, overall, inconsequential nugget is 56.3 percent of that money was from overseas. Rarely does an American film do better abroad than it does in the United States.  But The Lion King was that rare exception.

But the thing that brings so many of us back to watch this anthropomorphized version of human nature and triumph over adversity is the music, and the numbers speak to that.

According to Nielsen Soundscan, the soundtrack is the best-selling vinyl album in the Soundscan era, and was certified as diamond (10x platinum) in 1995.

But y’all don’t hear me though, or do you?

After initially wanting the 70s group ABBA to write and record the soundtrack, one which Disney was described as wanting to be “ultra-pop”, gatekeepers agreed upon letting Elton John write and compose most of the music that would appear on the soundtrack.

The score, while not as culturally resonant as the soundtrack, was packed with star power as well. Composer Hans Zimmer, (Interstellar, Inception, The Dark Knight), was familiar with composing films with traditional African sounds and chorus, did his thing.

Until this day, the Walt Disney Records release of The Lion King soundtrack was the fourth best-selling album of 1994 and is the only animated film soundtrack to be certified Diamond.



The instrumental version of the score was not initially released but the public finally got a chance to hear it at home when the 20th-anniversary re-release dropped five years ago.

The “Lion Sleeps Tonight”, the song from the original soundtrack, resonated longer and louder than its other tracks due to the popularity of Timon and Pumba. However, it was the source of a bitter dispute between Disney and the family of South African singer Solomon Linda, who composed the song in 1939. It was originally called “Mbube.”

In 2006, the Linda family and Abilene Music, who held the worldwide rights and licensing for the song, reached an undisclosed monetary settlement to squash the issue.