Henri Julien Rousseau, the son of a French plumber born in 1844, was a post-impressionist painter in the Primitive or Naive style. Some days — those when you are having a day like mine, today — you just need to surround yourself with primitive works and fantastical thoughts. As Rousseau never traveled out of France, he had no idea what a real jungle looked like. But through taxidermied animals coupled with childlike imaginings, the artist created colorful worlds on canvas.
Take a moment and explore the works of Henri Rousseau while listening to another primitive work, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” once declared to have been by The Weavers, then The Tokens.
Of course, to consider these modern pop versions you must also understand the song’s more authentic roots in “Mbube,” Solomon Linda’s original Zulu tune recorded in South Africa in 1939.
The story of these two songs takes you into The Lion’s Share, a film exploring the theft of Linda’s work, now available on Netflix. Catch the film, read more about the highly recognizable vocals in Rolling Stone or the Los Angeles Times, or just sit back and stare into a Rousseau painting while listening to your choice of versions. Whichever tune you prefer, Rousseau nailed the vibe without ever laying eyes on a real jungle. Now that the truths are all out where we can see them, perhaps Solomon Linda sings on in happy immortality, as he should.