This overlooked album ended up solidifying The Lion King's musical legacy

1995's "Rhythm of the Pride Lands" ended up being the key to The Lion King achieving musical greatness!
THE LION KING - Lion cub and future king Simba searches for his identity. His eagerness to please others and penchant for testing his boundaries sometimes gets him into trouble. (Disney)
THE LION KING - Lion cub and future king Simba searches for his identity. His eagerness to please others and penchant for testing his boundaries sometimes gets him into trouble. (Disney) NALA, SIMBA /

As The Lion King hits its 30th anniversary, folks are enjoying some of its great history and legacy. Yet overlooked can be a tie-in album that ended up being far more important to the franchise than anyone could have expected!

Mention The Lion King to most fans and one of the first things they'll think of is the music. Landing icon Elton John to team with Hans Zimmer was a masterstroke for Disney. No one who saw the movie can forget that opening, the loud yell leading to "Circle of Life" to the glorious animation.

Then there was "Hukana Matata," "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" and "I Just Can't Wait To Be King," all songs that remained with viewers long after leaving the theater. To no one's shock, the movie's soundtrack became a monster hit and still remains the highest-selling soundtrack to an animated film ever, with over 7 million copies sold (nearly five million in 1994 alone). 

A year after the movie's release, Disney decided to capitalize on it by creating an album inspired by the movie. In doing so, they accidentally paved the way for The Lion King's musical legacy to grow even more. 

Rhythm of the Pride Lands. 

The history of the Rhythm

The project began by Lebohang Morake aka Lebo M, a successful South African musician. It's his voice you hear on the "war cry" opening for "Circle of Life" and some other vocals. He was the one who helped bring a unique sound inspired by the difficult times in South Africa in the early 1990s. After the movie's success, Lebo Zimmer and Jay Rifkin began working on an album inspired by the film.

It was to be independent, but Disney soon got involved and gave it an official push. That included Lebo's take on "Hukana Matata," which became a nice singles hit. The album also included "Warthog Rhapsody," which was to be Timon and Pumba's big song but was replaced by "Hukana Matata." 

The song relied on Lebo's African roots and some great music that won over those who listened. The key was the opening song, "He Lives in You," which spoke to the movie's themes on Mufasa's spirit continuing in Simba and a fantastic tune that remains haunting, moving, and inspirational all at once. 

The album wasn't as big a hit, selling under a million copies and going platinum. But its impact has been felt in so many ways since.

How Rhythm of the Pride Lands saved The Lion King's legacy

Lebo's music came at the perfect time as Disney was preparing the Broadway production of The Lion King and Julie Taymor fell in love with the music. Thus, rather than crafting new songs totally from scratch, Lebo's music from the album was integrated into the show.

That includes "Lea Halalela (Holy Land)" and "Lala" being adapted into "Shadowland" and "Endless Night," two of the most moving parts of the show. The first addresses the morning for Mufasa, the latter Simba's guilt before returning. "He Lives in You" became one of the show's mainstay songs, first Mufasa singing it to Simba and later Simba and Rafiki joining together as Simba finally decides to return home. 

It was thanks to Lebo's music that The Lion King became one of the biggest Broadway hits in history. "He Lives in You" was also showcased in the direct-to-video sequel, while "Warthog Rhaodpshy" finally made its way into the underrated "Lion King 1 ½ film. 

Listening to this album and it's not hard to see why it's gained a cult following. It's so much like the movie yet just different enough to spark on its own. The orchestrations and choral arrangements are amazing to listen to, making you feel like you're whisked to another world yet oddly familiar too.

The lesser known tracks can be fun like the bouncy "It's Time" and "Kube." Yet it's the bigger music that gets you and even if you're got the Broadway show's soundtrack on repeat, these can be amazing listens. And if you haven't listened to the album, do yourself a favor and take to it as it's worth it. 

It's still remarkable how this off-shoot album ended up adding far more to The Lion King's legacy and history making this return to the Pride Lands a worthy Disney investment.