By Clark Collis
August 24, 2010 at 03:47 PM EDT

Image Credit: songwritershalloffame.orgSongwriter George Davis Weiss, who penned such classic tunes as “Can’t Help Falling In Love,” “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” and “What a Wonderful World,” died yesterday at his home in New Jersey, according to the New York Times.

“What a Wonderful World”—which the Manhattan-born Weiss co-wrote with producer Bob Thiele—was originally offered to Tony Bennett, who turned it down. It was then sent to Louis Armstrong who would make the track his signature song.

For “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” Weiss reworked an old song called “Mbube,” originally penned by South African musician Solomon Linda. “I did some research and found out that the chant was connected to the lion,” Weiss recalled in 1995. “So I began to think and I came up with the notion that the darn lion was sleeping tonight and nobody had to worry. And I incorporated the chant into the song and wrote some melodies and counter melodies.” The track was a hit for the Tokens in 1961 and would subsequently be recorded by Robert John, Brian Eno, and the Nylons, amongst others. It would also feature in both the film and stage versions of The Lion King. “The song leads a magical life,” Weiss said in 1995. “I don’t know what to think about it. I never thought of it as a song, but rather as a series of gimmicks thrown together. It just shows you—you can’t second guess the public.”

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