The long anticipated, photo-realistic animated version of The Lion King comes out this week, but the soundtrack was released last Friday. Most of the songs from the original 1994 film are on the list, with the exception of a few additions; one of them being, arguably, one of the most underrated songs to come out of Disney: “He Lives In You.”
For those unfamiliar, “He Lives In You” is a song about how the souls of those who’ve departed will always be with you, no matter what challenges you encounter. For the nature of the story of The Lion King itself, it’s meant to be reassurance to Simba that despite Mufasa being taken away from him under such cruel circumstances, he will always be with him, as he resumes his rightful place in the Pride Lands.
The journey of this particular song is about as old as The Lion King itself. It was written by Mark Mancina, Jay Rifkin, and the international treasure of a man, Lebo M (seriously, that man just needs to do the music for every single movie). The song was originally featured on Rhythm of the Pride Lands; a “sequel” album to the original film’s soundtrack, that focused primarily on the African influences of the film’s music.
Despite the song not appearing in the original film, it does appear twice in the stage musical of the same name. Mufasa sings it to young Simba in the first act as “They Live In You,” regarding the kings of the past who look down on them from the stars. In the second act, Rafiki and Simba sing “He Lives In You (Reprise),” reflecting the original meaning of the song. Here is a mash-up of the two versions in this performance for The Rosie O’Donnell Show, as performed by original Broadway cast members Samuel E. Wright, Tsidii Le Loka, Scott Irby-Ranniar, and the late Jason Raize:
“He Lives In You” eventually did find a place in the traditionally animated world of The Lion King — as a shorter version of the song from the Rhythm of the Pride Lands album — performed by Lebo M, was featured in the opening of The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride.
Over the years, there have been many covers done of this song, such as by the likes of Tina Turner and Diana Ross. But when word came that The Lion King would be re-imagined as a “live-action” film, what immediately came to mind for me was, “Is this song going to be on the soundtrack?”
How thrilled I was to find out that it is, re-recorded by Lebo M and everything. Apart from the instrumental sounding fresh for today’s generation, this new version is distinctive in that it is sung not in English, but Swahili. It’s kind of like a head nod to the original intention of the album that it first appeared on; to focus on the African influences of the film’s music. Also, it’s nice to see one of the songs from the Broadway production make its way to the film (yes, I too am bummed about “Shadowland” and “Endless Night” not being featured).
“He Lives In You,” much like The Lion King, has lived its own circle of life. While not as notable as other songs from the film like “Circle of Life” and “Hakuna Matata,” it still has a place in musically enhancing the deeper meaning of this classic story, in all the forms it has taken.