Songwriter George David Weiss—the man behind “What A Wonderful World,” “Can’t Help Falling In Love,” and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” among many others—has died, according to the New York Times. He was 89.
Weiss was a Julliard-trained musician who served as a World War II bandleader before getting his start as a songwriter in the 1940s, and through the next three decades, he composed music for everyone from Tom Jones to The Stylistics to Tennessee Ernie Ford. In addition to crafting pop songs, Weiss also contributed to several motion picture soundtracks and worked on three Broadway musicals, including the Sammy Davis Jr. showcase Mr. Wonderful. Among his most lasting compositions: 1951’s “Wheel Of Fortune,” which proved to be Kay Starr’s biggest hit; the jazz standard “Lullaby Of Birdland;” Elvis’ “Can’t Help Falling In Love;” 1961’s “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” which Weiss adapted from the South African Zulu song "Mbube" and gave to The Tokens; and of course, Louis Armstrong’s rendition of “What A Wonderful World.” Most of these were co-written with longtime collaborator Bennie Benjamin. In the later years of his life, Weiss served as the president of the Songwriters Guild Of America, and became a spokesman on issues of copyright.