The songwriting community lost one of its most respected members on Monday with the death of George David Weiss, 89, who died of natural causes. Among the famous songs Weiss co-wrote were “Lion Sleeps Tonight,” “What A Wonderful World,” and “Can’t Help Falling In Love.”
Born in 1921 in Manhattan, New York, Weiss studied music at Juliard and played saxophone in a Borscht Belt pickup band. His songwriting career took off in the mid-’40s and early ’50s, when he helped pen the jazz standards “Surrender,” “Confess,” “Lullabye of Birdland,” and “Wheel of Fortune.” He also worked in Broadway, most notably with Sammy Davis Jr. for Mr. Wonderful.
In 1961, his career reached a zenith, as he penned “Can’t Help Falling In Love,” a hit for Elvis Presley from the movie Blue Hawaii, and “Lion Sleeps Tonight,” which was based on a South African Zulu melody. “What A Wonderful World,” which he co-wrote with Bob Thiele, was turned into a smash hit by Louis Armstrong in 1968.
Weiss also served as President of the Songwriters Guild of America from 1982 to 2000.