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  • Writer of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” Finally Gets His Paycheck

    Tue, 21 Feb 2006 11:13:26

    Writer of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” Finally Gets His Paycheck - Solomon Linda’s family reaches big settlement over classic African tune.

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    Solomon Linda always had a great story. Now, his family has a happy ending, too.

    Linda was a Zulu musician who frequented Johannesburg beer halls in the 1930s. After being discovered by a scout, Linda and his band recorded “Mbube,” a song about chasing lions that had an impossibly catchy melody. More than 100,000 copies sold across the region, and Linda was credited for helping to introduce the Zulu musical style Isicathamiya into the mainstream.

    Linda lived just long enough -- he died in the early '60s -- to see a retooled version of his song become a huge hit all across the globe while his family continued to live in poverty. Even after the song, Westernized and retitled “The Lion Sleeps Tonight," soared to further heights in the Disney film The Lion King, the songwriter’s family wasn’t seeing any money.

    Now, Abilene Music, the holder of the song copyright in the U.S., has agreed to pay Linda’s family an undisclosed sum, said to be substantial. The settlement comes after a protracted legal battle. The family had originally claimed damages of approximately $1.6 million against the company. The song is estimated to have raked in nearly $15 million during its various incarnations since its birth in 1939, and has been recorded by at least 150 acts.

    Following its smash success on its native soil, “Mbube” was sent to an American record label, which, naturally, promptly chucked out the recording. Fortunately, an intrepid employee named Alan Lomax, already on his way to becoming a one-man music preservation machine, saved the tape and got it in the hands of folk singer Pete Seeger, who would translate Linda’s Zulu chant into the now-famous “Wimoweh.”

    -- The ARTISTdirect Staff

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