Guest Author - Jeanne Egbosiuba Ukwendu
In 1939, a South African by the name of Solomon Linda composed the song we all know as "The Lion Sleeps Tonight". The song was originally title "Mbube" which means 'lion' in Zulu. He was a migrant worker and recorded this song with a band named "The Evening Birds". Later Solomon Linda sold the rights to "Mbube" for around 25 shillings. According the British copyright laws at the time the copyright to this songs should have gone back to his family twenty-five years after his death. Solomon Linda died in 1962, so the rights to "Mbube" should have gone back to his family in 1987.
"Mbube" in one form or another has been recorded by roughly 150 musicians, the most recognized version is "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" by The Tokens. Disney's use of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" in their movie "The Lion King" was after the transfer of copyright. Solomon Linda's family should have received around 12 million dollars in royalties for the song. They have received only $15,000 and are suing for roughly 1.6 million dollars.
The Linda family lives in poverty in the Johannesburg township of Soweto, South Africa.
You can listen to Solomon Linda's original song on Mbube Roots (Zulu Choral Music from South Africa, 1930's-1960's).
An update to this story: In February 2006, the Linda family was awarded an undisclosed sum of money for unpain royalties and for future royalties for "Mbube". The money is held in trust to help the family manage the funds with guidance on spending as the sum is quite large.