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Solomon Linda / Mbube

Related threads:
(origins) Lyr Req: Lion Sleeps Tonight (75)
(origins) Origins: Link to article on 'Mbube/Wimoweh' (14)
Wimoweh: How To Orchestrate the Crowd? (11)

Bill Hahn//\\ 22 Mar 06 - 05:24 PM
Azizi 22 Mar 06 - 09:21 PM
Azizi 22 Mar 06 - 09:44 PM
Bill Hahn//\\ 23 Mar 06 - 03:14 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 23 Mar 06 - 04:05 PM
Janie 23 Mar 06 - 06:04 PM
Bill Hahn//\\ 23 Mar 06 - 06:31 PM
Bill Hahn//\\ 23 Mar 06 - 06:34 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 23 Mar 06 - 07:43 PM
GUEST,Student of Music 20 Feb 11 - 03:07 AM
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Subject: Solomon Linda / Mbube
From: Bill Hahn//\\
Date: 22 Mar 06 - 05:24 PM

If you have not seen the great piece in today's New York Times you should check their website.

Wonderful front page article (with pix) on the life of this man and the history--sad as it is---of the song he composed. Started as Mbube and finally morphed into The Lion Sleeps Tonight (not the raison d'etre for his composition at all).

Except for The Weavers and Pete Seeger Linda never saw much of any royalities---and even, as Seeger says, what he handed over was siphoned off by many.   

Finally--to save some face and keep up their public image--Disney has settled with the estate and, though, the settlement is not given it must have been good because the last sentence in the article points out that now the remains of this family can live a comfortable life.

The article is truly heart wrenching. A family decimated by illness and poverty while many profited from the mega hit Linda wrote---and he wrote it as a political statement.

Bill Hahn

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Subject: RE: Solomon Linda / Mbube
From: Azizi
Date: 22 Mar 06 - 09:21 PM

Thanks for that information, Bill.

In trying to find a link to that New York Times article, I found this article about Solomon Linda and more artists such as The Tokens and Miriam Makeba who recorded the Mbube song:

Behind The Hits: The Lion Sleeps Tonight

That article was written before the settlement with the Linda family. Here is an excerpt from that article:

?This is the story of an African doo-wop song. Its original title was "Mbube," (pronounced EEM-boo-beh) which means "Lion," and it was sung with a haunting Zulu refrain that sounded, to English-speaking people, like "wimoweh." "Mbube" was a big hit in what is now Swaziland; it sold nearly 100,000 copies in the 1940s by its originator, South African Solomon Linda. Linda had written it based on a boyhood experience chasing lions that were stalking the family's cattle, and recorded the tune in 1939 with his group the Evening Birds. It was so popular that Zulu choral music became known as "Mbube Music". Then it passed into the broad field of "folk" music, albeit by an indirect route. The South African recording company sent it along with some other 78s to Decca Records in the U.S. Decca wasn't interested, but folk historian and musicologist Alan Lomax was. He took the records to Pete Seeger, of the American folk group the Weavers. Seeger was enchanted by "Mbube", especially the refrain which sounded to him like "awimbooee" or "awimoweh" (it was actually "uyimbube" in Zulu).   The Weavers (led by Gordon Jenkins' Orchestra) adapted it into a Top 15 hit in 1952, as "Wimoweh". It was basically an instrumental with the group singing "wimoweh" over and over, with other vocal flourishes. The tune really took off in the Weavers' live version at Carnegie Hall in 1957. Linda was not credited as the writer; that honor went to "Paul Campbell", a pseudonym for the group. However, when the Kingston Trio released their version in 1959 (on the From the Hungry i LP) the writer credit was listed as "traditional; adapted and arranged by Campbell-Linda." Meanwhile, Linda died with only $25 in his bank account; his heirs are still pursuing royalties from the song that is perhaps one of the most well-known worldwide hits..."


There have been other threads on this song. Perhaps this thread can be merged with those other threads, or at least they can be listed with this one.

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Subject: RE: Solomon Linda / Mbube
From: Azizi
Date: 22 Mar 06 - 09:44 PM

I turns out you have to register to receive the NYT now, but registration is free.

Here are several excerpts of that article, "In the Jungle, the Unjust Jungle, a Small Victory" by Sharon LaFraniere, published March 22, 2006

"By 1939, a talent scout had ushered Mr. Linda's group, the Original Evening Birds, into a recording studio where they produced a startling hit called "Mbube," Zulu for "The Lion." Elizabeth Nsele, Mr. Linda's youngest surviving daughter, said it had been inspired by her father's childhood as a herder protecting cattle in the untamed hinterlands.

"The lion was going round and round, and the lion was happy," she said. "But my father was not happy. He had been staying there since morning and he was hungry."
The lyrics were spartan — just mbube and zimba, which means "stop" —but its chant and harmonies were so entrancing that the song came to define a whole generation of Zulu a cappella singing, a style that became known simply as Mbube.

Music scholars say the 78 r.p.m. recording of "Mbube" was probably the first African record to sell 100,000 copies. Some 150 artists eventually recorded the song. It was translated into languages from Dutch to Japanese. It had a role in more than 13 movies. By all rights, Mr. Linda should have been a rich man.

Instead, he lived in Soweto with barely a stick of furniture, sleeping on a dirt floor carpeted with cow dung.

Mr. Linda received 10 shillings — about 87 cents today — when he signed over the copyright of "Mbube" in 1952 to Gallo Studios, the company that produced his record. He also got a job sweeping floors and serving tea in the company's packing house...

But where Mr. Linda's family really lost out, his lawyers claim, was in "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," a megahit....

The Lindas filed suit in 2004, demanding $1.5 million in damages, but their case was no slam-dunk. Not only had Mr. Linda signed away his copyright to Gallo in 1952, Mr. Dean said, but his wife, who was also illiterate, signed them away again in 1982, followed by his daughters several years later.

Ms. Nsele contends the family was hoodwinked by a South African lawyer, now deceased. Mr. Friedrich said the lawyer appeared to have worn two hats, simultaneously representing the family and the song's copyright holders. In their lawsuit, the Lindas invoked an obscure 1911 law under which the song's copyright reverted to Mr. Linda's estate 25 years after his death. On a separate front, they criticized the Walt Disney Company, whose 1994 hit movie "The Lion King" featured a meerkat and warthog singing "The Lion Sleeps Tonight."

Disney argued that it had paid Abilene Music for permission to use the song, without knowing its origins.

But for a company built on its founder's benevolent image, the case "had all the makings of a nightmare," Mr. Dean said — a David and Goliath story in which Disney raked in profits from the song while Mr. Linda's children toiled as maids and factory workers, lived without indoor plumbing and sometimes had to borrow from their lawyer for food.

In February, Abilene agreed to pay Mr. Linda's family royalties from 1987 onward, ending the suit. No amount has been disclosed, but the family's lawyers say their clients should be quite comfortable."


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Subject: RE: Solomon Linda / Mbube
From: Bill Hahn//\\
Date: 23 Mar 06 - 03:14 PM

It was indeed a faascinating article and a sad tale.   As to the Disney settlement ---reminds me a lot of the trials and tribulations suffered by Siegel & Schuster (creaters of Superman). Their estat3 did not fare as well but were given an honararium as a settlement---after the Corporations made millions off them and Siegel (I believe) toiled for years as a Civil Service clerk in NYC.

Bill Hahn

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Subject: RE: Solomon Linda / Mbube
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 23 Mar 06 - 04:05 PM

Not to sidetrack this, but that is not the correct story about Siegel & Schuster.

S&S created Superman and sold their rights to the character when they signed to have the book published. That was normal business practice at the time.   They actually tried to sell the character for a few years before DC picked it up.   Once the character became hugely successful and S&S saw how much money they had given away, they tried to get the rights returned.   They were receiving rather high payment for drawing the character, but they were not participating in any money received from the toys, cartoons, radio and movie serials that were being made. They spent a great deal of money trying to sue DC, losing each time. DC "settled" with them in the late 40's, but they did not give back the rights to the character.

In the 70's, after seeing all returns on their character dry up, they sued again and lost - but the comic book industry took up their case and shamed DC into giving them more money. Each started to receive an annual salary for the remainder of their lives and, most importantly to them, they began receiving credit in the comic book as the creators of Superman. This is after DC won in court.

Yes, they did receive a paltry sum in comparision to the millions that DC has made from the character, but this is not unusual. They weren't screwed, they screwed themselves by signing the deal. Most comic book characters were sold in similar fashion.   Simon & Schuster were happy to get the comic book published and only began complaining when the character made money. While I do feel sorry for them, I don't think they could blame anyone but themselves.   They were not the only creators in this boat, they just happened to have created one of the most lucrative characters of all time.

The legendary Jack Kirby had a similar experience with Marvel & DC, and even Stan Lee sued Marvel for money from the Spider-man movies.

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Subject: RE: Solomon Linda / Mbube
From: Janie
Date: 23 Mar 06 - 06:04 PM

Also see Charlie Baum's transcript from the Johannesburg Journel on
this thread

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Subject: RE: Solomon Linda / Mbube
From: Bill Hahn//\\
Date: 23 Mar 06 - 06:31 PM

Ron: Siegal and Schuster---Simon and Schuster do OK---so does Carly.

Bill Hahn

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Subject: RE: Solomon Linda / Mbube
From: Bill Hahn//\\
Date: 23 Mar 06 - 06:34 PM

By the way---an afterthought. That is pretty much the story of Linda also---Gallo Records took advantage getting him to sign over the rights.   Disney---similarly to DC and others---settlede for PR reasons more than anything else.   According to the stories that have been pubished

Bill Hahn

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Subject: RE: Solomon Linda / Mbube
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 23 Mar 06 - 07:43 PM

Bill- thanks for catching my typo. I assume everyone knew who I meant. While typing this I was also thinking of Joe Simon, who is still involved in litigation about Captain America.

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Subject: RE: Solomon Linda / Mbube
From: GUEST,Student of Music
Date: 20 Feb 11 - 03:07 AM

see article in the rolling stone archives

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