At issue were royalties earned by two legendary pop songs based on a melody created in l939 by Solomon Linda, an illiterate migrant labourer from Msinga, KwaZulu-Natal. Linda called his song Mbube, and it was one of Gallotone records’ first best-sellers in the African market. In 1952, Mbube became an international hit for The Weavers, who were unable to pronounce the Zulu lyrics and thus called their version Wimoweh. In 1961, Wimoweh spawned The Lion Sleeps Tonight, one of the most widely loved and lucrative pop songs of the 20th century.
According to Dr. Owen Dean, Spoor and Fisher’s copyright specialist, the historic settlement means that Solomon Linda will at last be credited for creating what most musicologists regard as “the most famous melody ever to emerge from Africa”. The settlement also heralds great changes in the lives of Linda’s surviving children, who grew up in dire poverty in Soweto. The children – daughters Delphi, Elizabeth and Fildah- will become beneficiaries of a trust created to protect their interests.
To be chaired by SA Music Rights Organisation CEO Nick Motsatsi, the trust will receive a share of The Lion Sleeps Tonight’s future earnings and will administer the income on their behalves. Linda’s heirs will also receive appropriate compensation for past uses of The Lion Sleeps Tonight.