The Lion sleeps at last

POSTED: December 29, 2020

The song that you might know as The Lion Sleeps Tonight has a long and complex history and at the beginning of that history, surprise surprise, stands a Black man making almost no money at all from a song that made many other (White) people a fortune.

Zimbabwean music mogul Munya Chanetsa felt his hackles rise when he learnt about the royalties battles that have been fought over the song Mbube – also known as The Lion Sleeps Tonight.

It is arguably the world’s most famous song about a lion – and for more than eight decades it has made a lot of money for many people around the world.

But the composer of the catchy tune, South African Solomon Linda, died destitute in 1962.

The BBC website has an article about this that has three noteworthy features. Firstly it has a video of the original recording which I at least had never heard before. Secondly it brings the story up to date with a clip of a new version, recorded in South Africa with the explicit intention “that 45% of the proceeds go directly to Linda’s family through the Solomon Linda Trust”.

You can hear the official version of this version on YouTube, and so I have linked to it here, to save you an extra click. You should howver make at least one extra click to read the full story on the BBC website.

You might also want to watch the Netflix documentary about the family’s struggle to get any royalties.