Wednesday, 14 December 2011

The Lion Sleeps tonight

Last week my son and myself popped over to Compton Verney to see my work that was in the Folk art Exhibition there. Walking from the car park we noticed a shed with a large silver ball on the top of it. As we got nearer we realised that it was a camera Obscurer. Once inside the shed our heads were inside the ball...good landscape but even better... brilliant acoustics. My son started singing 'Wimoweh' because he thought I'd know it ! We sang and sang ..loudly...and I don't have the greatest singing voice..but it was great fun !
Later I told a very musical friend of mine and he told me the story behind the song...after hearing it I thought I'd blog about it
.It was originally recorded by Solomon Linda and The Evening Birds in 1939 for the Gallo Record Co. in South Africa and was called 'Mbube'. He was paid a very small price and the record company kept all the royalties from the sales. It became a great hit , Linda was famous but still poor.
Years later in 1951 Pete Seeger heard the song, believed it to be an old folk song and recorded a version with the 'Weavers'...calling the song 'Wimoweh'. Since then over 73 artists have recorded the song and nearly every time it has been a hit. When Pete Seeger discovered that Linda had written the song he sent 1000 dollars to him and instructed that all of his share of the earnings should be sent to Linda. Unfortunately he only saw the 1000 dollars in his lifetime,dying in 1962 in poverty. Eighteen years later his family were able to afford a gravestone.

In 2000 after the Disney 'Lion King' a filmmaker called Francois Verster made a  documentary called 'A lion's trail' telling the story of Solomon Linda.This raised awareness of copyrights etc and the family prepared to go to court.
 In 2004 after a lawsuit, the family of  Linda agreed a Licence with Disney and the earnings were put in trust .  Apparently the Richmond Record co. that had produced the Pete Seeger version also agreed to send 3000 dollars a year to the family. It was estimated that Disney owed 1.6 million in royalties alone!
...So if you aren't humming the song yet have a look at these videos !
The first is Solomon Linda

The second is Pete  Seeger and The Weavers

And the last is a Hippo singing


  1. Isn't Compton Verney great? One of my absolutely favourite places to go: the Alfred Wallis exhibition earlier this year was stunning.

  2. It's amazing to find out the history behind some of these things...and now I'll be singing it ALL day - thanks Katie!




Blog Top Sites