In the jungle,
The mighty jungle,
The lawyers sleep tonight…


Back in July of ’03 I pointed to an incredible in-depth look at the story of ‘Wimoweh’, the South African tune most popularly known as the melody for “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”.

A year later, in July of ’04, came word that Disney was being sued by the heirs of ‘Wimoweh’ author Solomon Linda.

Finally, the case has been won by Linda’s family.

No one is saying how many millions will go to the daughters of the late composer Solomon Linda, who died in poverty from a curable kidney disease in 1962 at age 53.

But the family’s settlement with New York-based Abilene Music, which gives Linda’s heirs 25 percent of past and future royalties, has broad implications.

[…] In the 1950s, at a time when apartheid laws robbed blacks of negotiating rights, Linda sold worldwide copyright to Gallo Records of South Africa for 10 shillings — less than $1.70.

Gallo also tried to sell the work in the United States, but American folk singer Pete Seeger had adapted a version that he called “Wimoweh.”

[…] It remains to be seen how the settlement with Abilene, which holds the copyright to the popular songs that grew from Linda’s composition, will affect his family. Abilene music could not immediately be reached for comment.

Of his three surviving daughters, only the youngest has a job, as a nurse, and she still lives in the family home in Soweto, a satellite suburb set up for black workers under apartheid.

Her sisters never reached high school. One runs a home-based grocers. The other recently lost her job cleaning a doctor’s office and supports a daughter who gets occasional work cleaning homes.

Linda’s fourth daughter died of AIDS in her 30s in 2002 as the lawsuit dragged on, without money to buy drugs that could have saved her life.

Neat to see the story finally reach resolution. I highly recommend reading the 3rd Ear article that details the origins of the song and what happened to Linda and his family.

iTunesLion Sleeps Tonight, The (Wimoweh)” by Nylons from the album Best of the Nylons (1993, 3:12).