OT: "Ai kama zimba zimba zayo"

Mark Mandel thnidu at GMAIL.COM
Wed Jul 8 04:03:08 UTC 2009

On Tue, Jul 7, 2009 at 10:43 PM, Joel S. Berson <Berson at att.net> wrote:
> Seeger wrote English lyrics for several South
> African songs, but I think now I have conflated
> "The Zulu Warrior" of Marais and Miranda with
> "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" (aka "Wimoweh"), also
> about a Zulu warrior/chief. Â Too late at night
> for me to start searching my LPs.
> Mark?

You may have done so. But Wimoweh, né Mbabe or something similar IIRC,
--- well, I should qualify this. *I believe that I have read* that it
was written by a black / "Native" man in S.A. and recorded, and he
never got anything from it. But that should be treated as qualified,
and I'm too tired to check now.

Oh, hell, couldn't resist, and it was pretty damn quick. Here it is
from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lion_Sleeps_Tonight. An ugly
story. (And it was indeed The Weavers that I learned it from.)



"Mbube" (Zulu for "lion") was first recorded by its writer, Solomon
Linda, and his group, The Evening Birds, in 1939. Gallo Record Company
paid Linda a single fee for the recording and no royalties. "Mbube"
became a hit throughout South Africa and sold about 100,000 copies
during the 1940s. The song became so popular that Mbube lent its name
to a style of African a cappella music, though the style has since
been mostly replaced by isicathamiya (a softer version).

Alan Lomax brought the song to the attention of Pete Seeger of the
folk group The Weavers. It was on one of several records Lomax lent to
Seeger.[1] After having performed the song for at least a year in
their concerts, in November, 1951, the Weavers recorded their version
entitled "Wimoweh", a mishearing of the original song's chorus of
'uyimbube' (meaning "you're a lion"). Pete Seeger had made some of his
own additions to the melody. The song was credited exclusively to Paul
Campbell, a fictitious entity used by Harry Richmond to copyright
material in the public domain.

Pete Seeger explains in one recording, "it refers to an old legend
down there, [about] their last king [of the Zulus], who was known as
Shaka The Lion. Legend says, Shaka The Lion didn't die when Europeans
took over our country; he simply went to sleep, and he'll wake up some
day." (See "Senzenina / Wimoweh" on Seeger's With Voices Together We
Sing (Live).) cf. sleeping hero

It was published by Folkways, a subsidiary of Richmond/TRO. Their 1952
version, arranged by Gordon Jenkins, became a top-twenty hit in the
U.S., and their live 1957 recording turned it into a folk music
staple. This version was covered in 1959 by The Kingston Trio.

New lyrics to the song were written by George David Weiss, Luigi
Creatore, and Hugo Peretti, based very loosely upon the meaning of the
original song. The Tokens' 1961 cover of this version rose to number
one on the Billboard Hot 100 and still receives fairly frequent replay
on many American oldies radio stations. In the UK, an up-tempo,
yodel-dominated rendering was a top-ten hit for Karl Denver and his
Trio. In 1971, Robert John also recorded this version, and it reached
#3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1972. Since then, "Wimoweh" / "The Lion
Sleeps Tonight" has remained popular and frequently covered.

Copyright issues

Pete Seeger later said in the book A Lion's Trail, "The big mistake I
made was not making sure that my publisher signed a regular
songwriters’ contract with Linda. My publisher simply sent Linda some
money and copyrighted The Weavers’ arrangement here and sent The
Weavers some money."

Seeger's publisher was The Richmond Organization (TRO), which also
goes by a number of other names, including Ludlow, Cromwell, Essex,
Hollis, Melody Trails, and Folkways Music Publishers. Since Solomon
Linda's 1939 "Mbube" was apparently not under copyright protection,
TRO founder Howard Richmond had himself claimed authorship to
"Wimoweh" using a pseudonym, in this case "Paul Campbell".

The songwriter and publisher customarily split the earnings of a song
50-50, and the performers, song pluggers', and agents' shares usually
come out of the composer's half. By claiming authorship, TRO thus
secured for itself a nice chunk of the songwriters' half as well as
all of the publishers' share of the song's earnings.[2]

In 2000, South African journalist Rian Malan wrote a feature article
for Rolling Stone magazine, highlighting Linda's story and estimating
that the song had earned U.S. $15 million for its use in the movie The
Lion King alone; this prompted the South African documentary "A Lion's
Trail" by François Verster that documented the song's history.
Screened by PBS, in September 2006, the documentary won an Emmy Award.

In July 2004, the song became the subject of a lawsuit between the
family of its writer Solomon Linda and Disney. The suit claimed that
Disney owed $1.6 million in royalties for the use of "The Lion Sleeps
Tonight" in the film and stage production of The Lion King. Meanwhile,
publisher of The Weavers' "Wimoweh", TRO/Folkways, began to pay $3000
annually to Linda's heirs.

In February 2006, Linda's heirs reached a legal settlement for an
undisclosed amount with Abilene Music, who held the worldwide rights
and had licensed the song to Disney. This settlement has applied to
worldwide rights, not just South Africa, since 1987.


m a m

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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