Pan Africanism : Three Poor South African Women Win Ground-Breaking Royalties Lawsuit

Discussion in 'Black History - Culture - Panafricanism' started by Aqil, Mar 24, 2006.

  1. Aqil

    Aqil Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    By Michelle Faul
    Associated Press

    JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) - Three impoverished South African women - whose father wrote the song known as "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" - have won a six-year battle for royalties in a case that could affect other musicians. The story surrounding the song that never seems to go out of date amounts to a rags-to-riches tale, replete with racial overtones.

    No one is saying how many millions will go to the daughters of the late composer Solomon Linda, who died in poverty from kidney disease in 1962 at age 53. But the family's settlement last month with New York-based Abilene Music gives Linda's heirs 25% of past and future royalties and has broad implications.

    Linda composed his now-famous song in 1939 in one of the squalid hostels that housed black migrant workers in Johannesburg. According to family lore, he wrote the song in minutes, inspired by his childhood tasks of chasing prowling lions from the cattle he herded. He called the song "Mbube," Zulu for "lion." It was sung in true Zulu tradition - a cappella. Linda's innovation was to add his falsetto voice, an overlay of haunting "eeeeeees," to the baritone and bass main line. To this day, this style is called "Mbube" in South Africa. The song sold more than 100,000 copies over a decade, probably making it Africa's first big pop hit.

    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. The song became one of the best-known songs in the world as "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," attributed to George Weiss, Hugo Peretti and Luigi Creatore. American singer Pete Seeger adapted a version that he called "Wimoweh," making it a folk-music staple.

    Owen Dean, South Africa's leading copyright lawyer, argued successfully for Linda's family...that under the British Imperial Copyright Act of 1911, which was in force in South Africa at the time Linda composed his song, all rights revert to the heirs, who are entitled to renegotiate royalties. "Now the way has been shown," Dean told The Associated Press. "Others in similar circumstances can fight such injustice, and I have no doubt that there are other people in this position." The 1911 act affects all countries that were part of the British Empire at that time - a third of the world.

    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. Of Linda's 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 grocery. 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.

    Kevin Chang, a Jamaican reggae expert, said the case means that "musicians living in poverty, and other artists, may finally be rewarded for their work." Chang believes the decision could be applied to an ongoing British court case in which Carlton Barrett of "Bob Marley and the Wailers" is suing Marley's estate for royalties, arguing songs he co-authored are being credited only to Marley.

    Websites list hundreds of versions of the "Lion," including many top of the pops over the years. Folk, swing, minstrel, big band, reggae and R&B versions have been sung over the years. The New Zealand Army had it as a favorite tune for a while. The song's captivating rhythm poured from the soundtrack in Disney's blockbuster musical "The Lion King" - one of at least 15 movies in which it's been featured. "The musical was netting millions of dollars and Solomon Linda's daughters were trying to survive as domestic servants, not earning enough to feed their families," Dean told the AP.

    Dean's tactics included winning a court order last year freezing Disney's rights to income in South Africa from legendary trademarks including Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Winnie the Pooh pending resolution of the dispute. That appears to have been a turning point, though Disney never was sued in the court case.
     
  2. dustyelbow

    dustyelbow Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Great story. I am glad some effort is taken to bring this matter to light for these women. As you can see our people hardly ever get credit when due. Especially at the time of release. It usually have to come "after everyone and everything had their fill". In short, when the situation is bygone. Its true for me to know that if you endure even with much suffering, good does tend to prevail when its said and done.

    Thanks.
     
  3. Alkebulan

    Alkebulan Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    bless u Aqil!

    thank u so much 4 posting this result. i 1st learded of this story when pbs broadcast, " a lions tail " on their independent lens series. let me add a little background please.

    In a Johannesburg studio in 1939, Solomon Linda recorded a new melody over a background of vocal chants. He named the song “Mbube,” or Zulu for “lion,” and it went on to become one of the most famous melodies in the world, spawning hundreds of cover versions in Japanese, Spanish, and French, among other languages. The English version, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” has been recorded by more than 150 artists and appears in more than 15 feature films.

    the matter attained etheral attention b/c it was also a pivotal song n diisney's, " the lion king ", & disney steadfastly refused to even recognize the brother as the artist of record 4 the song, let alone pay any royalties 2 the family. :censored: :censored: :censored: they should b ashamed & i wished all black ppl all over the world would hv boycotted everything from them 4ever until they came correct, but, of course, i realized this was delusional on my part 2 even think that could happen.

    Gallo Records paid Linda and his group a flat session fee for the recording, after which the company owned the song and did not have to pay any composer royalties, even though the record sold an estimated 100,000 copies over a decade. the version heard most often n the u.s. is redered by the tokens, who, 4 many years, incorrectly claimed authorship of the song.

    although the original artist & 1 of his daughters (who had aids complications) have died in poverty, it is not too late 4 som justice. this story can still hv a happy ending. :dance: :dance: :terrific:
     
  4. Aqil

    Aqil Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    You're quite welcome, Alkebulan...and thank you for the enlightening addendums...
     
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