Tim Cohen, editor at large for Jo’burg’s Business Day, has an excellent op-ed on Solomon Linda and Mbube. Mbube is the song Linda wrote in 1939, which later became “Wimoweh”, when recorded by Pete Seeger, and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” when lyrics were added by The Tokens. Linda recieved 10 shillings for the song when he wrote it, and a few royalties from Seeger, but generally didn’t benefit from the song’s immense popularity, and died penniless. His family is now attempting to sue the Disney corporation for royalties for use of the song in “The Lion King”. Thus far, Disney has responded by pointing out that they licensed the song from its legitimate owner.
Cohen’s article references an excellent piece by Rian Malan, written for Rolling Stone, which gives a precisely detailed history oif the song’s journey from South Africa to the rest of the world – it’s reproduced online here.