The Lion Weeps Tonight: how a Zulu herdsman was screwed out of ...


The Lion Weeps Tonight: how a Zulu herdsman was screwed out of millions

Solomon Linda was behind the iconic song but went unrecognised for years

Alex Godfrey

In Disney’s new version of The Lion King, Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen, in the guise of meerkat and warthog pals Pimon and Tumbaa, sing The Lion Sleeps Tonight with wild abandon. It is the latest cover of the joyous doo-wop song first released by The Tokens in 1961 and since covered more than 40 times by everyone from REM to Brian Eno to forgotten 80s band Tight Fit, who took it to the top of the UK charts in 1982.

However, the origins of The Lion Sleeps Tonight go back to the 1930s, and if you stick around for the end credits of the new Lion King, you will hear a song called Mbube. Its inclusion in the film is highly significant – it is the basis for the evergreen hit and a nod to a songwriter who has been airbrushed from history: Solomon Linda.

Linda was born in a rural area of Msinga in SA in 1909. He was brought up as a traditional Zulu, herding cattle, before moving to Johannesburg to find work. He got a job in a furniture shop and by night sang soprano, also utilising an impressive falsetto, in a choir called The Evening Birds...

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