You know the song. It's been used in many movies. There have probably been times when you couldn't get it out of your head. It was a monster hit for The Tokens. Before that, Pete Seeger and the Weavers made it a staple of international folk music, And before that it was the first really big-selling recording in all of Africa.
What you don't know, most likely, is that the author was a poor and illiterate South African named Solomon Linda, or that for years he received so little for the song that when he died he had the equivalent of a mere $22 in the bank, and that the rip-off of royalties that should have gone to his heirs continued for many years after that. The whole matter has only come to light relatively recently, and there's been some positive resolution -- long overdue and too late to redress the full extent of the wrongs, but at least it's something. You can read more about it in this article.
Think about this story the next time some entertainment industry executive talks about how copyright protection and DRM are so necessary to protect the rights of struggling artists.
1. Stan Rogers03/23/2006 12:45:55 AM
The story of Mbube, Saloman Linda, Pete Seeger and George Weiss is an interesting one. If you'd like to know more about it (and get a feel for the depth of the legal wrangling over the years), it'd be worth your while to see François Verster's documentary, Mbube: A Lion's Trail (The PBS version dropped "Mbube" from the original title, probably due to its unfamiliarity to the American audience):
Oh, and Joseph Shambala included a rendition of the original on Ladysmith Black Mambazo's children's record The Gift of the Tortoise, if you want to hear it. You'll find that "wimoweh" is a lot closer to the way you'll hear the title word than the Times' "EEM-boo-beh" transliteration