MBUBE

Latest update on 17/08/2018

Artist: Solomon Linda's Evening Birds
Author: Solomon Linda
Label: Singer
Year: 1939

Zulu song created by a South African from near Ladysmith in Zululand. Mbube was a big hit in what is now called Swaziland. All Zulu choral music was even labeled Mbube Music. It's about a sleeping lion (Mbube Wimoweh). "If everybody's quiet, we might eat lion soon". Linda called this 'a song for girls', cause of the high vocals required. If it wasn't for Linda's falsetto, The Weavers' version would lack its striking melody. Reissued on Rounder compilation Mbube Roots, with plenty of Zulu singing groups.

Covers:

1952:

Weavers with Gordon Jenkins [hit US as Wimoweh, the only word used (see footnote)]

1952:

Yma Sumac [idem]

1952:

Jimmy Dorsey [idem]

1959:

Kingston Trio [the first to give Linda any credits]

1960:

Miriam Makeba [in her Xhosa language; also crediting Linda]

1960:

Randy Sparks Three [as Eh Wimoweh; first English speaking version and with a roaring lion in the intro]

1960:

Kitty White [as Wimoweh (The Lion Sleeps) with no allusion to any lion whatsoever]

1961:

Tokens [n°1 US as The Lion Sleeps Tonight; RCA producers Hugo (Peretti) & Luigi (Creatore) heard the Tokens audition tape and fell for their Wimoweh, deciding the song needed some extra lyrics; with ten words copyrighted by George David Weiss: "In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight"; Miriam Makeba objected: a lion sleeps in the savanna]

1961:

Playmates [as Wimoweh, one month before The Tokens and again with (other) lion-less lyrics]

1961:

Karl Denver [idem; hit UK]

1961:

Romeos [answer song as The Tiger's Wide Awake]

1961:

Gloria Lasso [as Réveille-toi, one month before Henri Salvador]

1962:

Henri Salvador [as Le Lion est mort ce soir; he also recorded a German, Italian and Spanish version]

1962:

Bert Kaempfert [as Wimoweh on A Swingin' Safari]

1962:

Strangers [as Oe Kan Da Na, their first hit in their Antwerp dialect]

1964:

Sawbuck Singers [following the Playmates version]

1964:

Glen Campbell [as The Lion Sleeps Tonight]

1965:

Manhattan Brothers

1965:

New Christy Minstrels [idem]

1968:

Tremeloes [idem]

1971:

Robert John [idem; n°3 US; these are The Tokens again under a different name]

1975:

Brian Eno [idem]

1975:

Bamses Venner [Danish version as Wimmersvej]

1982:

Tight Fit [n°1 NL & B as The Lion Sleeps Tonight]

1985:

André Van Duin [as Een Boutje En Een Moertje En Een Schroefje En Een Nippeltje]

1986:

Nylons

1990:

Ladysmith Black Mambazo [on lp Do It Accapella]

1992:

Pow Wow [Top 5 Fr]

1992:

R.E.M. [a song title as The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight shows affinity for the subject]

1992:

They Might Be Giants [in The Guitar]

1993:

Nanci Griffith [as Wimoweh]

1994:

Manu Dibango [idem]

1998:

Voice Male [as The Lion Sleeps Tonight]

1999:

Helmut Lotti [idem]

2001:

Baha Men [sample of The Tokens in You All That]

2003:

Cooldown Café feat. Gerard Joling [idem]

2004:

Hans Theessink [als Mbube with trio Insingizi from Zimbabwe]

2010:

Angelique Kidjo

Musical instruments were forbidden for black workers in the townships as they might be used as weapons. Singing was their only way to express themselves musically, so that's what they did (massively). Township jive became a whole movement, nurturing famous exponents as Ladysmith Black Mambazo, known through Paul Simon's Graceland lp. That whole evolution started with Linda's Mbube. Gallo Records, heir of the Singer catalogue, sent Mbube and some other 78's to American partners at Decca in New York, where Alan Lomax passed it over to Pete Seeger and his Weavers. They fell for Mbube, securing the credits under the ficticious name Paul Campbell and hit with their version as Wimoweh. It became an even bigger hit with harmony vocal group The Tokens and electro pop group Tight Fit (n°1 US and UK respectively). The lion may be death, some nine so-called authors still clean up its carcass. More than 60 years after the song's conception, Gallo Records finally agreed to make Linda's only surviving daughter part of the deal. Under Apartheid the rule was simple: "Blacks are not allowed to have royalties".

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