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Could be of some interest: Bobby Byrd

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  • David Stockhoff
    James Brown s longtime collaborator fights for his piece of the pie By NEKESA MUMBI MOODY ASSOCIATED PRESS GRAYSON, Ga., Oct. 29 — Before Bobby Byrd starts
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 29, 2003
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      James Brown's longtime collaborator fights for his piece of the pie


      GRAYSON, Ga., Oct. 29 — Before Bobby Byrd starts to talk, he
      wants to
      get one thing straight — he doesn't hate James Brown.

      Yes, he has sued Brown — the man Byrd helped spring from
      reform school, the man Byrd still calls his brother — claiming
      Godfather of Soul and Universal Music Group owe him millions of
      dollars in royalties. Byrd wants proper credit for classic hits
      like ''Please, Please, Please'' and ''Sex Machine,'' where his deep,
      gruff voice demands ''Get on up!'' behind each Brown screech.
      But no, Byrd says, he could never hate Brown.
      He still remembers the teenager he met playing baseball, a
      reform school kid looking for a fresh start in life. Byrd remembers
      his mother making Brown a member of their family. He remembers Brown
      joining his group and their big dreams about changing the world —
      least their world.
      ''I often sit around and think about the things we talked
      about,'' a smiling Byrd told The Associated Press at his home about
      75 miles from where the two made their start as the Famous Flames.
      The smile fades.
      ''After the records started to become big, a change came.''
      The Famous Flames became James Brown and the Famous Flames,
      then later, just James Brown. Yet Byrd and his wife, signer-
      songwriter Vicki Anderson Byrd, say they helped create the songs that
      made Brown's legend.
      Now they want their fair share — ''because it never would
      been if it hadn't been for me,'' Byrd says.
      Entering the Byrds' beautiful, spacious home outside Atlanta,
      it doesn't appear they have much to complain about. Their house is
      nestled in an upscale community, ornately decorated, with many
      pictures of the two in their performing heyday.
      Mrs. Byrd, a former Brown background singer who says she also
      wrote some of his songs, is a handsome, 63-year-old woman stylishly
      dressed and manicured. The same could be said of her husband, 69, who
      looks a bit like a leaner, taller version of the 70-year-old Brown,
      including the pompadour hairdo.
      Yet the Byrds feel far from secure. They credit their current
      comfort to a sample of Byrd's song ''U Don't Know,'' used by Jay-Z on
      2001's multimillion-selling ''The Blueprint.'' They say Jay-Z
      generously paid Byrd 65 percent of the royalties for the song,
      allowing them to secure a mortgage for their home, which is worth
      about $250,000.
      ''For the last year and a half or two years, thank God for Jay-
      Z,'' says Mrs. Byrd. ''But what if Jay-Z doesn't do it anymore? It's
      not enough money for you to put up a savings, so you can fall back on
      That's at the heart of their dispute against Brown and
      Universal (representatives for both declined to comment.) The case
      involves a myriad of legal issues, dizzying and difficult to
      understand even for the Byrds — and illustrating why the
      industry is so treacherous for those who cannot master its many
      Byrd and Brown go back to the early 1950s and their hometown
      of Toccoa. ''I don't know why (James) would always say Augusta,''
      Byrd fusses.
      Brown's mother left him as a child, and he was raised by his
      father and aunts. At 15, he ended up in reform school for burglary.
      Byrd's baseball team played the reform school's team. Brown told Byrd
      that he couldn't get out without a job and a place to live, Byrd
      Byrd's family took Brown in and helped him get a job. He later
      became the sixth member of Byrd's group, the Famous Flames.
      ''My mom had five children, and as far as she was concerned,
      he was the sixth,'' Byrd says. ''He was my brother. I mean, he was
      really, really, really wonderful. We had some times together. Then we
      started making records.''
      Their first hit was 1956's ''Please, Please, Please,'' made
      famous by Brown's desperate wailing. Though it's been recorded
      several times throughout the decades, even by Brown, when it first
      became a hit, Byrd says, each member had a verse and was credited as
      a songwriter.
      Today, however, only Brown and former Flame Johnny Terry are
      listed as songwriters, according to the BMI music publishing company.
      Byrd claims that throughout the years, songs Byrd and others wrote
      for or with Brown were later credited to other people. Byrd says he
      never protested because he was making money touring with Brown and
      didn't want to ''rock the boat.''
      The Famous Flames disbanded about a year after ''Please Please
      Please,'' but Byrd soon returned to Brown's camp as a songwriter,
      piano player and show member. He would work on and off for Brown for
      almost two decades.
      During that time, Byrd says, he co-wrote some of Brown's
      biggest hits. While Byrd does get writer's royalties from those
      songs, he says he does not get artist royalties from the songs he
      performed on, and more importantly, doesn't get a fair share of the
      Music royalties are confusing even for those who live off
      them. At one point, the Byrds said they didn't own publishing on the
      songs, only writer's royalties. But their lawyer, Carl Kaminsky,
      insisted to a reporter that they indeed had publishing royalties. The
      Byrds disputed this claim until their lawyer explained to them
      (during a conference call with a reporter) that they did in fact have
      the publishing, but had not been paid what they deserved.
      The Byrds started talking to lawyers in 1987, after they heard
      Eric B. & Rakim's rap hit ''I Know You Got Soul,'' which sampled
      Byrd's voice from a tune credited to Brown and Byrd.
      ''That's when sampling was just getting started good,'' Byrd
      says. ''Ain't nobody paid me nothin'.''
      Rap created a new windfall for Brown after his career had
      peaked. Music attorney Ian Waldon estimates Brown has made millions
      over the past 25 years from sampling.
      ''For certain artists, they've had a whole new career and made
      a whole slew of income from their songs being used by (rap)
      artists,'' says Waldon.
      The Byrds say when they tried to collect on ''I Know You Got
      Soul,'' Universal Music Group, which bought their former record
      labels, King and Smash, said the Byrds' royalties had been sent to
      So the Byrds went to Brown, who they described as being
      supportive at the time. They say he denied receiving the money, and
      wrote letters asking that any money be sent directly to the Byrds.
      But they never received anything.
      The Byrds are careful not to say Brown stole their money. They
      don't know what to believe.
      The Byrds sued Universal and Brown in 2002 in federal court in
      New York City. The suit was dismissed due to statute of limitations,
      Kaminsky said. They are appealing.
      Kaminsky says the pair is owed several million dollars in
      royalty payments. The Byrds rejected a $60,000 settlement offer from
      Byrd just hopes that one day, Brown will recognize the role
      Byrd played in his career.
      ''Everybody knows that James Brown's No. 1,'' Byrd
      says. ''Bobby Byrd's No. 2.''

      © 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may
      be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
      (whoops, sorry lol)

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