Friday, March 17, 2006

Court Trial Underway in Britain

I am owed £60 million in royalties, wails Bob Marley's bassistBy Hugh Davies
(Filed for Daily Telegraph: 17/03/2006)

A musician in Bob Marley's band, the Wailers, launched a £60 million royalties lawsuit in the High Court yesterday claiming that, had he lived, the reggae star would have taken care of him financially as he had always done when they toured the world together.

Aston Barrett, known as "family man" because of his penchant for domesticity (he has 52 children), gave a broad smile in the witness box, telling Mr Justice Lewison: "Bob took care of the business; I took care of the music."

Barrett, a former member of the Jamaican band the Upsetters, who had a British hit the late 1960s with Return of Django, was hired by Marley for his distinctive bass sound and his expertise in obtaining international success.

Sitting in a court chair, he demonstrated how he handled the music with a technique called "shuffle bubble", playing an imaginary organ, and singing "eeh, oh, eeh".

With his dreadlocks twisted into a pony tail and his hearing impaired - "Too much music" - Barrett told of his years with Marley in concerts with acts such as James Brown, Lee "Scratch" Perry and Taj Mahal in London, San Francisco and Jamaica before the singer died of cancer in 1981 at the age of 36.

Listening intently was Marley's elegant widow, Rita, who with seven of her children and five record companies are resisting the lawsuit.

Barrett, now in his 60s, insisted that Marley had promised members of the band equal shares of the royalties from hit albums, including Natty Dread, Rastaman Vibration and Babylon by Bus.

He said he so trusted Marley that he urged him in a telephone call between Jamaica and America to sign a contract on his behalf.

The case is set against the murky background of Jamaican reggae, where its rastafarian performers, with their unintelligible patois and belief in the divinity of Haile Selassie, the late Ethiopian emperor, face murder, dubious contracts and drug disputes, with fortunes being made from their work.

Stephen Bate, counsel for Barrett, recalled tension in Kingston in 1976, when the music was identified with politics, and Marley, his wife and manager Don Taylor had been shot and wounded during political unrest in Jamaica.

He said that Barrett's father disappeared in 1985. He was found "with his body dismembered - he had been decapitated". Two years later, Barrett's brother, Carlton, the Wailers' original drummer, was "shot and killed".

Mr Bate said: "Aston Barrett and his brother literally created the sound of the Wailers, though not for a minute to detract from the extraordinary songwriting ability of Mr Marley. It was the Barretts' unique sound which brought the Wailers international success. The Barretts were the bedrock of the music."

Universal-Island Records Ltd and the Marley family say that Barrett surrendered his right to further royalties in 1994, giving up all claims in return for a payment of several hundred thousand dollars.

"He said he would always take care of us," Barrett told the court.

Mr Bate said that, when Marley died, his client and brother were left "desperately short of money" but, he added, the brothers' financial problems began after Rita Marley became the administrator of the estate. They felt they had been paid only a proportion of what they were owed, but they had no option but to sign an agreement."

The case continues.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Court Move for Bob Marley Royalties

The Press Association Thursday March 16, 08:34 AM

Bob Marley's bass player Aston Barrett is beginning a High Court battle for a multi-million pound slice of the late Reggae legend's royalties.

Aston is one of several musicians who worked with the Jamaican star and who have been involved in courtroom claims since Marley died without making a will in 1981.

There was a settlement in 1994 between various members of Marley's backing band, the Wailers, and record companies after years of litigation in Jamaica, America and Britain.

But now Aston, on behalf of himself and his drummer brother Carlton, who was murdered in 1986, is claiming a partnership agreement with Marley, copyright in six songs and royalties from recording contracts in 1974 and 1975.

These were the years when singer-songwriter Marley recorded some of his greatest albums which still have worldwide appeal.

Aston went ahead with the action after the High Court refused an application by Universal-Island Records and UMG Recordings in 2003 to have the claim struck out as an abuse of process of the courts or because the musician had already accepted a settlement.

The bass player, now in his 60s and father to 52 children, could receive a payment of up to £60 million if successful.