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.

No comments: