Rick James’ Estate Sued By Group Of Musicians Over Alleged Decades Of Unpaid Royalties

Rick James

Rick James’ Estate Sued By Group Of Musicians Over Alleged Decades
Of Unpaid Royalties

The operators of soul singer Rick James‘ estate are gearing up for a court battle.

According to a report from Radar Online, three musicians who wrote a record for the artist back in 1979 claim they are owed a significant amount in back royalties and are taking matters to court.

Rick James

Reportedly, the three writers named Leroy O’Neil Jackson Jr.James Calloway, and the administrator of Aaron “Sonny” T. Davenport’s estate, have filed suit against Universal Music and Ty James, executor of Rick James‘ estate. According to the suit, the trio wrote and played the record “Big Time” for James and his execs back in the day, who immediately wanted the single for James‘ forthcoming album “Garden of Love.”

In court docs, the writers claim they signed a non-traditional deal with James in which he’d retain 100% publishing royalties and rights for the first five years. Subsequently, all rights were to be transferred to the musicians – who were listed as writers when the song was first released in 1980. However, it seems things didn’t happen as planned. Reportedly in 1984, the group had to sue the song’s publisher Motown records, and James‘ production company for royalties. They reportedly settled with the defendants and were awarded $4,000 each. Despite this, the newest suit claims James and associates continued to not pay them. Reportedly, the legal document reads:

“Since in or around 1990, Plaintiffs have made efforts to engage legal counsel to assist them with the collection of unpaid mechanical writers’ royalties only to be turned away by attorneys unwilling to represent Plaintiffs on a contingency fee basis,”


“Despite requests from Plaintiffs to Defendants, Plaintiffs have never received a single accounting statement nor payment for mechanical royalties for “Big Time” from Defendants. Defendants nevertheless continue to distribute and exploit the composition by releasing and distributing digital and physical phonorecords of Plaintiffs’ copyrighted work and are liable for intentional copyright infringement,” 

Reportedly, the musicians are suing for infringement and breach of contract for an unspecified amount in damages.

Do you think the trio has something owed to them? Let us know in the comments! 

Authored by: Kay Johnson