17 December

Pick a Day

17 DECEMBER

In Music History

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2010 Don Van Vliet, aka Captain Beefheart, dies in a hospital in Arcata, California, at the age of 69, from complications associated with multiple sclerosis.

2010 Blues singer Robin Rogers dies of liver cancer at age 55 while her new album, Back in the Fire, climbs the blues chart.

2006 Denis Peyton (saxophonist, guitarist for The Dave Clark Five) dies of cancer at age 63.

2001 Garth Brooks and Sandy Mahl divorce after 15 years of marriage. They share three daughters: Taylor, August, and Allie.

1999 Jazz saxophonist Grover Washington Jr. suffers a fatal heart attack after performing on CBS's Saturday Early Show. He was 56.

1999 Actor/country singer Rex Allen dies at age 78 when he's accidentally run over by his caregiver.

1986 The Doobie Brothers reunite for a benefit concert in Palo Alto, California, which leads to a reunion tour and album.

1986 Wayne Newton wins a $19.2 million suit against NBC News, which had erroneously linked the singer to organized crime.

1982 Blues musician Big Joe Williams dies in Macon, Mississippi, at age 79. Known for hits of the '30s and '40s, such as "Baby, Please Don't Go" and "Crawlin' King Snake."

1972 Craig "DJ Homicide" Bullock (of Sugar Ray) is born in Pasadena, California.

1970 Andy Williams records "Theme From Love Story."

1970 The Beach Boys play a Royal Command Performance for Princess Margaret at London's Royal Albert Hall.

1969 Thanks to play on freeform FM radio stations, Chicago Transit Authority's self-titled debut album goes Gold, eight months after its release. For their next album, the band shortens their name to Chicago.

1969 Tiny Tim marries Miss Vicki Budinger on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. The program receives the second largest ratings of any show up to that time.

1967 The Beatles' John Lennon and George Harrison throw a party in London for the area secretaries of their official Fan Club. The film Magical Mystery Tour is screened here for the first time.

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Gilbert O'Sullivan Beats The Biz In Landmark Sampling Case

1991

A judge rules in favor of the British singer-songwriter Gilbert O'Sullivan in his case against the rapper Biz Markie, who sampled Sullivan's song "Alone Again (Naturally)" without permission. The landmark case establishes that samples must be cleared before they are used.


Sampling has been common for quite some time, with some artists getting permission and others just using the samples and dealing with the fallout after the fact, which early on was the more common approach. An early example of this easier-to-ask-forgiveness-than-permission tactic is "Rapper's Delight" by The Sugarhill Gang, which sampled "Good Times" by Chic in 1979. In 1982, Afrika Bambaataa & The Soulsonic Force interpolated Kraftwerk's "Trans-Europe Express" on their track "Planet Rock," also without clearance. In both cases, settlements were reached. By 1991, most major hip-hop acts cleared their samples, which could usually be done at a relatively low cost, allowing for albums like Paul's Boutique by Beastie Boys, which used about 100 samples. And when they didn't, the matter was typically settled out of court. The Biz Markie case is different because: 1) His record company asked permission, was denied, and used it anyway. 2) O'Sullivan didn't just want money, he wanted Markie's song pulled from the market. Markie's song, released on his 1991 album I Need a Haircut, is called "Alone Again," and finds him playing the role of a sad sack who can't find a friend. It samples about 20 seconds of O'Sullivan's song and interpolates the chorus as Biz laments, "I'm alone again, naturally." Markie did something similar on his 1989 hit "Just A Friend," where he reworked a Freddie Scott R&B song from 1968 called "(You) Got What I Need," but he got a lot more resistance from O'Sullivan. When his record company tried to clear the sample, O'Sullivan rejected it because he felt Markie's comic rendering besmirched the original, which many listeners have used to sink into the throes of depression as a means of musical therapy. Markie is on Cold Chillin' Records, a subsidiary of Warner Bros. Using the sample without permission was a brazen but calculated risk: O'Sullivan was based in England and not likely to hear the song. And to sue Markie, he'd have to appear in New York court to do it. That's exactly what he did. The case is decided quickly and decisively - O'Sullivan says Biz Markie didn't even show up. The judge delivers a harsh repudiation of Warner Bros., opening his ruling by quoting the book of Exodus: "Thou shalt not steal." On December 30, the two sides agree to a settlement that is not disclosed, but reported as "substantial." In addition to the payout, Warner Bros. recalls the album, which has been out since August 23. The song is removed from additional pressings of the album. The case sends record company lawyers scrambling to secure the rights to all those uncleared samples, and to make sure every sample is cleared henceforth. Even tiny samples that nobody bothered clearing before the case are now an issue. Case in point: "Tennessee" by Arrested Development, which uses one word ("Tennessee") from the Prince song "Alphabet Street." Prince could name his price, which turned out to be $100,000. Here's more on the history of plagiarism in songs.

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