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Just received a "My Sweet Lord" story...

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by vince, Mar 1, 2009.

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  1. vince

    vince Stan Ricker's son-in-law Thread Starter

    From a lawyers point of view.
    AND, an ending that I DID NOT KNOW!!!

    To all,

    Bob's recollection of the mini-concert by George in my office triggered some further thoughts. The trial had just ended on February 25, 1976 -- George's birthday! Bob and I didn't know that but our female employees did. Bob, remember Anahid, our paralegal? They brought George a cake with candles and birthday cards. He was quite touched and happy the trial was over, so he sat on the floor of my office and played his guitar. Naturally, that was one night we had no trouble keeping our employees there at night!

    George found a bottle of extremely fine Armagnac which a French client gave me after we won a major trademark infringement trial the month before. (1975-1976 saw my small litigation department (3-4 people) handle 7 major trials in 2 yrs. for Freddie Prinze, George Harrison, copyright infringement of the song "Dueling Banjos", a securities fraud case for Diners club, the trademark case to obtain clearance for the sale in the US of the World’s most expensive perfume, and Bob’s trials – the New York Jets and another involving a movie. Bob and I still laugh about those two years "being a blur". Indeed, I am impressed Bob's recollection of the Harrison trial and the lead-in is so accurate.

    I agree with Bob that George was a gentle and unassuming man. When I met him in the mid-70s I had no idea what to expect. I was immediately impressed how down to earth he was, and how modest and intelligent. He was nobody's fool. We walked to his deposition and, of course, the female employees at the law firm made the usual fuss. In the middle of George's deposition we were interrupted by a huge man coming in to serve a summons against George on behalf of Allen Klein, his former manager, suing the Beatles for millions for breach of contract etc.. 20George kept his composure and did quite well in the deposition.

    Afterward, we went for coffee at a coffee shop on Madison and 42nd. We sat and talked for quite some time. George said I must have some knowledge of music because of comments made at the deposition. I said I studied music and played in a small dance band which was "somewhat less successful" than the Beatles.. George said he admired anyone who could read music because he couldn't. When I showed my surprise he said none of the Beatles -- even Paul and John -- could read or write music! He testified at the trial they were all "jungle musicians" who composed by ear etc.. He testified he composed one song (I don't remember which) from listening to the sound of a water pump outside his hotel room in Algiers . Then he asked if I thought he should take formal musical lessons. Taken aback, I said the first thing I could think of -- "Whatever you are doing, don't change it" – i.e. "if it ain't broke, don't fix it".

    I couldn't believe a musical genius like George asked me that question! Over the next 20 years we were in litigation, I never did find out if he was kidding. George had a great sense of humor – ( Barbie mentioned the Christmas card with a marijuana leaf on the front, which he knew I wouldn't recognize). I now believe he was really having me on.

    Bob was right about Judge Owen’s expertise in music. I had several music copyright trials but this one was quite unique. At one point, a musicologist was testifying and Judge Owen completely took over his examination. I and my opposing counsel just sat down and watched him for quite a long time. I have never had a judge do that at trial for that length of time. My opponent and I didn't mind. The Judge was doing a great job, so we just sat back and enjoyed it.

    The day George testified=2 0the Courtroom was packed to overflowing -- all the clerks of the Judges in the Southern District. They heard George testify how he composed "My Sweet Lord" and demonstrate it on his guitar. It is the biggest audience I ever had for a case! George testified quite well and quite convincingly, which was the main reason we were able to convince Judge Owen that any infringement was innocent and subconscious. That was extremely important for the damages awarded.

    At some point George returned to New York and played a concert at Madison Square Garden . Our firm, of course, had tickets and Dori and I attended. It was so crowded and the smoke so thick we could hardly breathe. We noticed people kept ordering ice cream sandwiches and other sweets. When George came onstage the first thing he said was -- "Is marijuana legal in New York ?" The aftermath of that incident might be why he sent me that "marijuana Christmas card". Actually, all the cards I received from George were made by Olivia Harrison. Those were the ones Barbie saw when she came to visit.

    Meanwhile, re Allen Klein's action against the Beatles, John Eastman, Paul McCartney's brother-in-law (also a lawyer) and I were asked to find a law firm to represent the Beatles against Klein. We interviewed several of the big Wall Street firms, including one firm with a junior lawyer named, Amalia Kearse, an African-American woman who was a Bridge champion, and now on the Circuit Court of Appeals in New York -- 1 step below the US Supreme Court. Kearse was a likely candidate for the Supreme Court when Clinton was in office, and could be now. John and I interviewed the firm that eventually got the case -- Cleary Gottlieb -- where one of the lawyers was an HLS classmate of mine, Albert Pergam. Stan, wasn't Al on Law Review with you? Anyway Albert was a good man whom I enjoyed working with who, unfortunately, passed away.

    Bob mentioned Allen Klein's, in effect, purchasing the judgment won by Bright Tunes against his former client. We moved to disqualify Klein. What was a routine damage proceeding on the exact amount owed by George to Bright Tunes became, instead, a hotl y contested litigation on Klein's breach of fiduciary duties to George. Indeed, as much else involving Klein, it was a new experience for me -- and likely any other litigator. Since Klein's attorneys prepared George's answer to the Bright Tunes complaint, Klein, in taking over for Bright Tunes, was actually the “author” of the complaint and the answer in the same litigation!

    We argued this to Judge Owen. When we served that motion in late 1978, I was leaving the firm to start my own firm. I thought I was done with George Harrison and the "My Sweet Lord" litigation. When we won the motion in March, 1979, I was notified that George wanted me to handle the trial, which I did with litigation associates at my former firm. The 1979 trial was epic -- Allen Klein testified and so did George. In preparing George, we sat in my conference room (August) in our undershirts, because it was so hot. During the trial, I called the juxtaposition of George Harrison and Allen Klein "beauty and the beast". It did not hurt our case that Klein had just been nailed by the Federal government for not paying taxes and was subject to criminal penalties -- a point I eagerly "set before the king".

    We went up to the Second Circuit when we won the trial and Klien appealed. We won went back for a third trial in 1986 and won again. Klien appealed to the Second Circuit and we won – finally ending this marathon litigation! Bottom line – George got to keep “MSL” and also gained possession of the original Bright Tunes song – “He’s So Fine”. It is the only case I know where someone was found liable for copyright infringement and wound up retaining his song and taking possession of the plaintiff’s song as well. I believe this case has been discussed widely in law schools as well as throughout the music industry.

    George’s company still receives royalties from both songs. I am gathering notes for a book on my most prominent cases and the George Harrison case will get a chapter, along with the Freddie Prinze case, the others mentioned above etc..

    When George was diagnosed with cancer I wrote him to wish him well and told him of my MS. I was quasi-retired then (late 90s). George sent me a nice long letter to wish me well and give me advice on how to cope with everything. He later sent me some tapes of the Eastern religion he was studying. One Christmas he sent us a tea set from Harrod’s. He was very thoughtful right to the end and I was greatly saddened by his death. I will send this and Bob’s recollections to Olivia Harrison.

    I recently sent her a cartoon I found in my file of George ascending to Heaven to see “My Sweet Lord”. I wondered how he would have reacted to that cartoon. I think he may have had a good laugh about it.

    Joe Santora
  2. Gloi

    Gloi Forum Resident

    Thanks, that was really interesting.
  3. jpm-boston

    jpm-boston Forum Resident

    Boston, MA
    Great reading. Thanks.
  4. filper

    filper Forum Resident

    WOW !

    Thanks for sharing.
  5. His Masters Vice

    His Masters Vice W.C. Fields Forever

    Sydney, Australia
    So in the end, George won?

    Interesting... :righton:
  6. John Carsell

    John Carsell Forum Resident

    Northwest Illinois
    Never knew about a lot of that stuff.

    Thanks for posting this Vince.
  7. babyblue

    babyblue Pactches Pal!

    Pacific NW
    Fascinating! Thanks for posting this.
  8. apple corpse

    apple corpse Forum Resident

    Southern, USA
    Yes, excellent story. Thanks very much! :)
  9. Greatest Hits

    Greatest Hits Just Another Compilation

    Sucks to be Allen Klein.
  10. The Wanderer

    The Wanderer Seeker of Truth

  11. Anthology123

    Anthology123 Senior Member

    The information that George not only won the case, but also has ownership to MSL and HSF has been known for several years, at that website listed by Jeff. I have been posting that link at various times in various threads on the subject, but no one noticed. Glad to see that people here might be looking at it now.
  12. avbuff

    avbuff Forum Resident

    Central NY
    Wow, and George won the rights to He's So Fine; that certainly must have been a shocker.
    Thank you, vince, for such a great read.
  13. happy2behere

    happy2behere Forum Resident

    NY NY
    yes, but he still stole the song.
    that judgement will never go away.
  14. pdenny

    pdenny 19-Year SHTV Participation Trophy Recipient

    Hawthorne CA
  15. vinylman

    vinylman Forum Resident

    Leeds, U.K.

    Just shows that karma isn't always instant. It WILL get you in the end.
  16. Mike Dow

    Mike Dow I kind of like the music

    Bangor, Maine

    Vince, thanks for posting this story. Good reading!
  17. jacksondownunda

    jacksondownunda Forum Resident

    Thanks very much for chronicling that ongoing situation. I love hearing the human side and thought processes of you both.
  18. Chris Schoen

    Chris Schoen Rock 'n Roll !!!

    Maryland, U.S.A.
    Just got Billy Preston's "Encouraging Words" 1970 album (produced by George Harrison).
    He covers My Sweet Lord, which Harrison gave him to include on the album before he
    put it out himself on All Things Must Pass.
  19. Simon A

    Simon A Arrr!

    Fantastic read! Thanks! :righton:
  20. Aftermath

    Aftermath Senior Member

    Nice to see someone like Klein lose.
  21. vince

    vince Stan Ricker's son-in-law Thread Starter

    But, I would love to hear more from the case THEY made against Klein!
    In "Many Years From Now", it seems like Paul gets 'half-sad'- 'half-smug', when he says, "I was RIGHT, and all I got for my troubles was George pulling me aside, and saying, "Thanks for getting us out of THAT!"
    Whether or not, John & Yoko ever swallowed their pride and thanked him..... well, I think we know the answer to that!
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