Father gets rights to Hendrix's music

July 26, 1995|By Thomas W. Haines | Thomas W. Haines,Seattle Times

Jimi Hendrix's father will again have undisputed rights to the guitar riffs and psychedelic songs that made his son a world-renowned rock star.

As part of an agreement negotiated in U.S. District Court in Seattle, Al Hendrix will pay an undisclosed fee to the corporations that have controlled his son's legacy for roughly 20 years, according to attorneys' accounts of the settlement.

No one would comment on the amount of the payment or exactly what it's for. Precise terms of the settlement also weren't disclosed.

"Practically speaking, any rights that Jimi Hendrix had are now restored to Mr. Hendrix," said Kirk Hallam, an attorney who represented several corporations during the settlement negotiations.

Mr. Hallam estimated that the rights to Jimi Hendrix's music alone are worth $50 million to $75 million.

The settlement is scheduled to be signed Friday. It will bring to a close litigation that has swirled for two years, since Al Hendrix sued an attorney who had long advised the family.

It also avoids a costly federal-court trial that had been delayed several times and was most recently set to begin this week.

"We're extremely pleased that Mr. Hendrix's ownership of his son's legacy will be confirmed decisively and without the burden or cost of a trial," Mr. Hendrix's attorney, Yale Lewis, said through a spokeswoman.

Al Hendrix was sole heir to Jimi Hendrix's legacy when the 27-year-old musician -- who rose to stardom atop searing guitar licks in songs such as "Foxy Lady" and "Purple Haze" -- died in 1970.

In 1993, Al Hendrix sued Leo Branton Jr., legal counsel and family friend since Jimi Hendrix's death, after Al Hendrix became concerned his ownership rights had been mismanaged.

The suit also named several corporations that subsequently took ownership of the rights to Jimi Hendrix's work. Alan Douglas, a music producer who has engineered the release of several albums since Jimi Hendrix's death, also was a defendant in the litigation.

Attorneys from all sides of the dispute met for two hours Monday with U.S. District Judge William Dwyer.

The settlement is already legally binding and parties have been ordered to sign final papers Friday, the attorneys said.

Some details have yet to be ironed out, and attorneys would speak only in general terms about the settlement. Dollar amounts and other details are to be kept confidential as part of the settlement, they said.

But "there should not be any issues that need to go back to Judge Dwyer," said Mel Simburg, an attorney who represented Mr. Branton.

Al Hendrix's initial complaint charged that Mr. Branton had mismanaged the copyrights, publicity rights and ownership rights of albums, jam-session recordings and other products "which resulted from the artistic genius of Jimi Hendrix."

The complaint, which described the elder Mr. Hendrix as an unsophisticated gardener with a seventh-grade education, charged that Mr. Branton had transferred ownership of Jimi Hendrix's legacy to overseas corporations without his client's consent.

The lawsuit generated additional interest when Paul Allen, a Microsoft co-founder, invested several million dollars in Al Hendrix's case.

Mr. Allen is pursuing plans to open a Jimi Hendrix museum that

would feature much of the artist's estate. It is unclear how the settlement agreement will affect museum plans.

Under the terms of the agreement, Mr. Branton will acquire two pieces of real estate from Mr. Hendrix, but it is unclear whether Mr. Branton will make a payment to Al Hendrix for the property. Mr. Branton will otherwise no longer have a role in managing the legacy.

Alan Douglas will no longer maintain ownership rights over any of the musical releases he has overseen since Jimi Hendrix's death. He is currently involved in completing another album and a documentary of Jimi Hendrix's career titled "A Room Full of Mirrors."

"He and the family will work together in determining whether they'll be completed or not," said Richard Yarmuth, Mr. Douglas' attorney.

The corporations that had maintained ownership of songs for roughly two decades will no longer have any role in dealing with Jimi Hendrix's material. Bella Godiva Music Inc., which owned the copyrights to Jimi Hendrix's songs, will no longer exist, Mr. Hallam said.

Another company, Are You Experienced?, which had promoted Jimi Hendrix merchandise, may remain in the music-promotion business, but will not deal with Jimi Hendrix property, Mr. Hallam said.

Parties began negotiating a settlement in September, with Mr. Dwyer acting as mediator. General terms for a settlement were agreed upon May 2, and the parties worked to resolve differences since then.

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