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Court Victory For Collins

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Rahmee Davis and Louis Satterfield
Rahmee Davis and Louis Satterfield
Rahmee Davis and Louis Satterfield pictured last month

Pop musician Phil Collins has won his High Court action against two members of his former backing band.

Mr Justice Jonathan Parker ruled that Collins had overpaid Louis Satterfield and Rahmlee Davies a total of £244,000 in royalties.

But he made it clear the duo, once part of the group Earth, Wind and Fire, will not have to repay any of the money, and halved the amount the Oscar-winning musician had demanded from them. 

The judge said it was "highly regrettable" the matter could not have been resolved before it went to court, and criticised Collins' company for its handling of the affair.

Davis, 51, and Satterfield, 63, claimed they were entitled to royalties on all 15 tracks on a live album recorded on a tour in 1990.

But the judge ruled the pair should only have been paid for the five tracks on which they performed.

They worked with Collins throughout the 1980s, on highly successful albums such as 1981's Face Value and 1989's But Seriously.

Trumpter Davis and trombone player Satterfield only received session and touring fees for all the albums they had worked on, with the exception of the royalties deal on the live album.

When the royalty payments were suddenly stopped, they told the judge they wrote to Collins asking why, but he failed to reply. 

'Surprise and shock'

Collins' company was criticised by Mr Justice Jonathan Parker for this. 

He said in his ruling: "So far as the claimant is concerned, the manner in which it informed the defendants of its decision to cease paying them royalties was wholly unacceptable.

"In addition, the absence of any reply to the defendants' letter dated 23 April 1997 seems to be particularly unfortunate in the circumstances."

Although he said the way the pair were told about the decision caused them "surprise and shock" and left "a great deal to be desired", he added it did not affect Phil Collins Ltd's rights in law.

The judge ruled the company's claim should be limited to one half, but said it was "highly improbable" future royalty payments would ever cover that sum.

State benefits

He said the dispute began in 1997 when Phil Collins Ltd's chief accountant wrote to the pair telling them they had been overpaid by $345,000 (215, 600) worldwide and £29,000 in the UK and the money would be recouped from "future royalties earned".

Earth, Wind and Fire
Earth, Wind and Fire
Satterfield, from Chicago, told the judge he had been living on state benefits since the royalties ended, while Davis, from California, said he had to pawn his musical equipment and instruments.


But the judge said he felt Davis had overstated his case, adding he had earlier admitted his current difficulties were down to "bad business decisions".

They had first brought the action in California, claiming the full royalty and damages, accusing the company of being "oppressive, fraudulent and malicious".

But the action was suspended to allow Phil Collins Ltd to bring the action in London after it was ruled the contracts were governed by English law.

They said they had first met Collins at an Earth, Wind and Fire concert in 1979, and that he had asked them to help launch his solo career.

There will be a further hearing to determine costs, but Davis and Satterfield were represented by lawyers working on a "no win, no fee" basis.

Although at his peak during the 1980s, Phil Collins' career has recently taken an upturn.

Last month he won an Oscar for his work on the soundtrack to the Disney movie Tarzan.

© BBC News

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