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Music

Bob Dylan defeats Jacques Levy’s widow in royalty lawsuit

An appeal from the widow of a former collaborator of Bob Dylan’s against the songwriter was rejected by a court on April 5th. Universal bought the music rights to Dylan’s songs back in December 2020, for the reported price of $300million (£221million). This in turn led to a lawsuit from the widow of Dylan’s former collaborator Jacques Levy. They argued that his estate had not been compensated sufficiently for his work and songwriting credits on Dylan’s 1976 record Desire.

Initially, the courts ruled in Dylan’s favour, as Judge Barry Ostrager of New York felt that Levy’s 1975 deal with Dylan for his work on Desire fell under an “employee-for-hire” agreement that granted all ownership rights of the songs to Dylan. The judge decided that Levy’s estate was entitled to his ongoing royalty payments for the tracks that made their way onto Desire but couldn’t countenance a percentage of Bob Dylan‘s sale of catalogue. The estate representing Levy made an attempt to revive the lawsuit through an appeal which was filed back in November.

Orin Snyder, writing on behalf of Dylan, spoke up in defence of the songwriter: “This lawsuit is plaintiffs’ opportunistic attempt to rewrite a 45-year-old employment contract to obtain a windfall payment that the contract does not allow.” Snyder says the update has put “a nail in the coffin” for the lawsuit, feeling that the songwriter is free to continue with his life unhindered.

In other Dylan related news, Guns N’ Roses frontman Slash says he recorded a solo for Dylan that was ultimately unused. He was tasked with recording a solo for ‘Wiggle Wiggle’, reportedly in the style of Django Reinhardt. Dylan felt the guitar sounded too much like “Guns N’ Roses” for his liking, so he opted not to use it.

Clearly, Slash wasn’t too upset by the decision, because Guns N’ Roses wound up recording a version of ‘Knocking On Heaven’s Door’ on their Use Your Illusion set. The rock-heavy arrangement of ‘Knocking On Heaven’s Door’ was definitely “Guns N’ Roses”, considering the barrelling guitar hooks, and soaring vocal harmonies that padded out the finished track.