Culture Trips

Bob Dylan sued by estate of Desire co-writer over catalogue sale | Bob Dylan

The wife and the publishing company of Jacques Levy, who co-wrote several songs from Bob Dylan’s 1976 album Desire, are suing the songwriter for $7.25m (£5.25m) following the recent sale of Dylan’s songwriting catalogue to Universal Music. The deal was reportedly valued at $300m (£217.3m).

Levy’s lawsuit claims that Dylan owes Levy’s family 35% of income from the long, narrative songs he co-wrote for Desire – Hurricane, Isis, Mozambique; Oh, Sister; Joey, Romance in Durango and Black Diamond Bay – and said that Dylan’s associates had “refused to remit to [Levy’s family] their rightful share of the revenue and/or income earned from the catalog sale with respect to the compositions”.

Dylan’s lawyer, Orin Snyder, told Pitchfork that the lawsuit was “a sad attempt to unfairly profit off of the recent catalog sale. The plaintiffs have been paid everything they are owed. We are confident that we will prevail. And when we do, we will hold plaintiffs and their counsel responsible for bringing this meritless case.”

Dylan met Levy in spring 1974. They got to know each other the following year, kicking off their collaboration with the song Isis. After periodic writing sessions, they completed work on Desire over a three-week stay in New York’s Hamptons. Released in January 1976, the album was met with a mixed reception.

The sale of Dylan’s catalogue to Universal is thought to be the biggest acquisition of songwriting rights of a single songwriter. The sale came amid a flurry of high-profile artists selling or partially selling the rights to their songs, including Neil Young, Stevie Nicks, Mick Fleetwood and Shakira.

Many artists have sold their catalogue to Hipgnosis Songs Fund, a British investment company owned by Merck Mercuriadis. Industry analysts say that back catalogues of legacy artists offer a steady and reliable investment, and for artists in their later years, it may be easier to leave a lump sum to one’s heirs than a songwriting estate.

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