Recorded music, artistes
Three members of The Three Degrees, the female vocal group who had hits with “When Will I See You Again”, “The Runner”, “Woman In Love” and “My Simple Heart”, are suing Sony Music Entertainment, seeking to recoup decades of royalties they say were withheld by a former manager and his widow. The Three Degrees were formed in 1963 in Philadelphia. The group’s membership has changed over the years, but for purposes of the lawsuit it is current members Valerie Holiday (a member from 1967 to present) and Helen Scott (1963-1966, and 1976 to present) and the estate of Fayette Pinkney (a founder member, and with the group until 1976). Pinkney died in June 2009.
They were discovered by producer and songwriter Richard Barrett, who produced the original line-up on their first song, “Gee Baby (I’m Sorry)”, for Swan Records, in 1965. Barrett also signed Shiela Ferguson, who went to to become a member. According to the complaint, the group has “never received one penny” of royalties under an oral agreement struck in the mid- to late-1970s with former manager Barrett, for a 75% share of revenues. The plaintiffs say Barrett’s widow, Julie, and her company, Three Degrees Enterprises, have instead kept all royalties, including those accrued through payments from Sony. It said these payments covered such albums as The Three Degrees, which included “When Will I See You Again,” as well as “TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia),” a song featuring the group’s vocals that became a theme for the TV music show Soul Train,
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages from Sony and Julie Barrett, based on an action that includes breach of contract, and an accounting for royalties owed.