Bob Marley No Woman, No Cry royalties dispute opens at High Court

The question of who actually composed Bob Marley’s classic song "No Woman, No Cry" has fascinated scholars of the reggae legend for 40 years.

Now the 1974 song, one of Marley’s most covered hits, is at the centre of a High Court battle over publishing rights to the Jamaican pioneer’s back catalogue.

Blue Mountain Music, the company created by Chris Blackwell, the Island Records founder who launched Marley’s international career, is being sued by Cayman Music, which represented Marley’s catalogue from 1967 to 1976.

Cayman accuses Blue Mountain of “misattribution and diversion of income” of a number of the Jamaican star’s hits.

Cayman told the High Court that it has never been credited for its share in No Woman, No Cry and 12 other songs written by Marley between 1973 and 1976.

Hugo Cuddigan, for Cayman, said Marley agreed a publishing deal with Cayman but had “fraudulently” attributed the songs to other people to avoid the provisions of that 1973 agreement.

Vincent Ford, a friend of Marley’s who ran a soup kitchen in Trenchtown, the ghetto of Kingston, Jamaica, where he and Marley grew up, is listed as No Woman, No Cry’s composer.

The song, a depiction of what life was like for the pair “in the government yard in Trenchtown”, became an international hit.

The royalty cheques received by Ford ensured the survival and continual running of his soup kitchen until his death in 2008.

In an obituary of Ford in The Independent, Spencer Leigh wrote that circumstantial evidence suggested that he did not actually write No Woman…, although it was written in Ford’s flat as he and Marley reminisced.

Leigh concluded: “He [Marley] did not want his new songs to be associated with Cayman and so, in all probability, he put them in the names of his wife, Rita, the Wailers or other close friends to find a way around tight publishing restrictions. This spreading out of writing credits would also have allowed Marley to provide lasting help to family and close friends.”

Cayman argues that it has been denied its contracted entitlement for over 40 years. Mr Cuddigan said No Woman, No Cry was the “jewel in the Marley catalogue” and his most famous song.

Ian Mill QC, for Blue Mountain, said on the “straightforward application of ordinary principles of contract law” the claim had to be dismissed.

He accepted that Marley had "falsely claimed" that the 13 songs had been composed by other people in an attempt to "escape the automatic assignment of their copyright to Cayman". But he said it was "common ground" that as a matter of law the "ruse was ineffective".

Mr Mill said the "plain intention" of a subsequent 1992 agreement, 11 years after Marley’s death was to “transfer all rights” from Cayman.

The contested songs include "Positive Vibration", another track credited for Ford, and "Crazy Baldhead", an attack on the white colonialists who subjugated Jamaicans, which is shared with Rita Marley.

No Woman, No Cry has been covered by artists including The Fugees, Nina Simone, Linkin Park and Boney M.

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam