Phil Collins sues backing band to reclaim 'overpaid' royalties

Phil Collins, still triumphant from his Oscar win on Sunday and reputedly worth £300m,launched a case yesterday against two former backing singers to recoup $780,000 (£500,000) in royalties that he claims he overpaid them.

Louis Satterfield, 62, and Rahmlee Davis, 51, who were once part of the group Earth, Wind and Fire and have performed with B B King and Jackie Wilson, claim they signed a contract giving them 0.5 per cent of the royalties from a live album recorded during Collins' 'Serious' tour in 1990. They claim they were an integral part of the whole album.

But Collins said the two, who have flown over from the US for the case in the High Court, should only receive royalties from the five tracks they were involved in.

Collins has agreed not to ask for the money back - $390,000 (£250,000) from each - but he is seeking to recoup the money by withholding future royalties, which recently have dropped to little more than an annual sum of $20,000 (£12,500)each.

Robert Howe, representing Phil Collins Limited, said: "The defendants claim loyalties in respect to recordings to which they have made no contribution. They appeared in five out of 15 tracks but say they are entitled to full loyalties on the whole album, which flies in the face of common-sense."

He said Collins felt the two men had been well rewarded in relation to the nine-month tour. "He [Collins] is not seeking for them to put a hand in their pockets and pay back as much as a penny," Mr Howe said.

Mr Justice Jonathan Parker said he did not think much of the concession, given that the chances of recovering any substantial money seemed slim. "I was struck by the fact that for almost six years the royalties were paid on the basis you say was mistaken and after that there was a letter from the company's accountant saying 'Oh dear we've made a mistake. You are only entitled to one third and we will not pay any more royalties until we have recouped that.' That is not a very attractive position, is it?"

The two men are being represented by The Society of Black Lawyers, which claims they are impoverished and rely on the royalties.

Outside the court, Satterfield said he could not understand why Collins was bringing the case. "He is a great artist but there is something missing in his understanding. This is only about one penny or two pennies and the man is worth millions."

Davis said: "We were an integral part of his career. When the tunes we played were hits they sold albums. It makes no difference if we played on all 15 tracks, we played 'Sussudio' and that sold the whole album."

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