Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Lee Oskar goes to war

Lee Oskar, harmonica player with famous East LA band War, is suing Pitbull's label for $3m over copyright infringement. An interpolation of his song San Francisco Bay (off the 1978 LP Before The Rain) was used by Pitbull, but the songwriters Lee Oskar, Keri Oskar and Greg Errico (former drummer with Sly and Family Stone, and producer of Lee Oskar's early solo albums) seem to be suggesting he didn't licence it properly.

NY Daily News reports that "In papers filed in Manhattan Federal Court, Lee Oskar, Keri Oskar and Greg Errico charge the rapper’s song borrows liberally from their 1978 tune “San Francisco Bay,” but his record company hasn't been paying them for the “copyright infringement.”

Lee Oskar is a renowned harmonicist, the suit notes, and the Pitbull-Kesha collaboration makes “copious use” of “San Francisco Bay’s” melody and “original harmonica riff.”

The suit says the harmonica player on “Timber,” Paul Harrington, had been told to “emulate” Oskar’s “harmonica performance from ‘San Francisco Bay’ so that the harmonica lines in ‘Timber’ would have an identical texture and sound.”

The suit says Pitbull’s record company, Sony, “might have obtained a license” to use the song from a different license holder, but the company didn't get it from the songwriters.

They say they haven’t been paid a dime, even though the song was a number one hit in the U.S. and did big business overseas as well."

Dallas native Paul Harrington was interviewed by the Dallas Morning News [cached] on Dec 5 last year:

"Since “Timber” interpolates “San Francisco Bay” by former War harmonica player Lee Oskar, the only instruction Harrington received through Seeley from producers Dr. Luke, Cirkut and Sermstyle, was to make it sound like Oskar. Harrington played to a spare backing track, with just the beat and a synthesizer playing the chord changes. It took him about 90 minutes to nail it.

“When I heard the finished track, I was knocked out,” said Harrington. “Boy, did they turn me up loud.” Harrington received a flat fee of $1,000 for the session. He won’t get any royalties, but he’s hoping the exposure will get him more studio work."

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