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Blues Man’s Estate Claims Clapton Ripped Off Song

NASHVILLE (CN) — The Estate of a 1930s blues musician accuses Grammy winner Eric Clapton and several record labels of mis-crediting the late singer's hit and leaving him out of royalties.

In a federal complaint filed on Oct. 13, the estate of Bo Carter, a popular blues musician before his death in 1964, says his song was incorrectly identified by Clapton as "Alberta" on a 1992 MTV Unplugged performance and album.

Clapton credited musician Huddie Ledbetter — professionally known as Lead Belly — but the song is really a version of Carter's successful hit "Corrine/Corrina," the lawsuit says.

Carter wrote the song in the fall of 1928, according to his estate. It has been recorded in various musical genres, and by big-name singers "whom properly gave credit to plaintiff as the author," such as Dean Martin, Jerry Lee Lewis and Willie Nelson, the lawsuit says.

"The Clapton Unplugged Performance aired on Viacom-owned MTV on August 25, 1992, and contained the lyrics, melodies and chord progressions of the original song," the complaint says.

"Clapton did not perform the Lead Belly song and, upon information and belief, never has, nor did the Clapton Unplugged Performance bear any resemblance or similarities to the Lead Belly song," it says.

According to the lawsuit, the MTV performance was released as an album that has since sold over 60 million copies worldwide, and garnered Clapton six Grammy Awards, including Record of the Year, Album of the Year, and Song of the Year (for "Tears in Heaven.)

The album was remastered in 2013, but Clapton and the record label continued to attribute the authorship of the song to Lead Belly, despite their "awareness that the original song was authored by the plaintiff."

Carter's estate seeks over $5 million in damages for copyright infringement, unjust enrichment, conversion, and for violations of the Lanham Act and Tennessee's Consumer Protection Act.

They also want the album credit corrected and to receive any future royalties.

According to the lawsuit, the remastered version has sold at least "10 million copies without any compensation to plaintiff."

They are represented by Nashville attorney Barry Shrum.

Also named in the lawsuit along with Clapton are Warner Music Group Corp., Sony/ATV Music Publishing, EMI Mills Music Inc., Rhino Entertainment Company, Viacom Inc., Folkways Music Publishers Inc., Hal Leonard LLC, and J.W. Pepper & Sons Inc.

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