LOS ANGELES (CN) – Record company executive Herbert Cohen claims music journalist Barney Hoskyns and Random House defamed him by accusing him of embezzling royalties from Tom Waits in the biography, “Low Side of the Road: A Life of Tom Waits.”
Cohen, who says he discovered Waits when the singer was 21, claims he also has managed Frank Zappa, Tim Buckley, Alice Cooper, Linda Ronstadt and others.
Cohen claims the book depicts Waits describing litigation against him involving stolen royalties; Cohen claims it never happened.
Hoskyns allegedly quoted Waits as saying, “I thought I was a millionaire and it turned out I had, like, twenty bucks.”
Cohen denies ever litigating copyright issues with Waits, though he acknowledges he settled a lawsuit with the singer-songwriter in 1983. Media reports indicated that Waits filed that lawsuit because Cohen’s company, Third Story Music licensed, two of Waits’ songs for commercials without the singer’s permission.
Cohen also complains that Hoskyns’ book claims folk rock musician Jerry Yester said that Waits’ wife, Kathleen Brennan, told him that Cohen had stolen money from Waits.
Cohen cites this alleged passage from the book: “‘Kathleen told me Herbie had nicked a lot of money from Tom,’ says Jerry Yester … ‘She was very smart and just had a lot of really good input.’ To the likes of Yester, the news hardly came as a surprise … ‘What was so distressing was that Herbie had always been part of the family,’ Yester says. ‘It was like your father or your brother doing it to you … Waits absolutely trusted Herbie to his core, and it devastated him when he found out that he had grabbed a lot of the royalties.'” (Ellipses are in the complaint.)
Cohen also claims that the states that “cynicism was what enabled (Cohen) to help himself to money that technically belonged to the artists he represented.”
Cohen demands $1 million from Hoskyns and Random House. He is represented in Federal Court by S. Martin Keleti.