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Tuesday, June 25, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Songwriter Sues Over Tune ‘Santa Claus Is a Black Man’

BROOKLYN (CN) - Grammy-winning songwriter Theodore Vann claims cult movie director John Waters used Vann's song "Santa Claus is a Black Man" on "A John Waters Christmas" album after Vann had expressly refused him permission to do it. Vann also sued Time Warner and New Line Cinema in his federal complaint.

Vann says he wrote the song for his daughter Akim in November 1973 to show her "to be proud of her African-American heritage and to demonstrate that Christmas was a holiday that she should feel entitled to celebrate."

They performed together on the Simtone Records album, in which his daughter sang.

Vann says he denied Waters rights to the song because the filmmaker has a "reputation in the entertainment industry of producing works that do not always appeal to general mainstream audiences, and in fact, are considered by many to be odd or ... 'fetishist.'"

Waters directed several films, including "Pecker," "Serial Mom," "Cecil B. Demented," "Cry Baby" and "Hairspray," which he adapted into a hit Broadway musical.

His breakout movie, "Pink Flamingos" followed a contest for the title of "filthiest person alive" that included sexual acts involving chickens, and eating dog feces.

Vann says Waters contacted him personally "to tell him how much he enjoyed the song in the effort to allow 'Santa Claus is a Black Man' in the holiday album," but Vann "remained firm in his refusal."

Vann says Waters used the song anyway, and did not even credit Vann for it on the album.

Waters allegedly referred to the song in the press as "the mother lode of Christmas lunatic songs" and "a crackpot Xmas carol."

Vann is represented by Kenneth Thompson.

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