RENO (CN) – The widow of Stevie Wonder’s longtime entertainment attorney is uptight, but not all right – she claims the musician owes her $7 million in royalty fees.
Susan Strack is the widow of Johanan Vigoda, who worked for Wonder for 40 years as his entertainment transactional attorney and managed Wonder’s Jobete Music catalog, according to her Feb. 26 federal complaint. She says her husband worked for Wonder from 1971 until Vigoda died on Nov. 17, 2011.
She claims her husband helped Wonder escape from an “oppressive” working relationship with record companies to “having one of the most lucrative contract terms in the music industry.”
Vigoda was known as one of the most effective attorneys in the music industry, Strack says, and Wonder agreed to pay him a 6 percent fee on royalties “forever.”
She claims that royalty fee agreements were made several times, and a trusted witness always read the terms to Wonder before he placed his mark on them, which was his fingerprint followed by the signature of the witness.
Wonder, whose given name is Stevland Morris, is blind. Five other entities are also named as defendants, including Black Bull Music, Taurus Productions, Sawandi Music, and Stevland Morris Music.
Strack claims that the royalty agreements with Vigoda were signed, sealed and delivered and transferred to her upon his death.
The payments continued for about 20 months after Vigoda died, but Strack says Wonder decided to break the deals and instructed all music companies to cease payments to Strack and Vigoda’s estate in mid-2013.
With the royalties no longer at her fingertips, Strack says, she “made every possible effort” to persuade Wonder and the record companies to reinstate the 6 percent fee, and even offered accept “pennies on the dollar” for the actual value.
But Wonder refused, she says, leaving her with no choice but to seek back payment plus punitive damages for “fees and compensation to which she is rightfully and legally entitled.”
She also seeks damages, and punitive damages, for breach of written agreement, intentional interference with contract, and conversion.
Strack also seeks declaratory judgment that Wonder and his heirs and successors must continue paying her and Vigoda’s heirs and successors the 6 percent fee.
She is represented by Charles Harder, with Harder, Mirell & Abrams, of Los Angeles, and David Houston of Reno.
Wonder, a songwriter, singer and multi-instrumentalist is one of the most successful recording stars in history. He has sold more than 100 million records. Motown released his first album in 1962, when he was a child prodigy.
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