By Kevin Herrera (December 30, 2007)
The suit filed Dec. 21 in Los Angeles Superior Court also names as defendants Polydor Inc. and Mums Records. A representative for Universal Music was not available for comment.
The Jackson Sisters – who are not affiliated with Michael Jackson’s family – formed in 1971 with members Rachell Jackson, Olivia Smith, Lynetta Coleman and Gennine Francis. All were minors at the time, according to the suit.
In August 1975, Mums Records and Polydor, a subsidiary of Universal Music, signed a distribution agreement for the release of a Jackson Sisters album, the suit states. At the same time, a second agreement was purported to have been entered between Polydor and the singers, but the quartet did not sign either of the contracts, their suit states.
After Polydor released the self-titled Jackson Sisters album in 1976 – which included the previously recorded singles “Why Can’t We be More Than Just Friends?” “I Believe in Miracles” and “Miracles” — the singers were told the record lost money and they were not entitled to royalties, the suit states.
However, the Jackson Sisters found out in the mid-1990s – through a search of the Internet – that their albums were being sold internationally, and then learned in June 2003 that sales overseas were brisk, the suit states.
“In fact, they had established a cult-like following for their music, (particularly in Japan and Europe),” said their attorney, Natasha L. Hill. “This has all been a big surprise to them because they were originally told that the album never made any money.”
Universal Music, the successor-in-interest to the Mums-Polydor contract, told the singers in December 2003 that they had relinquished all rights to royalties and showed them their signatures on one of the two contracts, the suit states.
However, the singers had never seen the contract before, and their signatures had been forged, according to their suit.
Universal and the other defendants have 30 days from the date of the filing to respond to the suit, Hill said.
The Jackson Sisters hailed from Compton, but were based in Detroit. They recorded material for the Tiger Lily label, obtaining some modest success in the ’70s, however the group really came into their own nearly a decade later following the emergence of the “rare groove” scene in the UK.
Rare groove is a term coined by English DJ Norman Jay in 1985, and originally referred to relatively obscure funk tracks from the ’70s. Those songs have influenced electronica, techno, house, breakbeat, jungle and other genres.