Sly Stone awarded $5 million in back royalties, damages

Legendary soul and funk composer Sly Stone is awarded $5 million in royalties and damages by a jury

Seminal soul and funk composer Sly Stone has been awarded $5 million in royalties and damages by a Los Angeles County court. In a unanimous jury decision, the court found that Stone, born Sylvester Stewart, was denied royalties by his former manager Jerry Goldstein, attorney Glenn Stone and Even St. Productions.

The initial 2010 complaint, filed in Superior Court by Stewart's attorneys, accused Goldstein and partners with unjust enrichment, fraud, breach of contract, negligence and dozens of other charges stemming from money earned from Sly Stone's work with his longtime band the Family Stone while purportedly under contract with Goldstein. 

While tens of millions of dollars rolled into Goldstein's accounts from his longtime label Sony/Columbia and through publishing royalties, attorneys alleged that Stone saw little of it save for the occasional cash advance. At one point, Goldstein even took a loan out on Stone's future earnings. According to the complaint, Goldstein et. al. "without the permission of Sly Stone, have received, borrowed, and continue to receive millions of dollars in royalties or derived from royalties."

Stone, who long struggled with drug addiction, has mostly been removed from the public eye. Through decades starting in the late '70s, the artist responsible for such American classics as "Stand!" "Everyday People," "Dance to the Music" and the entirety of his funk masterpiece "There's a Riot Goin' On," faded while his music endured.

Save for a strange 2006 Grammy Awards appearance and an equally uneven Coachella set in 2010, his voice has survived through reissues and remastered versions of his classic work. In 2011, Stone made news when it was learned he was virtually homeless and living in an RV in South Los Angeles.

Reached by phone hours after the verdict, Stone's attorney Nicholas Hornberger called the decision "good news for music, good news for composers and others who earn their livelihood in this business." He added that Stone's been wonderful to work with. "It's a nice win for a cool guy, and in the bigger picture it sends a loud and clear message." The attorney said that some of Stone's accrued funds are held by the court, so it's likely he will see some of the royalty money soon. 

Goldstein and Stone attorney Gregory Bodell told the Associated Press that the award will be challenged, and that his clients actively worked on behalf of Stone, who promised them new music that never arrived. 

Follow Randall Roberts on Twitter: @liledit

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