Friday, February 26, 2010
Anita Baker: R&B Songstress Isn't Giving The Best She Got To Ex Husband Over Royalties
via the Detroit News
Singer-songwriter Anita Baker faces the threat of jail in a contempt hearing today in Wayne Circuit Court after refusing to sign documents that could turn some of her music royalties over to her ex-husband.
The emotionally drained eight-time Grammy Award winner never read the documents she objected to because she had been crying for two days, her lawyers explained. She was unable to "digest" the documents even when given a chance to read them in court Wednesday (February 24).
"I've been in the music business more than 20 years. We are talking about a multimillion-dollar business," said the 52-year-old Grosse Pointe mother of two teen sons.
Wayne County Chief Family Court Judge Lita M. Popke had ordered Baker to explain why she hadn't followed orders to sign letters giving a court-appointed expert on music industry contracts authorization to seek information from record companies about payments for the music she has written and performed.
By the end of a long hearing Wednesday that included frequent interruptions from Baker fretting about going to jail and asking for a chance to testify under oath, the judge ordered her to return Friday morning and sign the letters or face jail.
"Frankly, I haven't heard anything that amounts to an appropriate legal objection to signing these letters," the exasperated judge declared Wednesday. "I'm very upset that we have been here all day saying she isn't going to sign something she hasn't read."
Baker complained that "experts" have dominated court proceedings since her divorce from Walter Bridgforth Jr. in 2007, and she wanted to speak directly to the judge. Detroit entertainment attorney Howard Hertz, who represents Eminem, among other clients, was appointed by the judge as a music contract expert in an effort to settle the dispute.
"I'm being muzzled," Baker complained. "My attorneys agree that I know more about music contracts than they do. But I'm not allowed to talk. I invented my music out of thin air, but they have to talk for me, 'This little woman can't talk.' If I'd invented Ford, they would talk to me.
"If the judge tells me at the end of the day that I have to sign, I'll comply. But I want her to hear my side. I'm not saying I'm right. I just want to be heard."
The judge, who accused Baker of causing delays in the case for more than a year, ordered Hertz and Bridgforth's lawyer, Hanely Gurwin, to bill her for the time they spent in court on Wednesday.
Her divorce from Bridgforth called for an even split of royalties from two albums made during the couple's 20 year marriage; 'Giving You the Best I Got" in 1988, and "Rhythm of Love" in 1994.