Jimi Hendrix Estate Sues Heirs of Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Rhythm Section After Alleged Royalties and Copyright Threat

The Jimi Hendrix Experience might have split in 1969, but there’s still drama between the estates of guitarist Jimi Hendrix, bassist Noel Redding, and drummer Mitch Mitchell. The band’s rhythm section is claiming that Sony Music Entertainment and Hendrix’s estate haven’t been paying them the royalties they deserve.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience posing on the stairs wearing 1960s clothes in 1968.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience | Ivan Keeman/Getty Images

The estates of Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell wrote a letter to Sony Music claiming the label owes them royalties

In Dec. 2021, Sony Music Entertainment received a letter from British attorney Lawrence Abramson. It claims that the label owes the estates of the deceased Redding and Mitchell “performance royalties for some 3 billion streams of the Experience’s songs,” Rolling Stone wrote.

Abramson did not list a specific figure he thinks Redding and Mitchell deserves. However, he did write, “such streaming figures and sales is estimated to be in the millions of pounds.”

He also wrote that he thinks the situation is serious. “Ignoring this letter may lead our clients to commence proceedings against you and may increase your liability for costs,” he wrote.

Abramson also wrote that both Redding and Mitchell “died in relative poverty having never received their true entitlement from their works, performances, and founding membership of the Jimi Hendrix Experience.”

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Sony Music and Hendrix’s estate preemptively filed a lawsuit against Redding and Mitchell’s estates

On Jan. 18, Dorothy Weber, the lawyer representing Experience Hendrix, LLC (Hendrix’s estate) and Sony Music Entertainment, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York against Redding and Mitchell. Weber claims that they have no right to sue them with copyright claims.

“Defendants’ [the Mitchell and Redding estates’] threats of suit have created a real and reasonable apprehension of liability on the part of Plaintiffs [the Hendrix Estate and Sony Music],” Weber wrote in the lawsuit.

“The threat of such suit by Defendants is sufficiently immediate and real as of the date of this filing, to warrant the issuance of a declaratory judgment of ownership and non-infringement.”

Rolling Stone wrote, “The attorney alleges that Mitchell signed a document in September 1974 releasing the Hendrix estate from legal claims and agreeing not to sue the Hendrix estate. She says Redding, too, signed a similar document making the same claims in April 1973. The musicians, Weber says, were compensated for signing the documents.”

Mitchell and Redding’s estate claims they are “no longer bound” to those documents signed in the early 1970s. However, the Hendrix estate says they are “indeed enforceable.”

Weber also wrote that neither Redding nor Mitchell “ever asserted an ownership interest, or any other performers’ rights, in the Recordings.”

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Hendrix’s estate wants the judge to declare that the contracts that Redding and Mitchell signed are still valid

Ultimately, Hendrix estate wants the judge to “issue a declaratory judgment saying that those contracts are still valid,” Rolling Stone continued.

Also, Weber hopes that the judge declares that Redding and Mitchell’s estates “are making claims without any legal merit.”

Weber continued to write in her filing, “Any claim of ownership by the Defendants was time barred decades ago.”

After Hendrix died in 1970, his father, James Allen “Al” Hendrix, became the head of his estate. With Hendrix’s sister Janie, he formed Experience Hendrix. She later became the head of the estate in 2002, after Al died.

After Redding died in 2003, his estate went to his partner, Deborah McNaughton. After she died, the estate went to her sisters. Mitchell, who died in 2008, left his estate to his daughter, Aysha.

This past summer, all of Redding and Mitchell’s heirs recently entered into contracts with new estate managers. Now, fans will have to see how the lawsuit turns out in the coming weeks. However, these kinds of cases can turn sticky.

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