Rappers Will Smith, the estate of Tupac Shakur, KRS-One and Michael Jackson are among the defendants named in a copyright infringement lawsuit filed by R&B veteran Syl Johnson.
Johnson and his Twilight Record Co. filed the lawsuit in the Northern District of Illinois, claming that the artists illegally used portions of his single “Different Strokes” without permission.
A number of rappers and record labels are named in the lawsuit, including Peedi Crakk, Young Chris, famed rap group NWA, Sony BMG, Universal Music Group, EMI Capitol Records, Zomba Enterprises and Universal Publishing.
Johnson owns the copyright to the song, which was written by John Andrew Cameron and John Zachary in 1967.
He renewed the copyright to the song in 1996.
According to the lawsuit, the infringement on “Different Strokes” dates back to 1991 and has been used without permission by a number of artists ever since.
Johnson seeks a full accounting of record sales and a portion of any earnings each artist may have made from using “Different Strokes” in their respective song. Johnson is the legendary father of R&B singer Syleena Johnson.
The elder Johnson played guitar on sessions for a number of blues artists, including Elmore James, Jimmy Reed, Howlin Wolf and others.
After recording for a number of storied labels, including Federal, King, Johnson helped shape Chicago soul.
Starting in 1968, Johnson released a series of recordings for the tiny Twi-Night label, including singles like “Different Strokes” and “Come on and Sock It To Me,” while producing Chicago soul groups like The Radiants,, Ruby Andrews and The Notations.
Click here to listen to “Different Strokes.”