If you have a certain memory of hearing the TSOP “Soul Train” theme song as a beckoning to stop whatever you were doing and run to the TV or watching your sister and her BFF’s lip syncing “When Will I See You Again” because The Three Degrees song “Dirty Old Man” was deemed risqué at the time…you have heard The Three Degrees. To anyone who thinks they are more than a shower singer, listen to one of the ladies’ live performances (which sound just like their records) which are like butter on the perfect biscuit!! You can easily see (or hear) what authentic “saaaaangin’” is about. Although it may be debated, 90’s groups such as SWV, En Vogue or even Brownstone may have done their homework and taken a page from the “Book of Three…..Degrees.” With that said, the following is a story that is becoming all too familiar and melancholy when it concerns artists of a certain age who have made immense contributions to the music industry.
According to Fortune magazine, The Three Degrees, a female vocal group best known for the 1974 smash “When Will I See You Again,” has sued Sony Music Entertainment, seeking to recoup decades of royalties it says were withheld by a former manager and his widow.
According to a complaint filed on Tuesday night (2/14/17), the group has “never received one penny” of royalties under an oral agreeing it struck in the mid- to late-1970s with the former manager, producer Richard Barrett, for a 75% share. The group said Barrett’s widow Julie and her company Three Degrees Enterprises have instead kept its royalties, including through payments from Sony.
It said these payments covered such albums as The Three Degrees, which included “When Will I See You Again,” as well as “TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia),” a song featuring the group’s vocals that became a theme for the TV music show Soul Train. Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, Philadelphia International Records founders, called the Three Degrees “our Philly sound version of Motown’s Supremes, but bigger and stronger and melodic.”
“The group has not received one penny from the Sony-TDE royalty agreement, despite Sony’s knowledge of the group’s rights,” the complaint filed in Manhattan federal court said.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages from Sony and Julie Barrett, including for breach of contract, and an accounting of royalties owed. Richard Barrett died in 2006. Sony Music Entertainment is part of Sony (SNE, -0.19%).
Sony spokeswoman Liz Young declined to comment. Julie Barrett could not immediately be reached for comment. Earl Wilson, a lawyer for The Three Degrees, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The Three Degrees was formed in 1963 in Philadelphia and still perform with original member, Valerie Holiday at the helm. The group’ website clearly shows they are still in demand abroad with dates booked through September 2017(no dates in the USA)
Its membership has changed over the years, but for purposes of the lawsuit includes current members Valerie Holiday and Helen Scott, and the estate of Fayette Pinkney (d. 2009).”When Will I See You Again” hit No. 2 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart, and reached No. 1 in the United Kingdom.
Unfortunately, The Three Degrees went largely ignored as the 70’s progressed while remaining a favorite abroad. Prince Charles proclaimed The Three Degrees his favorite group and they were guests at his wedding to Princess Diana. Thus, the British Press labeled them “Charlie’s Angels.”