Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Jake E. Lee Calls Out Ozzy Osbourne on Stealing His Song Writing Credits

Over the years Ozzy Osbourne has had many musicians come and go that have helped write his vast catalog of solo material. However, many of them have gotten stiffed in terms of writing credits. One of the most prominent examples of this is the case of his second guitarist Jake E. Lee. 30 years after the fact, Lee is now clearing everything up in terms of his raw deal.

When Osbourne's first solo band guitarist Randy Rhoads died in 1982, a replacement was needed quickly. Lee was brought in to fill the vacancy left by his predecessor, after which he would help write and record all the tracks from Osbourne's 1983 release Bark at the Moon. When the album was released though, there was an error in the printing that made Lee a bit displeased to say the least: All of the songs were credited to Osbourne and only Osbourne. It said nothing about Lee's or anyone else's contributions to the writing process, which according to Lee is a violation of the initial agreement that was made with him.

In a recent interview with Eddie Trunk on Blabbermouth, Lee says:

“I was told from the get-go, ‘[If] you write part of the songs, you’ll get writing credit, you’ll get publishing. That’s part of your deal. Later, however, after he recorded the final guitar track, “They said, ‘Ah! We have the contract for you.’ And in it, it says, specifically, ‘Ozzy Osbourne wrote all the songs. You had nothing to do with any of the writing, you have no claim to publishing and you cannot say so publicly.’”

When Lee decided to say something about this to management (aka Sharon Osbourne) she told him he would have to accept the new terms. According to Lee, “She says, ‘Because if you don’t, we’ll give you a plane ticket, you go back home and you stand in line and you sue us. In the meantime, we have all your tracks, we’ll get another guitar player, he’ll redo your tracks, and you’ll have nothing,’”

Bark at the Moon met with an abundance of success of course, but Lee was left feeling less than thrilled about it all. It's quite understandable. How would you like it if you made a rather substantial contribution to something huge and then got absolutely none of the credit? Lee elaborates further by saying:

“The only reason I’m saying it now is because that was just mean — that was mean. What am I gonna do? Really? Am I gonna say, ‘Fine. I’m going home. Take my tracks off. Some other guy will get all the credit for playing guitar, and I still have to try to sue you for the rights?’ It would have been just … not a good decision.”

I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for Lee to swallow his pride like that. The only way some of the best music of your career can meet with the kind of widespread success you want is if you take none of the credit for it. How big of a ripoff is that? I have to give the man props for having the balls to do something like that. I'm not sure I could have done the same.

In 1986 when the follow up album The Ultimate Sin was about to be recorded, Lee was a bit wiser and had learned a lesson from his previous endeavor with Osbourne. “I refused to do anything until I had a contract in front of me promising me writing credit and publishing.”. Smart move on his part. Don't do anything until you have all of the business details in writing. Lee got credit on 8 of the 9 tracks, not including the main hit Shot In the Dark.

Lee has long since left Osbourne, being replaced in 1988 by guitarist Zakk Wylde. Lee went on to form blues rock based group Badlands and now has his own solo band that he calls Red Dragon Cartel, which put out its debut self titled album Red Dragon Cartel earlier this year. You should check it out. It's got some pretty legit metal tracks.

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