Beach Boys singer Brian Wilson's ex-wife is suing him for $6.7 million

31 March 2022, 11:33

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By Mayer Nissim

Brian Wilson recently sold his song rights to Universal for an estimated $50 million.

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A number of artists have recently sold the rights to their back catalogues to music publishing companies and investment funds for massive amounts of money.

Among their number was The Beach Boys' primary songwriter Brian Wilson, who sold the rights to his songs to Universal Music Publishing Group for $50 million (£38 million)

These deals allow older artists to sell on their back catalogue for a lump sump, giving them cash in their retirement and relieving them of the hassle of dealing with making money from their classic music.

But there are knock-on effects.

When Brian Wilson and Marilyn Wilson-Rutherford split in 1978 after 14 years of marriage, she took 50% of his songwriting royalties as part of their divorce settlement.

Brian Wilson and his then-wife Mary in 1977
Brian Wilson and his then-wife Mary in 1977. Picture: Getty

Legal filings seen by Rolling Stone show that Wilson-Rutherford was paid around $11 million, but claims she is owed a further $6.7 million in "termination rights".

It all gets pretty complicated, because Wilson apparently couldn't reclaim his copyrights until over 30 years after his marriage ended.

Wilson's Universal deal breaks down as $32 million for songwriting and $19 million for "reversion rights", and Wilson's lawyers say his ex isn't entitled to a portion of the second amount.

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In December, Wilson's lawyers offered Wilson-Rutherford about $3.3 million to settle "all issues".

"This is a business dispute between Brian and his ex-wife over who owns 'copyright termination interests' in songs Brian wrote or helped write during their marriage," Wilson's attorneys told Rolling Stone.

"With this filing, we are simply asking that the dispute be resolved in federal court, where we think it should be. We will have no further comment on this matter, and let the filings speak for themselves."

Brian Wilson in concert
Brian Wilson in concert. Picture: Alamy

Brian and Marilyn had two daughters together – Carnie and Wendy – who formed two-thirds of the group Wilson Phillips.

He married Melinda Kae Ledbetter in 1995, and the couple have adopted five children – Daria Rose, Delanie Rae, Dylan, Dash, and Dakota Rose.