GASTON COUNTY, N.C. — The daughter of R&B and disco star Johnnie Taylor is fighting for her father's legacy after she claimed the family was shorted on royalties for his music.
Taylor was an influential artist for decades, cranking out several major hits in the 1960s and '70s. Now, his daughter is taking on Sony Music Entertainment to make sure she and the rest of his family get what they're owed.
"He is the first platinum artist in music history," Fonda Bryant, Taylor's daughter, said.
The singer recorded a massive body of work but is most known for his crossover No. 1 hit "Disco Lady." Taylor recorded the song in 1976 with Columbia Records. Now, decades later, Bryant says she and the rest of Taylor's children haven't received a dime from the label since his death.
"With Sony, there was money coming in, and then all of a sudden it stopped," Bryant said.
Bryant is well-known for her work around Charlotte in suicide prevention, but she's also been fighting for her father's music royalties for at least the last decade.
Sony told her Johnnie Taylor actually owed them money but couldn't find any proof of those debts.
"I kept reaching out to Sony and asking them when is this debt going to be over with, when is it going to be forgiven?" Bryant said. "They could never give me a straight answer."
She became even more suspicious in 2020. After the murder of George Floyd, Sony promised to donate $100 million to social justice initiatives. Bryant called the move hypocritical.
"I'm like, 'whoa, whoa, whoa, wait a minute,'" she said. "I said how can they donate $100 million when they're sitting up there not even giving us our royalties and things. How can they do that?"
Bryant wrote to Sony's president saying they should take care of artists and their families or that donation is "all talk." The label eventually agreed to wipe the singer's supposed debts and make a collective payment of $97,000 to Taylor's ex-wife and children.
"That's still not a lot of money when you think about it," Bryant said. "You're talking about 21 years pretty much, Sony had been taking money from us."
Still, Bryant hopes her fight means Sony and other labels will be more transparent with artists in the future.
"It's not just affecting me and my heirs, it's affecting every single artist past, present and future," she said. "I'm so proud that I went up against such a big company and made them do what's right."
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