'70s Philly soul group claims Sony owes them more than 40 years' worth of royalties

A 1970s soul group formed in Philly is suing Sony Music Entertainment, claiming that the music publisher hasn’t paid them royalties in more than four decades.

The women of The Three Degrees recently filed a lawsuit against Sony in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, alleging that elements such as “verbal contracts” allowed Sony to skip out on paying the group royalties. The group, which began in Philly in 1963, is best known for its work on tracks including “When Will I See You Again” and “TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia).”

The group claims it has not received any royalties from those 1974 hits, which, Digital Music News points out, could amount to millions of dollars. While the group featured about a dozen members throughout its run, the suit was filed by members Valerie Holiday and Helen Scott, along with the estate of the late Fayette Pinkney.

The Three Degrees originally signed a deal with CBS Records, which Sony bought in the 1990s. The group’s lawsuit claims that Richard Barrett, The Three Degrees’ manager at the time, inked a contract with what was then CBS, and later negotiated a “verbal agreement” with the singers.

The suit alleges that Barrett agreed to divvy up the Sony royalties four ways, leaving 75 percent of the group’s royalties to its members. However, The Three Degrees now say that they didn’t receive anything, with royalty checks instead going to Barrett's surviving wife, Julie.

As Digital Music News reports, Sony’s role remains unclear, but the company could pass responsibility onto Barrett’s estate.