The Big Business of Rock Estates

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Artist: Janis Joplin

Estate manager: Jeff Jampol, president of Jam Inc., on behalf of the late singer's brother, Michael, and sister, Laura.

Major projects: One Night with Janis Joplin, a musical written directed by Randy Johnson in partnership with the estate, premiered last year in Portland and could do a broader tour.

Recent or upcoming milestones: Big Brother and Holding Company's Live at the Carousel Ballroom came out on March 13th. It was mastered by original soundman Owsley "Bear" Stanley before his death about a year ago.

Philosophy: The estate tries to approve or reject projects based on criteria Janis herself declared during her life. "During Janis' lifetime, she drank a lot of Southern Comfort. She's known for that," Jampol says. "In Janis' case, aligning with an alcoholic beverage would be OK, because she did it."

etta james
Tom Copi/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Artist: Etta James

Estate manager: Artis Mills, who married James in 1969. Late last year, when James was still alive, Mills and James' sons Donto and Sametto reached an agreement about managing the blues heroine's estate.

Major projects: The singer's four-disc box set, Heart & Soul, came out last year.

Recent or upcoming milestones: None.

Philosophy: "Etta's always had criteria – it has to fit with what she believes and doesn't offend her," says Jay Cooper, the estate's attorney. "But the estate's brand new, so you only have past history, when she was alive and doing everything well."

bob marley
Michael Putland/Getty Images

Artist: Bob Marley

Estate manager: Bob's widow, Rita Marley, and his nine children. Since Marley died of cancer in 1981, lawsuits over his estate have been plentiful – including one last year in which the family corporation sued Bob's half-brother, Richard Booker, for attempting to trademark the phrase "Mama Marley" for a fish-selling business. But generally the estate's affairs have been stable in recent years.

Major projects: Marley, a documentary film directed by Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland), is due in theatres April 20th and recently made its debut at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas.

Recent or upcoming milestones: The 30th anniversary of Marley's death was last May, but Marley's estate didn't sponsor formal events.

Philosophy: "Bob belongs to the people," Rita Marley told Rolling Stone in 2004. "If his music doesn't go to the people, that's no use to him."

whitney houston
Lester Cohen/WireImage

Artist: Whitney Houston

Estate manager: Pat Houston, Whitney's sister-in-law and manager. Houston's will left everything, including clothes, jewelry and cars, to 19-year-old Bobbi Kristina, her only child, and nothing to her ex-husband Bobby Brown, according to reports. Bobbi Kristina will receive the balance of the money when she turns 21, 25 and 30.

Major projects: Nothing yet, but more posthumous releases are a given.

Recent or upcoming milestones: In the two weeks after Houston's death on February 11th, her albums sold a reported 500,000 copies, and several of them remain on the charts.

Philosophy: It's too early for anything like a mission statement, but Bobbi Kristina recently told Oprah Winfrey: "I've got to keep moving. I've got to carry on her legacy."

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

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