Outside Donald Fagan and Walter Becker, Steely Dan has been a bit of a revolving door of members. One of those players was David Palmer, who is suing the group for back royalties.
Palmer sang lead on two songs from the band’s Can’t Buy a Thrill album, Dirty Work and Brooklyn (Owes the Charmer Under Me) along with singing harmonies on three other tracks. In the tour supporting the album, he sang lead on most of the songs. While Fagan eventually took over lead duties permanently, Palmer stayed around long enough to do backing vocals on Countdown to Ecstasy.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Palmer filed suit in a Los Angeles court on Friday seeking past royalties on the tracks where he performed. At issue are digital royalties which are collected by Sound Exchange and passed along to the individual artist entities. In the case of Steely Dan, it went to SDI (Steely Dan, Inc.).
Palmer first became aware that their might be a problem when he was contacted by AFTRA to identify himself as a royalty receiver or a sideman. That led to Sound Exchange and SDI where he found that he wasn’t being issued the royalties which had been agreed on in a 1972 contract that gave him one-sixth of money generated on the songs on which he performed.
Arrangements were made for money forward and a check was issued for $8,000 for June 2013 through March 2014, but Palmer is looking for his due from before that period.
The pending litigation may also be the reason that the song Dirty Work, an integral part of the soundtrack from the film American Hustle, did not make it onto the soundtrack album. According to Roger Friedman at Showbiz911.com, Steely Dan refused to sign off on its inclusion in the set.
After Steely Dan, Palmer stayed in music, working with Carole King on her album Wrap Around Joy and co-writing the two hits from the LP, Jazzman and Nightengale with King. He later formed the band Wha-Koo with Danny Douma. Since 2002, he has worked as a digital photographer.
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