Jones’ lawyers have alleged that the veteran producer is owed $30 million in revenues that have flowed to Jackson’s estate since the singer’s death in 2009. Jones, 84, has been touring in Europe for most of the trial, which has been underway in Los Angles Superior Court for two weeks. He entered the courtroom Thursday in a wheelchair.
At issue is the interpretation of two contracts for the albums “Off the Wall,” “Thriller,” and “Bad.” Jones testified that he left such details to lawyers and never read the actual agreements.
Instead, in often rambling testimony, Jones articulated a basic principle that he deserves to be paid for any use of songs from the albums.
“If we made the record, we deserve to get paid,” he said. “It’s that simple.”
An attorney for Jackson’s estate, Howard Weitzman, tried to get Jones to concede that he is entitled to a share of album sales but not to licensing revenues for the Jackson recordings.
“That’s a joke,” Jones answered.
As Weitzman pressed him, Jones added, “I don’t care what the agreement says. If I put my heart and love into making a record, I want to get paid. I don’t care what the paper says.”
At another point, Jones asked the lawyer: “You ever made a No. 1 record?”
“No,” Weitzman said.
“I know that,” Jones replied.
Jones’ lawyers contend that his contracts entitle him to significant proceeds from “This Is It,” the backstage concert film released after Jackson’s death, as well as those from two Cirque du Soleil shows. The attorneys also contend that Jones is owed a larger share from a Sony contract that was renegotiated after Jackson’s death.
Under questioning from his own lawyer, Mike McKool, Jones gave extensive reminiscences about his music career and his collaboration with Jackson. He testified that his relationship with Jackson was founded on “love, respect, and trust,” and that financial considerations rarely surfaced.
“That never in my life crossed my mind — money and fame,” he said. “If that happens, God walks out of the room. If you try to sell Ciroc vodka, forget it.”
Under cross-examination, Weitzman played Jackson’s demo versions of “Workin’ Day and Night,” “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough,” and “Beat It,” as well as the finished album versions of each song. Jones nodded his head in rhythm, and at one point raised his arm as if conducting musicians.
Weitzman’s point was that Jackson himself made major contributions to the sound of each song, which rankled Jones, who testified that producers often take the blame for failures while artists get credit for hits.
“I believed in Michael like my own son,” he testified. “I spent more time with him than his family. They weren’t in the studio.”
Weitzman repeatedly noted that he is representing Jackson’s three children, who are the beneficiaries of the estate, and asked if Jones would sue Jackson if he were still alive.
“I’m not suing Michael, I’m suing y’all,” Jones said, noting that the estate’s lawyers have been handsomely paid. Another attorney for the estate testified earlier that the executors have received about $50 million in fees since Jackson’s death.
When Weitzman raised the children again, Jones rebutted, “I got children, too.”