The Estate of Michael Jackson/MIJAC Music has reached agreement with Sylvester Stewart — a.k.a. Sly Stone — to acquire a majority ownership of the U.S. rights to the Sly and the Family Stone catalog and, as part of the arrangement, will retain long-term administration rights. The catalog includes hits like “Family Affair,” “Dance to the Music,” “Everybody Is a Star,” “Hot Fun in the Summertime” and “Everyday People.” The Estate continues to own 100% of the copyright for the catalog outside the U.S.
“Thank You Mijac (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin),” Stewart (pictured above in 2007) quipped at the signing of the agreement, according to the announcement, referencing the title of one of his 1970 hits.
“Sly and the Family Stone were a force for enlightenment and positive change, a message that Michael believed in. He recognized Stewart’s genius and the power of his words and music which is why he first acquired the catalog and why we at MIJAC follow in Michael’s footsteps today,” John Branca and John McClain, co-executors of the Estate of Michael Jackson.
Formed in San Francisco in 1966, Sly & the Family Stone were one of the most influential acts of that extremely influential era, combining rock, funk, soul, R&B and social consciousness into a groundbreaking, uplifting and visually and musically colorful fusion. The group became superstars in 1969 on the strength of their “Stand!” album and a galvanizing appearance at the Woodstock festival, but Stone slipped gradually into substance abuse, even though the band’s success continued into the mid 1970s with the “There’s a Riot Goin’ on” and “Fresh” albums. Stone has become a reclusive figure in recent decades, emerging for a series of brief and eccentric performances with his former bandmates in the 2000s. Several years ago Stewart, now 76, was reported to be living in an RV after dealings with a former manager went sour, resulting in an ongoing multimillion-dollar lawsuit that was decided in his favor in 2015, but overturned the following year. Regardless, the impact of his music is indisputable — particularly on Prince, Parliament-Funkadelic and even Miles Davis, along with nearly every funk musician that has followed in his wake — and he and the group were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.
MIJAC Music was created in 1980 by Michael Jackson as his personal publishing company. Jackson’s first acquisition was for the international rights of the catalog of Sly and the Family Stone in 1983. Its catalog includes all of the songs written by Jackson, along with songs made famous by artists such as Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye, Elvis Presley and Aretha Franklin.
John Branca and Karen Langford, Ziffren Brittenham, represented MIJAC in the negotiation. David Dunn, of Shot Tower Capital, assisted. Sylvester Stewart was represented in this transaction by Robert J. Allan, Brian Tinkham and Stella Yap of Allan Law Group P.C. and co-counsel, Robert A. Celestin of the Law Offices of Robert A. Celestin acting in consultation with Arlene Hirschkowitz, Sylvester Stewart’s manager.