Steve Marriott’s Children and Bandmates Fight to Stop AI-Generated Recordings of Small Faces/ Humble Pie Singer’s Vocals (EXCLUSIVE)

A long list of artists including Robert Plant, Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, Peter Frampton, Bryan Adams and more have joined the late British singer Steve Marriott’s children and bandmates in opposing the release of “new” recordings featuring AI-generated versions of his vocals

Published Time: 08.05.2024 - 20:31:35 Modified Time: 08.05.2024 - 20:31:35

A long list of artists including Robert Plant, Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, Peter Frampton, Bryan Adams and more have joined the late British singer Steve Marriott’s children and bandmates in opposing the release of “new” recordings featuring AI-generated versions of his vocals. The former frontman of the Small Faces and Humble Pie (and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee) was one of the most influential rock singers of the 1960s, renowned for songs like “All or Nothing,” “Tin Soldier,” “Itchykoo Park,” “I Don’t Need No Doctor” and more. He died in a fire in 1991 at the age of 44.

The AI-generated recordings, which are said to be incomplete, were authorized by Marriott’s third wife, Toni Poulton, whom he married less than two years before his death. Marriott’s key surviving former bandmates — the Small Faces’ Kenney Jones and Humble Pie’s Peter Frampton and Jerry Shirley — have signed on to a statement supporting Marriott’s daughter Mollie and her three siblings’ opposition to their release, along with Plant, Gilmour, Paul Weller, Paul Rodgers, Bryan Adams, Glenn Hughes, Gary Kemp and others.

“The Marriott Estate is due to release an AI solo album of old and new songs of my father, Steve,” Mollie Marriott said in a statement. “Sadly, the surviving family which comprises just my siblings Lesley, Toby, Tonya, and I, have nothing to do with the Estate as there was no will. It is run by my stepmother who was only with my father for two years prior to his death and has since been re-married.

“We, along with his bandmates of Humble Pie and Small Faces, are looking to stop this album from happening as it would be a stain on my father’s name. Someone who was known as one of the greatest vocalists of our generation, with such a live and raw vocal, it would absolutely break his heart if he were alive to know this. This is only for money, not art nor appreciation.

“It is the start of a campaign I wish to lead against this sort of thing, where deceased artists have no rights and that everything natural in this world is truly dying, including creativity and the arts, as AI comes into play.”

Robert Plant said, “This is a far cry from what any of us dreamt of when we set off into this wonderful world of music. We just can’t stand by and watch this unfold.”

Contacted by Variety, Chris France, who has been managing director of Marriott’s estate since 1997, said: “At present there are no confirmed plans to use Steve Marriott’s voice on AI recordings,” adding, “That does not mean a deal will not be done with one of several suitors who have made offers… I am afraid that Mollie Marriott’s opinions are of no consequence to me or his estate.”

The estates of most major musicians are often, if not usually, plagued with disputes between family members, bandmates, business associates and others. Yet the emergence of AI has brought a whole new wrinkle into an already-complex situation.

Because Marriott died without a will, British law rules that his estate would go entirely to Poulton rather than his children (each of whom have different mothers, none of whom are Poulton). The two parties reportedly have had a contentious relationship over the years, although ex-Humble Pie drummer Jerry Shirley tells Variety that he generally has had a positive and productive relationship with France when working with him on archival releases over the years.

Marriott’s estate was in an unruly state at the time of his death, due in no small part to the often-unorthodox busi -

ness dealings of the main managers in his three-decade-plus career: Don Arden, Andrew Loog Oldham and Dee Anthony. Shirley credits France with returning Marriott’s estate to financial health and ensuring that it generates money, largely via archival releases and streaming, but notes that France works at the direction of Poulton.

Unlike his former bandmates — including Marriott —Shirley retained the rights to his royalties from the band and says he now solely owns the rights to the Humble Pie name. While any dealings involving the group’s name or recordings must be approved by him as well as Marriott’s estate, he has no control over the singer’s recordings outside of Humble Pie.

Shirley tells Variety that late last year, he received an from Los Angeles-based independent label Cleopatra Records, which had issued some of those Humble Pie releases, generally to his satisfaction, about renewing their agreement. “Buried in the renewal contract,” he says, was a new paragraph addressing AI.

At first, “I had no idea what it was, to be honest with you,” he says. “But eventually I realized what it meant, France confirmed it, and I said, ‘I want nothing to do with it.’”

In an effort to prove that the AI-generated recordings would be unsatisfactory, Shirley proposed that Cleopatra attempt an AI version of “Hallelujah I Love Her So,” the R&B classic made famous by Ray Charles, as an example. He would then compare the result with a rough, unreleased recording of the song in his possession that Marriott had recorded during the 1960s.

The AI recording was “horrible,” he says. “It sounded like someone trying to sound like someone trying to sound like Steve Marriott.” The company sent him another attempt, which “sounded like a not-bad soul singer,” he says. “But it didn’t sound like Steve. And the backing track was just laughable.” (Shirley shared MP3s of the recordings with this writer: The first version is very mediocre and sounds like an uninspired run-through; the second is better, but neither are revelatory.)

The terms of the proposed deal would have brought Shirley “around $20,000” upon signing, he says, along with other future royalties due to him. But he said, “I’m not interested.”

Contacted by Variety, a rep for Cleopatra Records said in an : “Regarding the Steve Marriott AI project, we engaged in discussions with his estate about completing some of his unfinished demos with the aid of AI technology. However, we ultimately chose to release these recordings in their original form for now: ‘Steve Marriott – Get Down to It 1973-1977’; ‘Steve Marriott – Poor Man’s Rich Man 1978-1987’; ‘Steve Marriott – Out of the Blue 1987-1991.’”

France said that although a deal for the AI recordings does not currently exist, “That does not mean a deal will not be done with Cleopatra or one of several suitors who have made offers.” News of the planned demo releases was met with chagrin by Mollie Marriott. However, Shirley says he believes at least one of those sets is actually a Humble Pie recording that would have to be approved by him.

Of the situation, Mollie Marriott says, “It’s a sad world to behold.”

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