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King Crimson’s Robert Fripp in dispute with David Bowie’s estate

Robert Fripp, Brian Eno and David Bowie
Robert Fripp, Brian Eno and David Bowie in the studio during the recording of Heroes in 1977 (Image credit: Michael Ochs Archives - Getty)

Robert Fripp is in dispute with David Bowie’s estate over his contributions on the late singer’s Heroes and Scary Monsters albums.

The King Crimson guitarist has issued a statement to say that music licensing company PPL and the Bowie estate have refused to recognise his work on the records as a featured player, which is supported by Brian Eno and producer Tony Visconti – and was supported by Bowie himself, “although the terminology was not then in use, and the court of public opinion over four decades,” says Fripp.

The statement adds: “Essentially, the David Bowie estate argues that Fripp’s featured performer status is not acknowledged by PPL rules – and PPL argues that as the Bowie estate does not accept Fripp as a featured performer, Fripp is therefore not a featured player – and their rules confirm this. Anyone read Catch 22?

Fripp calls the lack of recognition from the PPL “an historic injustice” and adds: “Rules are not God-given laws to maintain the universe – they are created by people to organise and facilitate interactions in a fair and equitable fashion, which, in the nature of things, can never be exactly foretold. 

“So, with intelligence and goodwill, where the rules do not allow for what is right to be acknowledged and addressed, the rules are modified to take exceptional / novel situations into account."

Fripp says that in his opinion, the correct approach for the PPL would be to change the rules “to match what is right.”

Fripp goes on to say: “We are dealing with the music industry here. Fifty-two years of direct, hands-on experience suggests to me that the majority of players who operate the system, operate the system to serve their own interests. 

“There are a small number of players whose aim is ethical action in business – not directing the industry to promote their own personal interests. These assertions supported by decades of documentation.”

King Crimson are currently on tour across the US, with their next show taking place tonight (September 25) at the MGM Northfield Park in Northfield, Ohio.

Scott Munro

News editor for Classic Rock, Metal Hammer, Prog and Louder. He’s been at the news desk since 2014 and when not writing, he can be found watching baseball and visiting whisky distilleries.