"It sounds like someone trying to sound like someone trying to sound like Steve Marriott": Rock legends line up to protest release of AI-assisted Humble Pie recordings

An AI-generated image of Steve Marriott singing in a recording studio in 1971
Not quite right: An AI-generated image of Steve Marriott in the recording studio in 1971 (Image credit: AI Generated Content - Midjourney)

A long list of rock star names have come forward to protest the proposed release of “new” recordings featuring AI-generated vocals from late Small Faces and Humble Pie frontman Steve Marriott. 

According to a report in Variety, Humble Pie drummer Jerry Shirley – who retains the rights to the band's name – was sent a "new" recording of Marriott singing the Hoagy Carmichael classic Georgia On My Mind after the label proposed a revision to their agreement with him to include AI-generated versions of Humble Pie songs.

"It sounded like someone trying to sound like someone trying to sound like Steve Marriott," Shirley tells Variety. A second recording “sounded like a not-bad soul singer, but it didn’t sound like Steve. And the backing track was just laughable."

Now singer Mollie Marriott – Steve's daughter – is heading a campaign to block the release of any AI-generated versions of Marriott's vocals, while his estate is handled by his widow, Toni Marriott, who's in favour of the release.  

“The Marriott Estate is due to release an AI solo album of old and new songs of my father, Steve,” Mollie Marriott says. “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. It’s a sad world to behold.”

In addition to Small Faces drummer Kenney Jones and Humble Pie guitarist Peter Frampton, Marriott has enlisted a number of major names in support of her campaign, including Robert Plant, David Gilmour, Paul Weller, Paul Rodgers, Joe Brown, Bryan Adams, Matt Sorum, Glenn Hughes, Gary Kemp and broadcaster Bob Harris.

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

"There are no confirmed plans to use Steve Marriott’s voice on AI recordings," says Chris France, who manages Marriott’s estate. "[But] 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."

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.