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The recording artists whose names The Times is publishing for the first time today represent an extraordinary cross-section of genres and periods: classic pop balladeers (Rosemary Clooney, Peggy Lee, Pat Boone), jazz greats (Sidney Bechet, Betty Carter, Roland Kirk), show business legends (Groucho Marx, Mae West, Bob Hope), gospel groups (the Dixie Hummingbirds, Five Blind Boys of Alabama, the Soul Stirrers), country icons (the Carter Family, Dolly Parton, Glen Campbell), illustrious songwriters (Hoagy Carmichael, Doc Pomus, Lamont Dozier), doo-wop and rhythm & blues favorites (Johnny Ace, the Moonglows, the Del-Vikings), ’50s and ’60s chart toppers (Ricky Nelson, Petula Clark, Brenda Lee), bluesmen (Slim Harpo, Elmore James, Otis Rush), world-music stars (Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, Milton Nascimento), classic rockers (The Who, Joe Cocker, Three Dog Night), folkies and folk-rockers (Sandy Denny, Crosby & Nash, Buffy Sainte-Marie), singer-songwriters (Phil Ochs, Terry Callier, Joan Armatrading), ’70s best-sellers (Peter Frampton, Olivia Newton-John, Barry Gibb), soul and disco-era stalwarts (the Dramatics, the Pointer Sisters, George Benson), AM rock-radio staples (Styx, Boston, 38 Special), divas and divos (Cher, Tom Jones), British punks and new wavers (The Damned, Joe Jackson, Squeeze), MTV fixtures (Wang Chung, Patty Smyth, Extreme), hip-hop/R&B hitmakers (Bell Biv Devoe, Jodeci, Blackstreet), ’90s rock acts (Primus, Temple of the Dog, the Wallflowers), rappers (Heavy D. church convention, was released in 1968 on Excello, a blues label whose masters were stored in the backlot vault.
& the Boyz, Busta Rhymes, Common), comedians (Rodney Dangerfield, Bill Cosby, Chris Rock), even the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., whose album “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution,” a recording of a keynote address given at an A. The UMG documents from which these names are drawn were organized according to a hierarchy, an effort to establish “priority assets”: those recordings that were to be a primary focus of the search for replacement copies.
A confidential document prepared by UMG officials for a 2009 “Vault Loss Meeting” offered a bleak assessment of the damage: “Lost in the fire was, undoubtedly, a huge musical heritage.”Today, The Times is offering a broader look at that heritage, publishing an expanded list of artists who were thought by UMG officials to have lost master recordings in the fire.
The list adds 700-plus names to the more than 100 artists cited in “The Day the Music Burned.”The names were gleaned from UMG’s own lists, assembled during the company’s “Project Phoenix” recovery effort, a global search for replacement copies and duplicates of destroyed masters.
In legal documents and UMG reports that I obtained while researching the article, the record company asserted that more than 100,000 masters and “an estimated 500K song titles” had burned in the fire, including works by such towering figures as Billie Holiday, Chuck Berry and John Coltrane.
The toll encompassed recordings made for several famous record labels: Decca, Chess, Impulse, ABC, MCA, Geffen, Interscope and Adams’ old label, A&M.
But he remained baffled about the disappearance of so much material: “I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that I couldn’t find anything at Universal that had been published to do with my association with A&M records in the 1980s.
If you were doing an archaeological dig there, you would have concluded that it was almost as if none of it had ever happened.”Two weeks ago, another explanation emerged, when Adams read “The Day the Music Burned,” a New York Times Magazine article detailing the destruction of recordings in a fire at a vault facility on the backlot of Universal Studios Hollywood, where UMG stored original masters and other recordings dating from the 1940s up to the 2000s.
For the past two weeks, as news of the lost masters has reverberated through the music industry, UMG has been roundly criticized by artists and their representatives.
One of the artists on those lists is Bryan Adams, who said that he first learned about the fire when he read the Times Magazine piece.
During his interactions with UMG staff in 2013, Adams said, “There was no mention that there had been a fire in the archive.”The list that appears at the end of this article provides a fuller sense of the historical scope of the 2008 disaster.
On Friday, a lawsuit was filed in United States District Court in Los Angeles by five prominent musicians and estates: the rock bands Soundgarden and Hole, singer-songwriter Steve Earle, the estate of rapper Tupac Shakur, and Tom Petty’s former wife, who owns rights in some of Petty’s music.
The suit, which seeks class-action status, accuses UMG of breaching its contracts with artists by failing to protect their recordings and by failing to share any income received in insurance payments and legal settlements from the fire.
On one list, artists were assigned letter-grade rankings, with higher marks given to those deemed most important.