Here’s a bizarre story right out of the Yoko Ono playbook.
Lennon Murphy, a 25-year-old singer-songwriter from Tennessee, has been working professionally for seven years as a performer under the name Lennon. In 2000, she signed with Arista Records. She got her official trademark in 2003. There was nary a peep from anyone.
But guess what? Lennon reports on her MySpace page that she is being sued by Ono to cease using her own name. The news turned up because Julian Lennon, or the person who runs his MySpace page, picked up a letter from Murphy and published it.
Lennon wrote on Feb. 8: "Yesterday I received notice that Yoko Ono had filed a lawsuit against me, asking for a cancellation of the trademark that I own for the name 'Lennon.' This could very well mean the career that I have worked so hard at, the one you all have believed in, may come to an end. I wanted to address the situation to all my fans because without you I am nothing and it's not fair to everyone who has believed in my music not to be properly informed of this pure bulls***."
And here’s something even weirder, which tells you a lot about how the music industry works. Lennon says in her letter that in 2003, her Arista product manager was Justin Shukat, the son of Ono’s longtime attorney Peter Shukat.
Lennon says Justin went to his father and Ono "to make her aware of the use, evidently giving her blessing as Arista proceeded forward with the album release and at the same time filing for the trademark. Its [sic] takes time for all of the legal work to go through, but finally in 2003 I was granted by the United States Patent & Trademark office the ownership in the name Lennon for musical use.
"Eight long, hard years pass and no one says a word. Just two days before the statute of limitations was up this very same lawyer we went to in 2000 filed their complaint. It accuses me of falsely representing myself and causing confusion in the market place that has damaged ... the John Lennon name."
It’s a pretty terrible story, made worse by this news: When Lennon Murphy was 18, according to her bio, she came home and found her mother — her only active parent — dead. Since then she’s been raising her younger sister.
I mean, you can’t make this stuff up. You could, but you’d have to be James Frey or J.T. Leroy if you did.
Well, this is Yoko Ono, arts advocate and minister of peace, whom we’ve come to know over the years.
Lennon posted the original letter to her site to get some attention. We’re happy to help. She needs an intellectual property lawyer with some clout to come to her aid. She writes:
"I don't know what's going to be the outcome, but I just wanted everyone to know what is going on. I never falsified my intentions, I never used John Lennon for my benefit, and I never took one cent out of Yoko's bank account. I play music, my name is Lennon, and the most heartbreaking thing out of this whole situation is the insult it gives to my late mother and who she believed in; on top of demeaning the man that John Lennon was and will always be."
Of course, the rather interesting element of this is that it turned up on Julian Lennon’s blog. There’s no love lost between Julian and his stepmother, that’s for sure.
On another note, this sure leaves the Lennon Sisters in a quandary. The singing quartet is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Will they have to call a lawyer, too?
Sadly and ironically, the Sisters share more in common with the late Beatle than this young lass from Tennessee. Their father was shot dead by a deranged fan in 1969. Weird, huh?
Usher, the 29-year-old R&B star, has always been a great kid. I met him a decade ago when he was starting out. He’s never been anything but gracious and polite.
Since he got together with stylist Tameka Foster, nine years his senior, he’s had nothing but grief. Foster has three kids from her first marriage, and she had one with Usher in November, a boy they named Usher Raymond Jr.
Foster’s been played in the media as the devil incarnate. For one, there is the constant rumor that she’s a Scientologist, and that she married Usher to bring him into the sect.
Is she? I asked her the other night at L.A. Reid’s Grammy party. Foster, who’s got a good sense of humor, heartily laughed out loud. "Honey, I can’t even spell it! No, I am not a Scientologist."
Usher added: "I’m friends with Tom Cruise, so people think that’s what happened." He did host a fundraiser for one of Cruise’s Scientology-related schemes, perhaps unwittingly. We’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. It sounds a little like Madonna and her Kabbalah fundraiser using Gucci as a host.
Anyway, I met Foster, and she seems pretty nice. The couple seems as happy as newlyweds with their new addition. Usher is finishing his new album with Jermaine Dupri. The producer told me, also over Grammy weekend, that he’s very excited about the results.
"Hotel Rwanda" director Terry George is safely back home in New York. He’d been doing research in East Timor for a new film. He’s lucky he’s outta there! On Monday there was a failed coup and a serious assassination attempt on the country’s president, Jose Ramos-Horta.
He and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao each were attacked — and they’re considered the good guys in this troubled nation. Ramos-Horta won the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize for his nonviolent resistance to the decades-long Indonesian occupation. It’s a great story, perfect for the big screen as long as the heroes can survive this terrible violence. ...
The Grammy ratings were just terrible. This is no surprise. One of the main complaints was that there were too many pairings. Especially egregious was Tina Turner, who did not need Beyonce. Turner flew in from Switzerland, did her thing, and flew right back. She must have been really pissed. She’s a superstar. Her appearance jolted the Staples Center with electricity. She didn’t require a young upstart to cement her position. How silly. ...
But even worse: The Grammy nominees did not reflect anything from either music critics or the public. The fact that Bruce Springsteen’s "Magic" and Paul McCartney’s "Memory Almost Full" were not nominated for Album of the Year is a scandal right there. Alicia Keys was relegated to R&B only when her "No One" clearly was the Best Record and Song of the Year.
And as much as Amy Winehouse’s loony career probably was thought a PR bonanza, it wasn’t. I totally agree with Natalie Cole, who said on Monday: "We don’t give awards for bad behavior."
Best New Artist? Yes. But the rest of it made no sense. The same for Herbie Hancock. Beloved as he is, Hancock has deserved the Grammy for far better stuff than his recordings of Joni Mitchell songs. Mitchell wasn’t even nominated for her own work!
Also missing was rocker Daughtry, who should have been on the show but was somehow dissed. And where was Bon Jovi?
Favorite backstage scene: Cher, clomping around in her gown, with a team of guys carrying the massive Acela-like train of her dress.
Elliott Mintz, Ono’s odd publicist, hanging around in the "green" room, sampling the buffet, even though Ono was nowhere around. She and Ringo and Olivia Harrison, et al were all sitting in the audience.
Most popular dressing room: Stevie Wonder’s, where lots of folks, such as Gayle King, hung out. Wonder happily crossed paths in the hallway with Tony Bennett, where they discussed their upcoming album project (announced here over the weekend). ...
A sign that fame is fleeting: Backstage announcer on P.A. system declares: "Tina Turner’s dressing room is now Tim McGraw’s." Very funny. …
Aretha Franklin looking delicious in her yellow chiffon gown, sitting in the front row in the audience after her great number with Bebe Winans, who had the best jacket of the night. ...
The mighty Quincy Jones and Montreux Jazz Festival chief Claude Nobs kicked off this summer’s season on Saturday afternoon with a special presentation at Henson Studios.
Quincy, who turns 75 next month, gets a special night on July 14. To celebrate his extraordinary career, there are books and DVDs. Check them out at www.montreuxjazz.com.