Why Brian Wilson’s Ex-Wife Sued Him After Selling His Song Rights For $50 Million


Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys recently sold his song rights to Universal Music Publishing Group, facing legal issues with his ex-wife Marilyn Wilson-Rutherford. She claims Wilson owes her $6.7 million because of songs she “helped write” during the marriage.

Brian Wilson was married to Marilyn Wilson-Rutherford

Musician Brian Wilson, founding member of the Beach Boys, performs on stage at the Kia Forum | Scott Dudelson/Getty Images

Along with brothers Dennis and Carl Wilson, their cousin Mike Love and friend Al Jardine, Brian Wilson was a founding member of the Beach Boys. He took on an additional role as songwriter for the group, also marrying in 1964.

Wilson and Marilyn Wilson-Rutherford were married for over a decade – from 1964 to 1978. During that time, the Beach Boys released some of their greatest songs.

animal sounds debuted in 1966, with “Sloop John B” and “God Only Knows”. Other Beach Boys tracks released around this time include ‘California Girls’, ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’ and ‘Good Vibrations’.

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Marilyn Wilson-Rutherford sued Brian Wilson for $6.7 million

After marrying at the height of the Beach Boys’ success, Wilson-Rutherford received 50% ownership of Wilson’s songwriting royalties. This became a problem when Wilson struck a deal with Universal Music Publishing Group to sell his song rights. Consequently, Wilson-Rutherford sued her ex-husband for $6.7 million.

“This is a business dispute between Brian and his ex-wife over who owns the ‘copyright termination rights’ in the songs that Brian wrote or helped write during their marriage,” they wrote. Wilson’s attorneys said in a statement to rolling stone.

“With this filing, we are simply asking that the dispute be resolved in federal court,” the statement continued, “where we believe it should be. We will have no further comments on this subject and let the documents speak for themselves.

The same website reports that in the lawsuit, “UMPG paid Wilson nearly $32 million for his songwriting share and an additional $19 million for his reversion rights. (Artists in the United States can recover rights to their songs approximately 35 years after they have been assigned due to the Copyright Act of 1976, these are reversion or termination rights).

Wilson’s legal counsel states that Wilson-Rutherford is not entitled to the money from the reversion agreement because the divorce occurred more than 30 years before the partnership with Universal Music Publishing Group.

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Who is Brian Wilson, Beach Boys wife Melinda Ledbetter?

In 1995, Wilson married former model and car saleswoman, Melinda Ledbetter. The couple adopted 5 children together and are still married today, with Ledbetter taking on an additional role as a talent manager. Their relationship is explored further in the biopic Love & Mercy.

“I remember meeting her at her dealership, Cadillac, and I was like, ‘My God, she’s a pretty girl. She’s a pretty girl,'” Wilson said in an interview with ABC’s Night Line. “I just thought, ‘God, I think I’ll see her again someday.'”

RELATED: The Beach Boys’ “Smiley Smile” was used in an addiction clinic to help people recover from a bad LSD trip, according to Carl Wilson


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