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World Beat: Daily Music Briefs from Around the World
Neil Young Sued for $1.8 Million in Fraud Suit Over Young's Authorized Biography Written by Former Village Voice Writer Jimmy McDonough

May 2, 2000 – Famed rock musician Neil Young has been sued for $1.8 million for fraud by former Village Voice writer Jimmy McDonough, over Young's refusal to allow the publication of Young's biography, which was written by McDonough with Young's permission and assistance. The suit, which follows by one week the release of Young's latest album, Silver & Gold, also seeks to allow publication of the biography. Henry Gradstein, partner in the Los Angeles law firm of Gradstein, Luskin & Van Dalsem, who serves as McDonough's attorney, made today's announcement.

The suit McDonough v. Young (BC 229130,) filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, alleges that "since the mid-1960s, Neil Young has enjoyed a highly successful musical career, both as a solo artist and as a member of the rock-and-roll bands Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Still, Nash & Young, and has crafted for himself a reputation as a champion of creative freedom. In this guise, Young induced McDonough, the Plaintiff, an established writer of offbeat profiles of musicians, to write Young's biography.

"To this end, Young and McDonough entered into a written agreement dated on or about August 21, 1991, which granted McDonough the artistic freedom to write a biography of Young, entitled "Shakey: The Biography of Neil Young," with Young's assistance and blessing, subject only to Young's right to request edits or changes with regard to his then-immediate family. At or about the same, in a written agreement between Random House, Inc., Young, and McDonough, Random House, Inc., agreed to publish the biography.

"Over a period of eight years (1991-98,) McDonough devoted himself to writing the biography. While doing so, he was repeatedly assured by Young that Young would abide by his agreements with McDonough, and that McDonough should trust that Young would allow the biography to be published. Young repeated these assurances to McDonough, even after the initial time period for delivery of the manuscript under the contract with Random House, Inc., had passed, and even on the day McDonough delivered the manuscript to Young.

"In December 1998, however, Young revealed himself to be a contradiction in terms, using the wealth and power he had accumulated from his musical and business success to squelch publication of the biography. Unilaterally and without contacting McDonough, Young, through his handlers, repudiated his agreements with McDonough and with Random House, Inc. Young did so without ever stating a single specific objection to any material in the biography. But for Young's actions, Random House, Inc., would have published the biography."

Regarding the case, Gradstein said, "The loss of almost a decade of Jimmy McDonough's creative life has been devastating to him. The lawsuit alleges that it is the final result of Young's actions."

Gradstein, Luskin & Van Dalsem is a leading, boutique law firm which specializes in entertainment intellectual property, Internet e-commerce, and complex business litigation. In l999, Gradstein and Van Dalsem won California's fifth highest jury verdict when, defending former Monkee Michael Nesmith, the attorneys obtained a $47-million fraud verdict against PBS on Nesmith's counterclaim.

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