Song of Salvation

R&B legend Sam Moore finds serenity in Scottsdale

Financially, things began to change after Prater's death. In 1988, royalties from Atlantic started to loosen up. The company was planning an elaborate 40th anniversary celebration. "They started to give in a little at that time because we were prepared to ruin [Atlantic founder] Ahmet's Ertegun's party if we had to," says Joyce.

That year, Joyce began consulting for Valley resident Ed Buck, who was campaigning to recall Governor Evan Mecham. Commuting to Phoenix, she and Moore decided to escape the overpriced real estate market in L.A. and move to the desert.

"I didn't know quite what to expect -- I had been out here with Sam and Dave, but that was years before. Once we got out here I really fell in love with the place," says Sam.

Paolo Vescia
Soul personified: The legendary Sam Moore.
Paolo Vescia
Soul personified: The legendary Sam Moore.

Moore's career steadily rebounded into the '90s. He sang with Bruce Springsteen on his 1992 Human Touch album; he earned notice among country music fans when he guested on TNN's Nashville Now; he sang a touching 1993 duet with Conway Twitty on "Rainy Night in Georgia," the last recording of Twitty's life.

Long-overdue accolades came his way from critics and peers. In April, Moore joined Sting, Billy Joel, Ricky Martin and others at a Carnegie Hall benefit to preserve rain forests. The event turned into a salute to Moore, with the biggest names in music singing his praises.

Moore has expanded his efforts, landing a scene-stealing role in the upcoming indie film feature Night of the Golden Eagle.

The serenity of Valley life, away from the bustle and lingering memories of L.A., proved to be just the tonic Moore needed.

"Getting straight, coming out here -- it's been good," says Moore. ". . . I consider myself to have been very fortunate. My life could've ended a whole different way."

Dave Marsh is well-versed in the hypocrisy of record executives. First, as a founding editor at Creem, then later at Rolling Stone, Marsh has long championed artists in their fight to receive proper compensation from those who hold the keys to the music-industry vaults.

In 1988, the Rhythm and Blues Foundation was set up as part of the push toward royalty reform and artist remuneration. For the start-up, Atlantic Records contributed several million dollars in reparations for aggrieved musicians; the foundation would distribute the money on a case-by-case basis. It was an initiative that Marsh says "began with the noblest of intentions and wound up as a catastrophic betrayal."

Part of the original theory behind the R&B Foundation was that rampant abuses would end and that artists would begin getting fair and accurate accountings. That goal was never fully realized.

In 1992, Atlantic decided to restructure its commitment to the organization. It became clear to Marsh and Joyce Moore, both board members at the time, that the R&B Foundation was no longer going to exist as a means for reparations but rather as a front to allow record companies to rehabilitate their images. Marsh and Moore both resigned in protest.

In the wake of general reform, artists -- even the ones who have received payment -- are still being cheated.

"The problem is most remedies at law are prohibitively expensive," says Marsh. "And these performers are kept in such pernicious conditions that they'll settle for a nickel or a penny on the dollar."

Sam and Joyce Moore have refused to bend. Both can recite a litany of incredible tales of record-company theft and malfeasance.

Marsh stresses that there is no exaggeration in the Moores' claims.

"There's a difference between Sam and most of the other people who were treated exactly the same way. Sam's complaint is generic -- there are thousands of artists who have been treated that way. But the force and commitment Sam and Joyce bring to it is unique. They refuse to settle for anything less than what they deserve."

Among the claims against Atlantic, they allege that the label has quietly dried up the market for Sam and Dave CDs, all of which, save for a couple of best-ofs, are out of print. (Rhino Records, a reissue house, actually has stewardship of Atlantic's back catalogue. The label says it has given Moore the rights to his unissued Atlantic solo album; Night of the Golden Eagle producers are considering using the music as the film's soundtrack.) Worse, the Moores claim that Atlantic's licensing practices are dubious at best and that the foreign reporting of Sam and Dave sales is woefully inaccurate.

"Every time I go to Europe, I find Sam and Dave records that I bring back home and send them and say, 'Are you getting paid for these?'" says Marsh. "I remember I found one in Italy that was a Sam and Dave CD in a tin box -- and I'm not kidding you about this -- there were blackface figures from minstrel shows on the cover of it. The callousness of the whole thing is mind-boggling. The [record companies] just don't care."

The Moores have been committed to the fight for nearly two decades. But winning a war against a large corporate army is a daunting task, especially if it has to be waged over relatively minor sums.

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