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Talk About It: ‘Funkytown’ Composer Battles Music Biz

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(credit: CBS) Esme Murphy
Esme Murphy, a reporter and Sunday morning anchor for WCCO-TV, h...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Twin Cities composer of a highly popular song is in a legal battle that is being watched by top recording artists nationwide.

Steve Greenberg is the composer of Funkytown, which was a smash hit in 1980.

The song continues to get radio play and is featured in commercials and movies like “Shrek.”

In 1978, Congress passed a law which says after 35 years the record company has to give up its share of all royalties and sales and the artist gets 100 percent.

Greenberg’s is the first significant challenge under the 1978 law.

Just yesterday Greenberg, of St. Louis Park, got another request for the use of “Funkytown.”

“Every day something comes up,” he said. “Just yesterday I got an offer for an ad for General Motors Mexico.”

Right now, Greenberg and the record company Universal Music split the profits of any commercial deal fifty-fifty. On sales or downloads of the song, Greenberg currently gets a much smaller chunk — just 12 percent.

Greenberg and his attorney have filed papers with the U.S. copyright office demanding that in 2015, the profits go back to him.

His lawyer says artists around the country are watching.

“We are being contacted by lawyers, artists,” said Ken Abdo. “They want to engage what we call the battle for ‘Funkytown.’”

For Greenberg, the battle is just the next step in the saga of a hit that continues to deliver.

“I am known as a one-hit wonder,” Greenberg said. “I have written lots of songs but I will take this one-hit wonder any day.”

We contacted Universal Music, the record company that gets royalties from “Funkytown,” but they did not respond to our inquiries.

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