Music Article

Justify My Claim

''Justify My Love'' -- Lawsuits abound against Lenny Kravitz and what he did, or didn't do, for the Madonna song

Everybody knows that Madonna's steamy single ''Justify My Love'' has spawned two lawsuits against rocker-writer Lenny Kravitz, who's accused of withholding royalties and proper credit from lyricist Ingrid Chavez and associate producer Andre Betts. But the emerging question is: Who really ''composed'' the song? The answer is anybody's guess.

''The only words Lenny wrote were 'justify my love,' and Madonna changed one line,'' says Chavez. Though she says she had ''a relationship'' with Kravitz, but not ''an affair,'' Chavez claims she culled most of the original lyrics from a love letter she wrote last year but never mailed to Kravitz. According to her lawsuit, Chavez only received a $500 ''advance'' after Kravitz pressured her to sign an agreement surrendering credit and three-quarters of any writer's royalties.

Jingles writer Andre Betts is also suing Kravitz, claiming he was promised coproducer credit and half of any producer's royalties on tng. Betts, who helped develop the rhythm track for ''Justify My Love,'' received an associate producer's credit but no money for his work. If Betts' suit ever comes to trial, determining authorship of the song may get even more complicated, since the percussion sounds appear ''looped'' from a Public Enemy song, ''Security of the First World,'' which in turn is a close relative of James Brown's classic ''Funky Drummer.''

''The biggest thing is that I trusted someone and it all broke down,'' says Chavez. In this case, those words could be sung by a chorus.

Originally posted Aug 16, 1991 Published in issue #79 Aug 16, 1991 Order article reprints
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