*The last time we left off with JoJo McDuffie Funderburg she was telling EURweb.com about her ups and downs with Rick James and, boy, were there a lot of those. Here, she continues talking about what the Superfreak put her through as well as her ongoing battles with his estate after his untimely death in 2004. She also talks about her new jazz CD.
People say they get into the record business because they want to be a star and because it has always been their dream, but if they were honest they’d say it was all about the money. Plain and simply put, people believe record artists are filthy rich. But that is actually rarely the case. There’s too much money going to too many people that are not performing. McDuffie says she learned that lesson all too well.
“I decided to let bygones be bygones. He promised me he would do me right, I would get my money, this that and the third,” said McDuffie. “When the compilations came out he said, it’s okay we could use the name Mary Jane Girls. Finally I told my agent to go ahead and book me; he had two or three shows lined up. Rick said ‘You can’t do that’. He said he was going to sue me if I did that. He said, ‘I’m getting ready to have a reunion and you all are going to get back together.’ I say no I’m not because I saw him starting to use them drugs again. So, I stopped using the (MJG) name.
“In 2002 he sued me, thinking I wouldn’t be able to defend myself and that I would have to eventually come back to him and work for little or nothing,” JoJo explained. “He passed in 2004 and I’m thinking maybe his business people, seeing that this is frivolous, wouldn’t continue with it. The lawsuit, right now to this day, is still going on. But they won’t settle with me. I don’t know what they want. When he sued me I had to counter sue. I counter sued him for royalties. We never got royalties, merchandising or anything. The only thing we were able to do is get tour money. They (James’ estate attorneys) know what my royalties are because they come to that office. I signed a production contract. When the publishing and royalties come they now go to his estate. For some reason they still won’t settle with me, (on top of that) the (legal) people Rick hired were replaced 2 years ago for embezzlement. They removed $1.5 million from his estate.”
Wow, the drama continues even after the death of the rock and soul legend. Funderburg says those that replaced the prior executers of the James’ estate were even less moved by her plight.
“They refuse to be wrong. The arrogance of some people I guess. Now there’s a trustee there and, unfortunately, the trustee is an accountant. They see what’s going on, but they still won’t settle with me. They started to recoup royalties in 1997, they claim. They paid Corvette, who sang nothing. They paid Cheri, who sang on one song. They paid Candy, who sang one song on the second album but it got no airplay. They paid Maxi. I’ve never been paid royalties to this day, never!”
To a logical mind the most talented individual in any situation deserves to be paid first, and paid the most … right? Not so in this wild tale. To add insult to injury, she says James’ daughter has concocted her own version of the Mary Jane Girls.
“They got somebody by the name of Val Young (Lady V of Brides of Funkenstien). So, they licensed the name to Val Young, Candy, Maxi and Cheri. Now, Maxi and Cheri left and they have a group of Mary Jane Girls. Now there’s three groups.”
With the talent pool diluted in the manner that it was, the talent level of the other Mary Jane Girls groups is watered down as well. Now Jo-Jo says everybody’s pockets are suffering.
“The reviews since they’ve been working, every last review has been horrible. They’ve got terrible reviews. What they do when they go out is they try to make them think that I’m there. They use the music, the video and my pictures to make people think I’m there.”
Meanwhile, after years of singing and fighting as one of the Mary Jane Girls, musically McDuffie has moved on to another creative venture.
“It’s called ‘Slightly Dangerous’,” said JoJo of her new album. “Because it’s totally far removed from the Mary Jane Girls. People have been listening to this group for 28 years? I personally wanted people to know that that’s not the only thing I could do. I sang this kind of music for 8 years before Mary Jane Girls.”
The album is considered a jazz offering and features remakes of music from Sade, among others, as well as some original music.
“It needs to be heard and I need to know, for real, what people think. I need to hear what people think. I am not going to die if people say ‘Oh my God, this is the worst piece of crap I’ve ever heard.’ I don’t know if it’s a piece of gold or a piece of sh*t right now and I’m really curious as to which way it’s going to go. I am very curious but I am not afraid. In this project I took everything that I learned from (Rick) and put it into this
project because he was also one of my all time favorite songwriters. I am hoping people will hear that and just love it for what it is.”
To sample cuts from JoJo’s “Slightly Dangerous” CD, go to: http://www.jojourbandiva.com/index_1.html
Though JoJo McDuffie is still fighting for what rightfully belongs to her and her children, she is continuing down a path of personal creativity with her new project. It’s different from what we’re used to from the former front-woman of the Mary Jane Girls, but talent and truth always shine through in the end.
To find out MORE about joJo McDuffie Funderburg, go here: http://www.jojourbandiva.com/