New York Times Names ‘Hundreds More Artists’ Affected by 2008 UMG Fire, Including Martin Luther King

Recordings by Peggy Lee, Bell Biv Devoe and Blackstreet also among master tapes lost in fire, report says

Last Updated: June 25, 2019 @ 10:20 PM

The 2008 fire on the Universal Studios backlot may have destroyed master recordings belonging to far more artists than initially thought, including an album by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the New York Times reported Tuesday.

A New York Times Magazine article earlier this month called the June 1, 2008 fire “the biggest disaster in the history of the music business,” and said it burned down several buildings and destroyed as many as 500,000 master recordings by at least 100 artists.

In a follow-up article Tuesday, the Times reported that it had identified an additional “700-plus” artists whose recordings may have perished in the blaze. Among them are Peggy Lee, Groucho Marx, Dolly Parton, The Who, George Benson, The Damned, Bell Biv Devoe, Blackstreet, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose 1968 recording of “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution” was also stored at the UMG vault, according to the Times.

The names were obtained from lists assembled by UMG during “Project Phoenix,” the company’s attempt to find replacement copies for lost master recordings, the Times reports.

One of the artists who may have been affected by the fire is singer-songwriter Bryan Adams. He told the Times that in 2013, UMG was unable to locate his master recordings, but that the company made “no mention that there had been a fire in the archive.” Adams said he learned about the fire in the original report.

The news comes just days after attorneys representing a consortium of artists, including the estates of Tom Petty and Tupac Shakur, filed a lawsuit against UMG seeking in excess of $100 million. The suit accuses UMG of not adequately protecting the master recordings, and of misrepresenting the extent of the damage from the fire.

Universal Music Group did not immediately respond to a request for comment from TheWrap on Tuesday.

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