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Attorney Howell Begle, Champion To R&B Musicians, Dies
Howell Begle with Ruth Brown (Courtesy Howell Begle)

Attorney Howell Begle, Champion To R&B Musicians, Dies

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LEBANON, N.H. (CelebrityAccess) Howell Begle, 74, an attorney best known for his defense of penniless R&B artists, died Dec. 30 at a hospital in Lebanon, N.H., after sustaining injuries in a skiing accident.

Begle practiced media law but was best known for championing the cases of R&B artists like Ruth Brown, The Coasters, The Drifters, Big Joe Turner and Sam Moore to receive their deserved royalties from their many hits and founded the Rhythm and Blues Foundation.

“It was a travesty to me that so many artists I love and throughout my record collection never got any payments for the millions they sold,” Bonnie Raitt, a founding board member of the organization, said in a statement. “Looking back at Howell’s contribution, he will always be a hero to me for his tireless work on behalf of these pioneer artists working to get them the royalties and recognition they so deserve.”

Many of the musicians not only did not receive their fair share of income from the recordings but actually owed the studios charges for recording fees and other expenses while not having any health insurance and some needing to cover their own funeral expenses, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Begle helped turn public opinion around on the matter by getting clients Brown and Big Joe Turner on the CBS news magazine “West 57th” in the 1980s and having Brown join Rev. Jesse Jackson appear before Congress to discuss what Begle called the “racially exclusive, insensitive and economically exploitative policies” of the record companies, according to the Times.

“To have gone to law school, worked for a Wall Street law firm, to have acquired all these skills and to have an opportunity later in life to apply these things to something I loved is wonderful,”  Begle told the Washington Post in 1988, reflecting on his work for royalty reform. “Too often in one’s professional career, you don’t get a chance to be on the right side of the right issue.”


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