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Da-da-da-da-da-da ... CHARGE, says composer

Bobby Kent says he wrote the ditty “Da-da-da-da-da-da! Charge!” The Los Angeles Lakers are the only team to have paid him so far.

Miami Herald

Bobby Kent says he wrote the ditty “Da-da-da-da-da-da! Charge!” The Los Angeles Lakers are the only team to have paid him so far.

Da-da-da-da-da-da! Charge!

If you attend sporting events, you are probably familiar with that ditty, a standard at ballparks, basketball arenas and hockey rinks across the country. They play it and play it and play it until your eardrums bleed.

What you might not know is that a Pompano Beach man says he composed it — and says he is entitled to compensation every time it airs publicly.

Bobby Kent, 62, holds a copyright for the song, a 26-measure piece he dubbed Stadium Doodads in the late 1970s. The last part of the song is the popular rally cry.

Kent is suing the company that once licensed the song to sporting venues, saying for the past two decades, he has been paid a fraction of what he deserves. Kent is also planning to sue every pro sports team in the United States — except the Los Angeles Lakers. He says he mailed a letter last year to every franchise, demanding money in exchange for using the song. The Lakers were the only ones who capitulated, paying him $3,000.

"I'm looking to get what I'm owed," Kent said.

Stadium anthems like Steam's Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye (traditionally used to bid opposing pitchers adieu) and Gary Glitter's Rock and Roll Part 2, sometimes referred to as The Hey! Song, are part of the game day experience. Fans know the words and the hand motions, and sometimes start singing them without prompting from the public address system.

But under federal copyright laws, those sports anthems are actually somebody's property.

"In theory, when those songs play, the songwriters and publishers should be getting paid," said Serona Elton, a lawyer and professor in the University of Miami's music business department.

Kent, who runs a music publishing business, says he came up with his composition when he was music director for the San Diego Chargers.

"We would play that on first and third downs when the Chargers had the ball," said Kent, who went by the name Ira Brandwein at that time. "The crowd would go nuts."

There is some dispute over the origin of the piece.

The University of Southern California marching band says the true composer is one Tommy Walker, who, in a remarkable feat of musicianship and athleticism, served simultaneously as USC's drum major and field goal kicker.

"The USC band has been playing this as a stadium rally cry since the 1950s," associate band director Tony Fox said. "Everybody in Southern California knows that this is where it comes from."

Fox said he has sheet music that shows it was copyrighted in the 1950s as part of a song called Trojan Warriors Charge.

Kent's attorney acknowledged that the USC song "does contain five notes that are close to the last five notes of the crescendo of Mr. Kent's song." But, he said, the notes are played at a different tempo.

The attorney, Richard C. Wolfe, said he wasn't able to find any evidence of a copyright for Trojan Warriors Charge.

Records show Kent copyrighted his song Stadium Doodads in 1980.

That same year, he signed on with the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), one of three U.S. companies that handle song licensing. ASCAP charges arenas, ballparks, nightclubs, television networks and radio stations a fee to use its members' songs. The company distributes some of that money back to the songs' owners as royalties.

Kent says ASCAP paid him between $10,000 and $20,000 in the early 1980s when the San Diego Chargers band reported using the song at games. But after the Chargers did away with the band, Kent's payments dwindled. His attorney says he was paid between $30 and $100 a year — even though stadiums and sports teams across the country were using his song more than ever.

"It's everywhere," Wolfe said.

Last May, finally fed up after years of stewing, Kent severed ties with ASCAP, then sent a letter to every pro sports team in the country, telling them they needed to pay him $3,000 if they wished to continue using Stadium Doodads.

Only the Lakers complied.

A Miami Heat spokeswoman said the Heat never received a note from Kent, and the team doesn't use the charge song.

Kent is now suing ASCAP, saying the company should have been tracking each time the song aired in a stadium — and compensating him for it.

Said ASCAP chief marketing officer Phil Crosland: "Because of the pending litigation, we can make no comment at this time other than to say the lawsuit is wholly without merit."

Kent also plans to sue the more than 100 pro sports teams that ignored his letter last year, his attorney said. In the future, he wants the teams to pay him directly for using his song.

The Lakers, one of the richest teams in the sports world, will get a discount for being honest.

Da-da-da-da-da-da ... CHARGE, says composer 04/18/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 19, 2011 9:46am]
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