The widow of a violinist who played in the string section for Michael Jackson’s 1982 recording session for “Billie Jean” will finally receive payment for her late husband’s work.
Elizabeth Hill, whose husband was violinist Reginald Hill, will see royalties from his involvement with the chart topper more than 30 years after he completed work on it. At the time of the recording, Hill was only paid $158 (£110) for the session. A principal second violinist for the London Symphony Orchestra before moving to L.A., Hill worked in the entertainment industry and recorded with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Julio Iglesias and Barbara Streisand.
He died in 1992, prior to Britain instituting new laws requiring record companies to pay musicians who worked on recording sessions a portion of the track’s broadcast royalties. The laws also stipulated that payment could continue to be doled out to the families after their death. Back in 2009, Hill’s wife reached out to Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL), the company that monitors performance rights and licensing in the UK, to discuss her deceased husband’s contributions to the Jackson track.
“It first came to my attention when Michael Jackson died. I realized they are going to be playing this stuff a lot—I know Reg did a lot,” Hill told BBC.
PPL rejected her claim for her husband to be added to the “Billie Jean” lineup, forcing Elizabeth Hill to keep searching for more evidence. That evidence was delivered to the company in 2015, after Hill found the original recording contract between Jackson’s record company and Reginald’s union.
“It’s a system that’s just too hard to fight,” Hill said, recalling her efforts to get her husband’s work recognized. “You shouldn’t have to fight—they should be working for us not against us and it feels like we’re fighting them every inch of the way.”