Eric Clapton’s Unplugged remains the best-selling entry in the entire MTV unplugged series, with 7.7 million sold. A traditional blues song off the album is at the heart of a new lawsuit claiming Clapton, his label and others have failed to properly credit a track for 24 years and counting.
“Alberta” is Clapton’s version of a 12-bar blues called “Corrine, Corrina,” which dates back to the late 1920s. It has long been credited to the artist Armenter “Bo Carter” Chatmon. The original was registered with the U.S. Copyright Office in December 1929 in the names of Chatmon and his producer J. Mayo Williams.
The problem is Unplugged credits the song to blues pioneer Lead Belly and not to Chatmon.
The complicating factor seems to have been that Lead Belly wrote a completely different song called “Alberta,” and Clapton attributed his version of “Corrine, Corrina” (in which he sings “Alberta, Alberta” instead of the original lyric) to the more recognizable blues singer.
Chatmon’s estate says it has received no royalties related to Clapton’s performance of it. His estate believes Clapton and his co-defendants are fully aware that the Unplugged versions have been mislabeled all these years, with publishing royalties going to the wrong place.
Chatmon’s estate said it has made attempts to correct the song mixup and fix the royalties issue with the various defendants “to no avail”. The estate is seeking $5 million in damages.