My colleague Rosalind Bentley wrote this in today’s print edition:
“General” Larry Platt jumped from his chair, dashed off the porch of the tiny house in Reynoldstown and scooted into the driver’s seat of a car in the driveway.
“I got it right here,” he said, fiddling with the car stereo.
In seconds, bass throbbed from the speakers and careened off the graffitied walls of the boarded-up house across the street.
“Pants on the ground! Pants on the ground! You looking like a fool with your pants on the ground!”
The tidy yard filled with pots of cabbage and tomato plants was Platt’s stage as he danced in the grass and sang along. “Gold in your mouth, hat turned sideways …” Seated on the porch, his manager Earl Little, “friend” Sally Harley and a visitor looked on. The “general” did not stop singing until the last note of the song he made famous in January when he auditioned for “American Idol.”
But is it legally his song?
In that now-famous audition, Platt warbled his tune for the “Idol” judges about the questionable fashion statement of young men coast to coast. That two-minute a cappella performance inspired a slew of Internet parodies and led Platt to appearances in Las Vegas, at the Grammys and the Georgia Capitol.
That’s the upside of his 15 minutes. Now Platt finds himself in the middle of a legal squabble over rights to the hip-hop version of the song he recorded after his “Idol” turn — the version he danced to in the yard.
New York rapper Shawn Mims claims to have arranged the hip-hop version of “Pants,” making him a co-author. He also claims on his Facebook page to be a co-founder of American King Music, the company that recorded that tune in an Atlanta studio with Platt. Those things entitle Mims to distribution rights and a percentage of the revenue, according to a lawsuit Mims filed against Platt in March.
In a countersuit, Platt and his attorney, Phaedra Parks (who is doing her own reality TV turn as the latest addition to “The Real Housewives of Atlanta”), say Platt owns sole rights to “Pants.” Leron Rogers, a Norcross attorney for Mims and American King Music, said last week that the parties were in talks to settle the case out of court, perhaps as early as this week. In an e-mailed statement sent through her firm, Parks said the music company has offered a settlement and it is “being evaluated.”
An agreement could come just in time for tonight’s “Idol” season finale. And since Platt is expected to be a part of the show, sales of the tune could get a timely boost.
It’s a mess that might be laughable if not for the fact that the hip-hop version of “Pants” could make the unemployed, 63-year-old Platt a little money. Perhaps not a lot, but more than he appears to have now. Maybe more than this longtime gadfly has ever had.
Platt likes to say that he came up with the song because he was tired of seeing young men walking down the street in droopy pants. He’s a civil rights veteran who walked in the Selma to Montgomery “Bloody Sunday” march in 1965, who helped search for the missing and murdered children of Atlanta in the 1980s and most recently protested the rash of home foreclosures in Fulton County.
“They embarrass us, the civil rights leaders,” said Platt, the father of two grown daughters. “This is indecent exposure. I want to get these people to act like human beings.”
So now Platt finds himself not only trying to influence behavior, but to control his song. According to the plaintiff’s lawsuit, Mims had a verbal agreement to distribute the hip-hop version of the song. But after Platt changed management and no paperwork was signed, American King Music distributed the song anyway.
The song has been for sale through iTunes and other online outlets. Platt stood to make 35 percent of the profits, according to licensing documents. Money from sales are being held in a trust account controlled by Rogers’ law firm, according to the lawsuit.
At this point it’s not clear what money Platt will ever see from sales. But that hasn’t stopped him from singing his tune.
After his impromptu dance on the lawn last week, Platt sat back on the porch. Soon a young man in a white T-shirt and black shorts walked by, his underpants clearly visible from the back.
Platt began to sing: “Pants on the ground, pants on the ground …”