A 2008 Universal Studios Fire Destroyed Masters From The Roots, Quincy Jones, Eric B. And Rakim & More
The fire destroyed an estimated 500,000 song titles.
In 2008, a fire occurred at a part of Universal Studios Hollywood. At the time, the company said that the fire had destroyed the theme park’s King Kong attraction and a video vault containing only copies of old works.
However, a new story by the New York Times highlights how that fire led to the destruction of countless single and album masters from artists throughout the 20th and 21st century including the Roots, Quincy Jones, Eric. B and Rakim, Snoop Dogg, and others.
According to the Times, the fire had been reported on throughout the world but the music archive destroyed in the vault went largely unreported. The story notes a previous Times report on the incident, which didn’t mention the damage to the masters but that “a vault full of video and television images’ had burned up and that “in no case was the destroyed material the only copy of a work.”
Turns out that an estimated 500,000 song titles were destroyed in the fire. Per the Times:
“The list of destroyed single and album masters takes in titles by dozens of legendary artists, a genre-spanning who’s who of 20th- and 21st-century popular music. It includes recordings by Benny Goodman, Cab Calloway, the Andrews Sisters, the Ink Spots, the Mills Brothers, Lionel Hampton, Ray Charles, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Clara Ward, Sammy Davis Jr., Les Paul, Fats Domino, Big Mama Thornton, Burl Ives, the Weavers, Kitty Wells, Ernest Tubb, Lefty Frizzell, Loretta Lynn, George Jones, Merle Haggard, Bobby (Blue) Bland, B.B. King, Ike Turner, the Four Tops, Quincy Jones, Burt Bacharach, Joan Baez, Neil Diamond, Sonny and Cher, the Mamas and the Papas, Joni Mitchell, Captain Beefheart, Cat Stevens, the Carpenters, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Al Green, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Elton John, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Buffett, the Eagles, Don Henley, Aerosmith, Steely Dan, Iggy Pop, Rufus and Chaka Khan, Barry White, Patti LaBelle, Yoko Ono, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the Police, Sting, George Strait, Steve Earle, R.E.M., Janet Jackson, Eric B. and Rakim, New Edition, Bobby Brown, Guns N’ Roses, Queen Latifah, Mary J. Blige, Sonic Youth, No Doubt, Nine Inch Nails, Snoop Dogg, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Hole, Beck, Sheryl Crow, Tupac Shakur, Eminem, 50 Cent and the Roots.”
Following the story’s release, Questlove shared it on Twitter, adding: “For everyone asking why Do You Want More & Illdelph Halflife wont get reissue treatment.” The tweet seems to imply that masters for the Roots’ second and third albums, Do You Want More?!!!??! and Illadelph Halflife, were lost in the fire.
For everyone asking why Do You Want More & Illdelph Halflife wont get reissue treatment https://t.co/Vs0ykRcyAK
— Questlove De La Rose (@questlove) June 11, 2019
The report also says that most of John Coltrane’s masters from his time at Impulse! Records were destroyed, as well as masters from artists like Alice Coltrane, Sun Ra, Charles Mingus, and others who had released projects through Impulse!.
The rest of the story can be read here.
Source: New York Times