In a joint statement released on Thursday, pop super-producer and composer Dr. Luke and his former protege, singer Kesha, revealed that Dr. Luke had abandoned a defamation lawsuit against Kesha. The news marked the conclusion of a court battle that had captivated the music industry and defined both musicians’ public personas for the better part of a decade.
Social media posts from both parties indicated that they had “agreed to a joint resolution of the lawsuit,” which had been set for trial in New York next month after years of postponement.
Kesha added, “Only God knows what happened that night,” and she followed that up with, “As I have always said, I cannot recount everything that happened.” I can’t wait to put this chapter to rest and go on to the next one in my life. I hope everyone can get along and stop fighting.
While I appreciate Kesha again conceding that she cannot recollect what occurred that night in 2005, I am quite positive that nothing happened,” Dr. Luke, born Lukasz Gottwald, said. I never did anything to her like that, and I never would. I’ve spent over a decade fighting hard to cleanse my reputation for the sake of my loved ones. It’s time for me to put this trying situation in the past. I want the best for Kesha.
The New York Court of Appeals overturned a lower court’s judgement earlier this month that had labelled Dr. Luke a “public figure,” which would have made it harder for him to establish defamation at trial by making him show that Kesha behaved maliciously. According to the court, a state judge should have let Kesha sue Dr. Luke for emotional suffering and financial compensation.
Kesha initiated the legal wrangling in a California civil filing in 2014, claiming that Dr. Luke, a prominent figure in the music industry’s backstage world, had “sexually, physically, verbally, and emotionally abused” her since she was a teenager, and that she deserved to be released from their recording contract as a result. Kesha said that Dr. Luke drugged and raped her at a party shortly after they started working together in 2005.
The next decade was marked by the duo’s collaborative efforts, which yielded platinum album sales and two number one singles (2009’s “Tik Tok” and 2010’s “We R Who We R”). Kesha claimed in a complaint filed in 2014 that she “nearly lost her life” due to the producer’s harassment, which included remarks about her beauty and weight. Celebrities such as Adele, Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, Fiona Apple, Ariana Grande, and Kelly Clarkson eventually joined the #FreeKesha movement as it gained momentum online.
Throughout the legal battle, attorneys for Dr. Luke, a notoriously private figure in the industry, insisted that Kesha’s allegations of rape and abuse were nothing more than “extortionist threats” made by Mark Geragos, Kesha’s attorney at the time, and Kesha’s mother in response to contentious contract negotiations that had begun in 2013.
Dr. Luke countersued for defamation in New York, citing a 2011 sworn deposition in which Kesha declared, “Dr. Luke never made sexual advances at me.” and other contracts Kesha signed after the alleged rape in 2005.
Lawyer Christine Lepera stated in a statement released on Thursday that Dr. Luke “has been consistent from day one that Kesha’s accusations against him were completely false.” Kesha’s public statement was entirely voluntary, and it exonerates Luke since it shows that she had no basis for her accusations against him.
The lawsuits took years to make their way through the courts on both coasts. Despite Kesha’s seeming victory in the court of public opinion (which culminated in an all-star rendition of a survivor’s song at the 2018 Grammy Awards), she has been forced onto the defence in Dr. Luke’s remaining defamation action after having most of her legal claims dismissed in court or dropped.
Kesha’s allegations of gender-based hate crimes, job discrimination, and intentional infliction of emotional distress were dismissed by a New York court in 2016, claiming a lack of evidence and jurisdiction. (Her case in California was put on hold while the New York lawsuit proceeded, and was eventually dismissed.)
Kesha’s case against Dr. Luke stagnated, so she resumed producing albums via his label. On her albums “Rainbow” (2017), “High Ground” (2020), and “Gag Order,” released this month, she made subtle but unmistakable references to their predicament. While the albums were essential in transforming Kesha’s public image from that of a wild party girl to that of an underdog feminist hero, they were financial failures. In May, “Gag Order” opened at No. 187 on the Billboard 200, selling a meagre 8,300 copies.
Dr. Luke’s professional fortunes declined at the same period. Before the Kesha reaction, the producer had a streak of successes with Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, and Kelly Clarkson in the 2000s and early 2010s. Since returning to the spotlight after a period of working behind aliases, Dr. Luke has had success (and Grammy nominations) with artists including Doja Cat, Kim Petras, Nicki Minaj, and Latto.