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Famous Music was the worldwide music publishing division of Paramount Pictures, a division of Viacom since 1994. Its copyright holdings span several decades and includes music from such Academy Award-winning motion pictures as The Godfather and Forrest Gump. It was founded in 1928 by Paramount’s predecessor, the Famous-Lasky Corporation, to publish music from its "talking pictures." Some of the classic songs in the Famous Music catalog that originated in motion pictures include "Moon River", "Thanks for the Memory", "Silver Bells", "Mona Lisa", "Where do I Begin?" (the theme from Love Story), "Speak Softy Love" (the theme from The Godfather), "Up Where We Belong", "Footloose", "Take My Breath Away" and "My Heart Will Go On".
Famous Music additionally owned music and songs from television programs produced by Paramount until ownership of most of those songs was transferred to CBS in 2006 as part of Viacom's split into two separate companies — CBS and "new" Viacom. These included such classics as the "Theme from Mission: Impossible" (ownership remained with Paramount), the "Theme from Star Trek" and "Where Everybody Knows Your Name" (the theme from Cheers).
Famous Music also provided licensing and administration services for many prominent music catalog owners such as CBS Television, The Clyde Otis Music Catalogs, as well as for other Viacom divisions including MTV, Nickelodeon and BET.
Starting mostly in the late 1980s and continuing until the company was sold in 2007 (see below), Famous Music was very active in acquiring songs that did not originate in Paramount motion pictures or television programs. These included the purchase of many works from the Duke Ellington catalog, as well as acquisition or administration agreements with recording artists and producers such as Shakira, Eminem, Akon, She Wants Revenge, Boyz II Men, Björk, Gavin Rossdale, Linda Perry, Kike Santander, Irv Gotti, Placebo, Modest Mouse, Jet and P.O.D..
For a number of years, Famous Music also had a record label group division which included Blue Thumb Records, Dot Records and Paramount Records. In 1974 these were acquired by ABC Records for $5.5 million with most of the Famous labels absorbed into ABC Records.
The catalogs of all the ABC/Famous Music labels are now owned by Universal Music Group (with some exceptions, for example, the 1968-1970 catalog of Stax Records, which during that period was owned by Famous, is owned by Concord Music Group, itself distributed by UMG.
Various labels under Universal manage different parts of the catalog depending on the genre. Here are some examples:
- Pop, rock, R&B: Geffen Records (founded by David Geffen, later a co-founder of DreamWorks)
- Country: MCA Nashville Records
- Jazz: Impulse! Records
- Classical: Deutsche Grammophon
- Musical theater: Decca Broadway
- All genres: Famous Records Corp. Famous Music Group 2008–Present
- Hillary Lindsey
- Green Bottle Records
- John Lee Hooker
- David Tolk
- Jonathan Mead Radford
- "Michael Jackson buys rights to Eminem tunes and more". Rolling Stone. 2007-05-31. Retrieved 2008-06-23.
- Scott Roxborough, "BMG Buys Virgin, Famous Music Catalog From Sony/ATV", Hollywood Reporter, December 21, 2012.
- "Famous Labels Bought By ABC", Billboard, August 10, 1974.
- Famous Music Videos Database Collection.