Singers Who Were Allegedly Tortured By Their Managers

For better or worse, the singer-manager relationship is a vulnerable one. From the Backstreet Boys to Wiz Khalifa, many musicians claim their managers, producers, and handlers did them wrong.

Whitney Houston

The late Whitney Houston had one of the all-time greatest voices, but despite selling more than 170 million albums worldwide and winning six Grammy awards, she was reportedly living a double life manufactured, in part, by her manager. 

In 1985, music executive Clive Davis took an unknown singer from New Jersey and groomed her to become a pop star for Arista Records, reported People. An insider told the magazine that Houston "had to do what he said, wear what he said to, sing what he wanted her to sing and act like a goody two shoes when she was really a down and dirty girl from Jersey ... Whitney definitely resented that." The source continued, "Clive made her into a mainstream pop star and allowed all of her wildest dreams to come true, but being this massive pop star came at a price. She had to act a certain way in front of the cameras for the label. That wasn't the real Whitney."

Houston allegedly turned to drugs to cope. "She was in pain from all the pressure she was facing and the pain from living almost a double life," a source told People.

Alanis Morissette

Alanis Morissette was one of the '90s and early 2000's most influential singer-songwriters. While her chart-topping career appeared to be lucrative from the outside, Morissette's bank account was reportedly bleeding cash.

In 2016, Morissette sued business manager Jonathan Schwartz and GSO Business Management for breach of fiduciary duty, conversion, fraud and negligence, demanding $15 million in damages, reported the The Hollywood Reporter. According to court documents, the "You Oughta Know" singer claimed Schwartz stole money from right under her nose, "convincing her that she was in tremendous financial shape when, in fact, they were draining her assets and leading her on a road that could have led to financial ruin." A second business manager reportedly discovered that Schwartz made more than 100 transfers from her accounts to invest in "illegal marijuana 'grow' businesses."

In 2017, Schwartz came clean, confessing to stealing more than $4.8 million from Morissette. 


The relationship between NSYNC and its former mentor, Lou Pearlman, turned ugly in 1999. Pearlman filed a $150 million lawsuit against the band for prematurely leaving its contract with Trans Continental Records to join forces with Jive Records, according to Rolling Stone. The suit attempted to stop the group from performing under the NSYNC name and force it to return master recordings.

But the boys of this boy band didn't take the lawsuit lying down. In fact, they countersued for $25 million and spilled the beans about Pearlman's allegedly shady business dealings. According to MTV News, NSYNC claimed Pearlman was a fraud. Member JC Chasez called him an "unscrupulous, greedy" man who "while hugging us and calling us 'family' was picking out pockets, robbing us of our future and even endangering our health." Chasez alleged Pearlman underpaid the group, taking as much as 50 percent of royalties, 100 percent of advances, and 25 percent of recording monies earned, reported Entertainment Weekly.

The lawsuit was eventually settled out of court.

Backstreet Boys

NSYNC wasn't the only boy band to experience a nasty falling out with Pearlman. The Backstreet Boys spoke about problems too. "I mean we thankfully got out of that whole situation when we did, and you know we don't wish bad upon anybody, but karma's karma," said band member A.J. McLean in a damning 2007 feature in Vanity Fair (via MTV News).

The Vanity Fair piece also alleged that Pearlman made sexual advances and behaved inappropriately with musicians entrusted to his care. Former co-manager Phoenix Stone said band member Nick Carter was one of Pearlman's targets. Carter's own mother told the magazine that, "Certain things happened," alleging that financial troubles were "the least of [Pearlman's] injustices."

"You don't necessarily come into this business with a backbone," band member Brian Littrell told the magazine. "You have to grow a backbone. We love music, we've always been about music and touring and traveling and making the fans happy, and at the same time you can get walked all over in this business. Financially and in all kinds of ways. So people coming out now would be like somebody growing a backbone. You know, 'He can't do anything to me now, so it's the time.'"

Pearlman was convicted in 2008 of running a $500 million Ponzi scheme. He was serving a 25-year prison sentence when he died in 2016 at age 62.

Mariah Carey

Before Mariah Carey built her reputation for being a boss on and off the stage, she was just a backup singer who caught a music executive's eye. According to Billboard, Carey and Mottola got together when she was just 19 years old, married in 1993, and split in 1998. During that time, she claimed he was so controlling that he kept her locked in a mansion she dubbed "Sing Sing."

In her 2016 reality show, Mariah's World, Carey describes that difficult period in her life: "I was with someone at the time that had a lot of control over my life. He was older than me by a lot and had a lot of power and he wanted me to remain away from most people, like sequestered," she says (via Stylist). "I had to get permission to leave [the house]."

In Mottola's memoir, Hitmaker: The Man and His Music, he admits it was "absolutely wrong and inappropriate" to get romantically involved with Carey. He writes that he is "truly sorry for any discomfort or pain that all of my good intentions inevitably caused her, and most of all for the scars it left on my two oldest children."

Bryson Tiller

At the time of this writing, R&B sensation Bryson Tiller is caught in a nasty battle between his current management and his former management.

According to TMZ, former manager Steven J. Dorn claims Tiller owes him money and filed a lawsuit to try to collect earnings from the Grammy-nominated "Exhange" star. Dorn claims "he covered [Tiller's] living expenses, child support payments, car insurance and secured recording facilities for him," and Tiller "agreed to pay him back and then split his future income evenly with him," reported TMZ. Dorn says he was removed from his post by Tiller's new lawyer in 2015.

Tiller addressed the "lawsuits and bulls**t" with Harper's Bazaar in 2017. "People say you owe them this and you owe them that. It's just really stressful, you know what I'm saying? I dealt with a lot last year, in dealing with fame and trying to adjust to being an artist or whatever. It's really difficult for me anyway, because I'm so, like, in a shell. This year, I'm just really finally starting to come out of my shell. I guess that was the most stressful part."

Amy Lee

In December 2005, Amy Lee of Evanescence came forward with a myriad of reasons why her former manager was allegedly awful. She filed a lawsuit against Dennis Rider claiming "breach of fiduciary duty," sexual assault, battery, professional negligence and more, reported MTV News.

According to the legal documents (via MTV News), Rider allegedly "neglected Lee's career and business and has focused his efforts on having extramarital affairs, hiding them from his wife, becoming intoxicated during business meetings, physically abusing women and boasting about it, making repeated unwelcome sexual advances toward Lee, receiving fees in excess of what was provided for in his management agreement and using Lee's corporate credit card to purchase gifts for his mistress." Lee even claimed Rider once said he wanted to "perform a gynecological examination on her." The suit sought both unspecified "general and special damages," in addition to "punitive or exemplary damages."

The week before Lee filed her suit, Rider reportedly filed a $10 million breach-of-contract lawsuit against the band, according to the Los Angeles Times. His attorney released a statement denying the allegations: "Ms. Lee is very creative in writing lyrics to a song, but now she is creating a version of reality that simply has no basis in fact, and she knows that." The statement said Rider's "guidance" made Lee "a rock and roll celebrity worldwide and wealthy beyond her dreams."

Kenny Rogers

Country crooner Kenny Rogers and his long-time manager, Ken Kragen, became bitter rivals in 2001, when the late singer-songwriter fired his business partner of 33 years. Rogers claimed Kragen stole talent from his Dreamcatcher Management company, reported Billboard. He sought unspecified compensatory and punitive damages from Kragen on top of ”any and all profits Kragen received through his wrongful conduct.”

Kragen claimed it was Rogers who should pay him the big bucks, alleging the "Islands in the Stream" singer owed him a 50 percent cut of Dreamcatcher's profits from record sales, concert tours, personal appearances, and more. Kragen also wanted compensation for Rogers allegedly interfering with Kragen's other projects.

The dispute was settled behind closed doors in 2003, according to CMT.

Wiz Khalifa

In 2016, Wiz Khalifa filed a lawsuit against his former manager, Benjy Grinberg, and Rostrum Records to end a so-called "360 deal" the rapper allegedly agreed to as a 16-year-old in 2004, according to Variety. Khalifa claimed that contract reached more than a decade into his future and "induced him to enter into a series of transactions that amounted to self dealing," reported Variety.

"An artist's most trusted advisor is his or her personal manager. Generally, nothing good comes out when the manager decides to go into business against his artist. Unfortunately, that is the case here," said Alex Weingarten, Khalifa's attorney (via The Hollywood Reporter). Khalifa reportedly sought $1 million in damages. The rapper fired Grinberg in 2014, stating that the contract was no longer in effect due to the California labor code's seven-year rule. Grinberg countersued, seeking "millions of dollars in unpaid" royalties and earnings from touring and merchandising. 

They settled the dispute in early 2017 for an undisclosed amount.

Tina Turner

Husband and wife duo Ike and Tina Turner had a tumultuous relationship. According to CBS News, the pair met when Tina was just 18 years old and soon began to perform together as the Ike and Tina Turner Revue. Although their shows were wildly successful, life behind-the-scenes was reportedly rife with turmoil and abuse. In Tina's 1986 autobiography, I, Tina, she described her abusive marriage in detail, including bloody fights and a broken jaw. Their rocky union was also chronicled in the film, What's Love Got to Do With It?

"I have had, basically, my face bashed in, and I never did anything about it," Tina said (via CBS News). "I just went through my life because I was all right. And then I started to have problems traveling with my sinuses. So when they went in to correct it, I ended up with...another nose."

Ike sort of confessed to his deplorable behavior in a 1985 Spin magazine interview. "Yeah, I hit her, but I didn't hit her more than the average guy beats his wife," he said (via The Daily Beast). "The truth is, our life was no different from the guy next door's. It's been exaggerated. People buy bad news, dirty news. If she says I abused her, maybe I did."

Mary J. Blige

Mary J. Blige and Kendu Isaacs were the picture-perfect R&B couple for 13 years. She sang, and he produced and managed her career. That came to a screeching halt in July 2016, when she filed for divorce amid allegations of cheating.

According to E! News, Blige asked a judge to deny her estranged husband spousal support. She detailed numerous examples in which he allegedly misused her funds. Blige claimed he spent $420,000 in travel, airfare, and hotels on matters that had nothing to do with her career. Not only that, she said her income helped support his parents as well as his kids from a previous relationship.

The court did not rule in Blige's favor. A judge ordered her to pay Isaacs $30k a month in spousal support in addition to retroactive support, reported TMZ in 2017. Although that sounds like a lot, it's far less than Isaacs' original request — $129,319 per month.

La Toya Jackson

La Toya Jackson has shared troubling details about her marriage to her late ex-husband and manager Jack Gordon, whom she was married to from 1989 to 1997.

During an appearance on The Talk in 2011, Jackson claimed that Gordon offered her up to have sex with another man, for a price. "Mike Tyson later told my mother and father and some other friends that [Gordon] had told him that if he wanted to sleep with me he has to pay $100,000," she said (via the Daily Mail). Not only that, Jackson alleged Gordon forced her to join in group sex and made her pose for Playboy. "I was in brothels and everything," she said. "He put me [in] everything I was against. He made me do Playboy twice and had me sit on the stage and say 'Oh no, it was all my idea.'" She added, "And I had to do that because I knew what he said he would do, he would do it."

In her reality show, Life with La Toya, Jackson said, "I was brainwashed by him. I really felt like a robot. I was being beaten. He dictated my career choices."


Kesha and Dr. Luke's drama dates back to 2014, when she filed a lawsuit attempting to cut all ties to the super producer. The "Tik Tok" singer claimed she was "sexually, physically, verbally, and emotionally abused" so badly she nearly took her own life, according to Rolling Stone. Dr. Luke countersued, and the judge sided with him and the record label, forcing Kesha to keep her contract. 

Dr. Luke's abuse allegedly went beyond forcing her to sing certain songs. He's been accused of forcing her to drop weight, as well. "Dr. Luke had been telling her how she had to get in shape and lose weight and all this stuff," Kesha's mom, Pebe Sebert, told People (via Billboard). "She was exercising and dieting and ultimately doing everything she could, but not getting thin fast enough. And that's when she first became bulimic." 

In early 2017, a judge rejected Kesha's subsequent attempt to get out of her contract with Dr. Luke.