For as long as we've known Kesha, her success and sound has been associated with Dr. Luke. That makes it all the more shocking that he's now become the subject of an explosive lawsuit alleging a decade-long pattern of sexual, physical and psychological assault.
It was, after all, longtime producer and Kemosabe Records label head Lukasz "Dr. Luke" Gottwald who reportedly convinced a teenage Kesha to move to Los Angeles from her home in Nashville to pursue a career in music when the singer was just 17. But in a suit made public on Tuesday (October 14), Kesha (born Kesha Rose Sebert) claimed the Grammy-winning producer to the stars bullied and verbally abused her to the point where she was suicidal and feared for her life. Gottwald has since filed a countersuit denying those claims.
According to TMZ, Kesha has a legally binding contract with Dr. Luke. The producer now says that the lawsuit she filed is simple an attempt to extort him in order to gain release from their deal. Dr. Luke's lawyer told the site that Kesha and her mother, Pebe Sebert, have allegedly already admitted that statements in her lawsuit are false.
But a lawyer for Kesha, Mark Geragos, refuted the accusations, telling MTV News in a statement, "This is just another pathetic and entirely predictable example of Dr. Luke’s continued abuse, and a misguided attempt to keep Kesha under his tyrannical control." (A spokesperson for Dr. had not responded to our requests for comment at press time.)
So how did Kesha and Luke end up in this spot after nearly a 10-year run of what looked, to fans, like a hit-making partnership a would-be pop star would envy? MTV News looked back to try to make sense of it all.
The Early Days
Kesha and Dr. Luke first started working together in 2005, when a then-18-year-old Kesha signed to Luke's Kemosabe Entertainment label and publishing company, Prescription Songs. Kesha soon went off on her own to write songs for Paris Hilton and The Veronicas, and she also sang the hook on Flo Rida's "Right Round." Though she briefly worked with another management company, Kesha reunited with Luke for her debut album, Animal, which Luke executive-produced.
Luke is listed as a co-producer and co-writer on nearly every track from the album for which Kesha had been writing songs for more than five years, including such hits as "Your Love Is My Drug" and "Tik Tok." The album made Kesha a star, and it cemented her musical identity as a fun-loving, wild child thanks to songs such as "Party At a Rich Dude's House."
The Warrior Era
By the time Kesha began work on her 2012 follow-up, Warrior, she was a seasoned live performer with a strong vision of what she wanted to write about on the album's more personal songs. Once again, she worked with a stable of the industry's proven hitmakers, including Benny Blanco, Bonnie McKee, Greg Kurstin, Max Martin and Fun.'s Nate Ruess.
And, once again, Luke was listed as a co-producer on nearly every track and co-writer on hits like "Die Young" and "Crazy Kids." While she was appearing in her own MTV docu-series, "Kesha: My Crazy Beautiful Life," Kesha's fans launched an online petition to "free" her from the grip of Luke, whom some fans blamed for the record underperforming.
The 'Free Kesha' Movement Goes Viral
In October of 2013, the "Free Kesha" movement picked up steam, as fans who felt that Luke was stunting the singer's artistry by forcing her to sing the "same generic, predictable, recycled pop songs," leaked a pair of raw demos that presented Kesha as more of a rocker than pop singer.
It was also reported at the time that Kesha felt she lacked creative control over Warrior and that dozens of her songs were rejected by Luke during recording.
But What Does Kesha Want?
While it was unclear how the fans got their hands on the trip-hoppy "Dirty Liar" or the slightly more pop "First Love," at one point they released a 14-track mixtape, What Ke$ha Wants: The Creative Freedom Movement, which was briefly available for download. Kesha told MTV even she didn't know how the Movement found the old demos, but she said that she had started working on the follow-up to Warrior, which would be about a serious heartbreak she'd suffered.
It was also in October 2013 that Rolling Stone, in an interview, asked Kesha if she'd seen her fans' petition to free her from her contract with Dr. Luke. "I have, yeah," she responded. When asked if she supported their demand to stop working with Dr. Luke, her answer was vague:
"I feel like my fans are really protective of me. They just want to see me grow as an artist, which I agree with. Hopefully in the future, I'll be in a position where I can put out a ballad or a more vulnerable song."
A Break From Dr. Luke?
With her Pitbull hookup "Timber" taking off in fall 2013, Kesha suggested she might move back to her more country-ish Nashville roots in the future, which some fans suggested may have been a hint that she was already plotting a break with Luke.
"My mom wrote country music, and I grew up in Nashville and I love country music, so I definitely think there’s a way to mush a little country and blues into a little rock and roll, because that’s my other favorite kind of music: cock rock," she said. "So, we’ll see. Something interesting will happen, I’m sure."
Rehab And Revelations
In January 2014, Kesha announced she'd entered a rehab facility in Chicago to deal with an eating disorder. "I’m a crusader for being yourself and loving yourself, but I’ve found it hard to practice," she said at the time, saying she was seeking treatment in order to "learn to love myself again, exactly as I am."
A month later, she postponed some tour dates in order to extend her rehab stay. Around that time mom Pebe checked into the same facility to deal with what was described as post-traumatic stress disorder. Sebert claimed in multiple interviews around that time that Dr. Luke had put pressure on her daughter to lose weight, an allegation he vehemently denied.
"He has just always been very disrespectful about her weight," Kesha's mother told People in January 2014. "He'd say it in certain ways, like 'Why don't you try running?' She was doing everything and not getting thin fast enough, and that's when she first became bulimic."
Kesha's lawsuit charges that Dr. Luke told her "you are not that pretty and you are not talented, you are just lucky to have me," and that he called her a "fat f--king refrigerator."
A Stab At A Fresh Start
In March 2014, after leaving rehab, Kesha dropped the signature dollar sign from her name and said she was working on "tons" of new music. And while it remains to be seen who the dueling lawsuits will play out, Luke -- who has worked with practically every female pop star of note over the past decade, including Kelly Clarkson, Pink, Katy Perry, Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, and, most recently Taylor Swift -- continues apace, recently collaborating with everyone from Wiz Khalifa and Maroon 5 to Juicy J and Becky G.