Quickly establishing itself as a longstanding late-90’s anthem, The Verve’s “Bitter Sweet Symphony” became a staple of the then-burgeoning “britpop” movement due in no small part to that catchy orchestral sample underpinning the bulk of the song (you know the one).
That memorable sample, however—lifted from an orchestral rendition of the Rolling Stones’ “The Last Time”—lead to the band not seeing a penny from the song’s massive success. Well, until now.
After the release of the 1997 single, the band was sued by Stones manager Allan Klein on the accusation that “Symphony” ended up employing a longer sample of the track than the two parties had agreed upon. Settled out of court, the issue led to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards being added to the single’s songwriting credits—and receiving 100% of all royalty payments from the single over the last 22 years.
The tides of this unfortunate situation seem to have changed, with news surfacing that Jagger and Richards have ceded their songwriting credits—and thus all royalty entitlements—after a direct appeal from Verve frontman Richard Ashcroft.
A representative for the Rolling Stones not only confirmed the transfer of sole songwriting credits to Ashcroft, but expressed remorse over the whole situation: “The only deal that [Allan Klein] was prepared to do involved Richard effectively signing away all of his rights in one of his most iconic songs, including the total lyrical content. Of course there was a huge financial cost, but any songwriter will know that there is a huge emotional price greater than the money in having to surrender the composition of one of your own songs. Richard has endured that loss for many years.”
Despite the controversy, Ashcroft has never held any bitter blood toward the legendary rockers —“I never had a personal beef with the Stones. They’ve always been the greatest rock & roll band in the world,” he claimed in an interview on the situation—even expressing his thanks to Jagger and Richards when he announced this recent development.
“This remarkable and life-affirming turn of events was made possible by a kind and magnanimous gesture from Mick and Keith, who have also agreed that they are happy for the writing credit to exclude their names and all their royalties derived from the song they will now pass to me,” Ashcroft stated this week while accepting the Ivor Novello Award for “ Outstanding Contribution To British Music.” Over two decades later, it appears that one of the most controversial copyright symphonies in modern music has turned from bitter to sweet.