July 9, 2019
The Verve’s 1997 hit song “Bitter Sweet Symphony” was one of the most popular songs of the Britpop era. Verve frontman Richard Ashcroft never received any profits from the track due to a copyright ruling.
In “Bitter Sweet Symphony”, the Verve sampled an orchestral cover of the Rolling Stones’ song “The Last Time”. The original license granted The Verve permission to use a five-note segment of the orchestral cover in exchange for 50% of the royalties earned. However, after “Bitter Sweet Symphony” was released, the former Stones manager, Allen Klein, sued for 100% of the royalties on the basis that the sample the Verve actually used was longer than was contemplated by the original license. Klein’s suit was successful, and Ashcroft was forced to give 100% of the song’s royalties to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.
The BBC reports that the Stones have now voluntarily returned the songwriting credits for “Bitter Sweet Symphony” to Ashcroft and all future royalties from the song will now be Ashcroft’s. The news was announced by Ashcroft himself as he accepted a lifetime achievement honour at the Ivor Novello Awards.
In an interview with the BBC, Ashcroft characterized the news as “life-affirming,” adding that he “never had a personal beef with the Stones. They’ve always been the greatest rock & roll band in the world.”
Bitter Sweet Symphony has sold 1,276,209 copies in the United Kingdom alone.
Authors: Amanda Bertucci and Shadi Varkiani