The Rolling Stones have returned the songwriting credit for the Verve’s “Bitter Sweet Symphony” back to Richard Ashcroft. The song, the first single from the band’s 1997 album Urban Hymns, is at the the center of an infamous dispute over its credits. The track samples an orchestral arrangement of the Stones’ 1965 song “The Last Time” that was performed by the Andrew Oldham Orchestra.
The looping sample doesn’t appear on the Stones’ original song, but Ashcroft was sued in the late ’90s by the Stones’ then-manager and figurehead Allen Klein, who died in 2009. He was forced to give up the songwriting credit on the song, ceding it to the Stones’ Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, and forfeited all the royalties and publishing rights to Klein’s company ABKCO Records. The band was also sued by Andrew Loog Oldham, who owned the orchestral rights, saying that they sampled a longer portion of the recording than was originally agreed upon.
The song was subsequently nominated for a Grammy Award For Best Rock Song in 1999 with Jagger and Richards credited as songwriters. All the legal drama around the band losing the rights to the song (and the paycheck that goes along with that) contributed to them breaking up soon after the Grammys for a bit.
But now, after Ashcroft won a commendation for an outstanding contribution to British music at the Ivor Novello Awards, he announced that, after reaching out to Jagger and Richards directly, he was able to secure the rights back to “Bitter Sweet Symphony.” Here’s his statement:
It gives me great pleasure to announce as of last month Mick Jagger and Keith Richards agreed to give me their share of the song Bitter Sweet Symphony. 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.
I would like to thank the main players in this, my management Steve Kutner and John Kennedy, the Stones manager Joyce Smyth and Jody Klein (for actually taking the call) lastly a huge unreserved heartfelt thanks and respect to Mick and Keith.
Music is power.
Read our 20th anniversary piece on “Bitter Sweet Symphony” from 2017.