The Verve’s Richard Ashcroft finally secures ‘Bitter Sweet Symphony’ royalties after Rolling Stones legal battle
It’s one of the biggest indie rock songs of all time — and for 20 years British band The Verve didn’t make a cent off “Bitter Sweet Symphony.”
But lead singer Richard Ashcroft will finally get royalties for the track after a long-running copyright dispute with the Rolling Stones.
“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,’ ” Ashcroft wrote on Twitter on Thursday night, the same day he won an Ivor Novello Award for outstanding contribution to British music.
“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 will now pass to me.”
Publicists for the Rolling Stones confirmed to CNN that future royalties for the track will go to Ashcroft, rather than Jagger and Richards, and that the musicians will no longer require a writing credit for the song.
Released in 1997, “Bitter Sweet Symphony” sampled a segment of an orchestral recording from the Stones’ 1965 song “The Last Time,” according to Rolling Stone magazine.
The Verve had a license to use the sample, but lawyers for the Stones successfully argued that more was used than allowed — and The Verve had to give up all royalties for the hit.
It must have been an expensive loss. “Bitter Sweet Symphony” was named NME’s song of the year in 1997. In an interview with music journalist Kyle Meredith in 2018, Ashcroft said: “Someone stole god knows how much million dollars off me in 1997 and they’ve still got it.”
The song reached No. 2 on the UK Official Singles Charts, and stayed on the charts for 24 weeks.
In his tweet, Ashcroft thanked his management and the Stones’ managers. “Lastly a huge unreserved heartfelt thanks and respect to Mick and Keith,” he wrote. “Music is power.”
The song has been viewed more than 450 million times on YouTube.
Ashcroft told the UK’s Press Association news agency: “It always left a slight bitter taste obviously. At least I can sit next to my son now and go, ‘Yeah, I wrote that.’
“Many, many dollars have gone under the bridge. But it’s not really about the dollars, it never really was. It was about being credited for what you’d done. The amount of time I spent on that tune was incredible.”