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Long Battle Over a Famous Song Is Finally Over

Mick Jagger, Keith Richards relinquish royalties over 'Bitter Sweet Symphony' by the Verve
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 24, 2019 9:56 AM CDT

(Newser) – You've surely heard the song "Bitter Sweet Symphony," which made stars of the band the Verve in the 1990s. What you may not have known is that the song has since been embroiled in a copyright dispute involving none other than Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, who've been collecting royalties on the hit for more than two decades. No more: Verve lead singer Richard Ashcroft said this week that Jagger and Richards "signed over all their publishing for 'Bitter Sweet Symphony,' which was a truly kind and magnanimous thing for them to do," per the BBC. From now on, Ashcroft will collect the song's royalties. The dispute revolved around a borrowed song sample, but this case wasn't as straightforward as most.

Rolling Stone magazine and NPR explain the background: Decades ago, the Stones had a hit with "The Last Time." Then the Andrew Oldham Orchestra released a symphonic cover version. The Verve came along and got permission to sample part of that symphonic version—the distinctive opening on "Bitter Sweet Symphony." Stones manager Allen Klein successfully sued, arguing that the Verve used more of the song than they were allowed. Then former Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham (the orchestra was his side project) also successfully sued, the upshot being that Ashcroft and the Verve lost all credit for the song. Until now. Rolling Stone magazine, meanwhile, notes that one name is not in this mix: David Whitaker, the orchestra arranger who wrote the portion sampled by the Verve. (Read more Rolling Stones stories.)

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