It’s one of the most recognisable songs from the 1990s: the Verve’s Bitter Sweet Symphony. And most folks were fully aware the song sampled a Rolling Stones track in its string section. What fans may not have realised is that the Stones ended up suing the Verve, with the latter subsequently missing out on two decades worth of total royalties – that is all profits from the song since 1998, the year of its U.S. release.
Yep, far more bitter than sweet.
Despite the fact that only a few seconds of The Rolling Stones’ song The Last Time are used and repeated throughout Bitter Sweet Symphony – and the fact that Verve front-man Richard Ashcroft wrote and sang all of the lyrics – the Stones still managed to weasel every cent made from the tune since ’98.
After two decades, the Rolling Stones have voluntarily returned the songwriting credits for ‘Bitter Sweet Symphony’ to their rightful owner.
It was a lawsuit by former Stones manager Allen Klein that forced Ashcroft to hand over 100 percent of royalties to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards and – get this – the pair had nothing to do with the ethereal strings sampled by Ashcroft and Co.
Pleasant news is at hand, however, for after two decades, the Rolling Stones have voluntarily returned the songwriting credits for Bitter Sweet Symphony to their rightful owner, with Ashcroft having made the announcement at the Ivor Novello Awards recently.
While accepting a lifetime achievement award, Ashcroft said: “As of last month, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards signed over all their publishing for Bitter Sweet Symphony, which was a magnanimous thing for them to do.”
He later added in an interview with the BBC: “I never had a personal beef with the Stones. They’ve always been the greatest rock & roll band in the world.”
So minimal is the animosity between the artists, Ashcroft supported The Rolling Stones on a UK tour in 2018, wearing a Stones t-shirt on stage and packing his set with songs like Lucky Man, Sonnet and – no surprise here – Bitter Sweet Symphony.
A bitter battle with a sweet ending, then.