Rolling Stones Give ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ Back to Verve Frontman
The Rolling Stones have given the royalties and rights from the song “Bitter Sweet Symphony” back to Richard Ashcroft, frontman of the ‘90s British band the Verve. In doing so, they bring an end to a battle that's lasted more than two decades.
“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 said in a statement. “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.”
“Bittersweet Symphony” was a worldwide hit in 1997, catapulting the Verve to stardom and earning the band regular rotation on MTV. The song sampled four seconds of music from Andrew Loog Oldham’s orchestral recording of the Stones’ song "The Last Time." The Verve did not get complete permission to use the sample and legal pressure forced Ashcroft to sign over his rights.
This result meant that the Verve and Ashcroft, the song’s writer, never earned a penny from “Bittersweet Symphony"'s success. For example, when the song was used in a film like Cruel Intentions or a TV show like The Simpsons, the licensing money went to the Stones.
You can see clips from those two examples below.
As recently as last year, Ashcroft vowed he’d get rights to the song back, criticizing Jagger and Richards for their silence over what he viewed as musical injustice. “I’m coming for that money,” Ashcroft said in a 2018 interview with Consequence of Sound. “Someone stole God knows how many million dollars off me in 1997, and they’ve still got it. … I don’t care where you come from, that’s a serious matter.”
Now the matter has been put to rest, and, despite the turmoil, Ashcroft said he’s always respected and admired the Stones. "I never had a personal beef with the Stones," he told the BBC. "They've always have been the greatest rock 'n' roll band in the world."