LONDON — The lead singer of British band Procol Harum is appealing a judgment awarding the group’s former organist 40% of the royalties from their iconic hit “A Whiter Shade of Pale.”
Gary Brooker argues that it was his idea to use the Bach theme played by organist Matthew Fisher on the record, and that he was unable to make his case properly because Fisher didn’t tell him he was pursuing his legal claim.
Fisher, 61, sued the leader of Procol Harum nearly 40 years after he recorded the song, saying he was entitled to both credit and royalties.
On Wednesday, Brooker’s lawyer charged that Fisher had waited until May 2005 to begin court proceedings because he wanted to enjoy the life of a pop star and knew that a lawsuit would end his career with the band.
“There are advantages in being a pop star. Girls wink at you,” attorney John Baldwin said. “There are huge lifestyle benefits from being a pop star and this was Mr. Fisher’s dream, and he realized that dream over the last 40 years.”
In December, a judge awarded Fisher, a classically trained musician, a 40% share in the copyright of the song, saying his organ solo was “a distinctive and significant contribution to the overall composition.”
Brooker has said that he and lyricist Keith Reid wrote the song before Fisher joined the band in March 1967. The two have called Fisher’s court victory a dangerous precedent, saying it meant any musician who had played on any recording in the past four decades could claim joint authorship.
“A Whiter Shade of Pale,” famous for its cryptic lyrics — “We skipped the light fandango, turned cartwheels ‘cross the floor” — topped the British charts for five weeks in 1967 and was a top five hit in the U.S.
Rolling Stone magazine has ranked it 57th in a list of the 500 greatest songs of all time.
Fisher, now a computer programmer living in south London, left the band in 1969. Brooker, 62, still tours with Procol Harum.