UPDATED: Nearly 22 years after the Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony” was released, the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger and Keith Richards have assigned to Richard Ashcroft the songwriter royalties and rights from the song, which samples one of their compositions, and removed their writing credits. The news was first reported by the BBC and New Musical Express.
The song, a global hit in 1997, samples a segment of an orchestral version of the Jagger-Richards 1965 composition “The Last Time” from an album by erstwhile Stones manager and producer Andrew Loog Oldham. The sample was not fully cleared, and after a legal tussle with Abkco, the song’s publisher, Ashcroft signed away his rights and royalties to “Bittersweet Symphony,” frequently complaining about it in the press (although the sample is a prominent element in the song).
But in a statement released today after Ashcroft received the PRS for Music Outstanding Contribution to British Music award at the Ivor Novello Awards earlier today (May 23), Ashcroft announced that he has regained his royalties from the song.
“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’,” the statement reads. “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.
“I would like to thank the main players in this, my management Steve Kutner and John Kennedy, the Stones manager Joyce Smyth and [Abkco CEO] Jody Klein (for actually taking the call) lastly a huge unreserved heartfelt thanks and respect to Mick and Keith. Music is power.”
Reached by Variety, a rep for the Stones did not comment but sent the text of Ashcroft’s statement; a rep for Abkco declined Variety‘s request for comment. However, a source clarified to Variety that Jagger and Richards assigned their songwriter royalties to Ashcroft, but not control or publishing rights to the song.
Ashcroft told the BBC that the dispute came to an end following negotiations with Klein, son of Abkco founder Allen Klein, and Stones manager Joyce Smith.
“It’s been a fantastic development,” he said. “It’s life-affirming in a way.”
The song was the biggest hit from the second of the Verve’s three incarnations. The group split in 1995, regrouped in 1997 for “Urban Hymns,” the album that includes “Bittersweet Symphony,” split again in 1999 and regrouped again from 2007-2009. Ashcroft released his fifth solo album, “Natural Rebel,” last October.