Rolling Stones give ‘Bitter Sweet Symphony’ song rights back to The Verve

Perhaps old age has softened the Stones.

After more than two decades, Rolling Stones frontmen Mick Jagger and Keith Richards have finally relinquished their rights over The Verve’s legacy, their singular hit “Bitter Sweet Symphony,” which has been part of a legendary copyright dispute since the song’s release in 1997.

“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,” says Verve songwriter Richard Ashcroft in a statement released on the same day the artist took home an Ivor Novello award for his outstanding contribution to British music.

The song defined the British rock group The Verve, whose career was arguably stunted by the fallout with The Stones. The song reached No. 2 on the UK charts and No. 12 in the US, where it also garnered a Grammy nod for best rock song. Their third album “Urban Hymns,” which featured the chart-topper, hit No. 1 in the UK and went platinum 10 times over, selling 10 million copies globally.

The album’s success didn’t stop the band from their going separate ways in 1999. Ashcroft went on to found another group, RPA & The United Nations of Sound, and also released five solo records, including 2018’s “Natural Rebel.” The Verve reunited briefly in 2007 and released the aptly named album, “Forth.”

The signature hook in “Bitter Sweet Symphony” is a four-second orchestral sample lifted from Rolling Stones song “The Last Time.” ABKCO Records, owned by Stones manager Allen Klein, had claimed that the rights had never fully cleared upon the track’s release, arguing that the portion used in the song was longer than they’d agreed. A lawsuit was settled out of court, and Ashcroft was forced to share writing credit — placing his own name last in line: Jagger/Richards/Ashcroft.

Ashcroft later called the embattled recording “the best song Jagger and Richards have written in 20 years.”

But after a recent plea to Jagger, who is currently recovering from heart surgery, and Richards, Ashcroft’s management company says the pair have “immediately, unhesitatingly and unconditionally agreed” to award all future royalties to the alt-rock star.

Ashcroft had many to thank for the long-awaited resolution: “My management Steve Kutner and John Kennedy, the Stones manager Joyce Smyth and Jody Klein (for actually taking the call), lastly a huge unreserved heartfelt thanks and respect to Mick and Keith. Music is power.”

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