The Verve frontman has settled his dispute over Bitter Sweet Symphony but this wont be the last row over songwriting royalties
Richard Ashcroft received an outstanding contribution to British music accolade at the Ivor Novello awards last week, and took the opportunity to confirm that the rights to the Verves Bitter Sweet Symphony had been transferred back to him after a 22-year dispute with the Rolling Stones.
Famously, the soaring strings that propel the song are a sample of an orchestral version of the Stones The Last Time, and the Verve had been granted permission to use part of it in return for 50% of the track. However, the Stones late manager Allen Klein eventually sued, claiming a larger portion than agreed had been used, and royalties and joint songwriting credits were passed to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.
As of last month, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards signed over all their publishing for Bitter Sweet Symphony, which was a truly kind and magnanimous thing for them to do, said Ashcroft, who had to relinquish credit for the melody and lyrics. Of course there was a huge financial cost, but any songwriter will know that there is a huge emotional price greater than the money in having to surrender the composition of one of your own songs. Richard has endured that loss for many years, a spokesperson for the Stones told Music Week. It is a good look for both parties: the Stones appear generous and gracious (though I cant imagine the loss of these particular royalties will do much to dent their bank balances), and Ashcroft gets the satisfaction of a wrong being publicly righted, at last. But this looks like a rare moment of optimism in an increasingly thorny and overgrown field.
The OneRepublic frontman and songwriter Ryan Tedder, who has created monster hits with and for Beyonc, Adele and Ariana Grande among others, told the BBC of his concerns about copyright lawsuits. Its a conversation in every writing session, he said. The odds of getting sued in this day and age are so high, were going to get to a point where nobody can write anything, because everything will be derivative of something else.
Once again, the damage caused by the Blurred Lines case, in which Marvin Gayes estate successfully sued Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams, radiates outwards.
The blurring of lines between what is considered to be inspiration and what is deemed intentional copying is dangerous, and contradicts the generosity of spirit that often motivates artistic endeavours in the first place. It is a bizarre state of affairs, surely, when Jagger and Richards prove to be the voices of reason and common sense.