'Bitter Sweet Symphony' Credits And Royalties Given Back To The Verve By Jagger, Richards A songwriting dispute left the Britpop band bereft of royalties from its biggest hit, "Bitter Sweet Symphony." More than 20 years later, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards have signed over their rights.
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Not Bitter, Just Sweet: The Rolling Stones Give Royalties To The Verve

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Not Bitter, Just Sweet: The Rolling Stones Give Royalties To The Verve

Not Bitter, Just Sweet: The Rolling Stones Give Royalties To The Verve

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NOEL KING, HOST:

Two British bands, the Rolling Stones and The Verve, have finally resolved a songwriting dispute that went on for more than 20 years. Here's NPR's Anastasia Tsioulcas.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE VERVE SONG, "BITTER SWEET SYMPHONY")

ANASTASIA TSIOULCAS, BYLINE: "Bitter Sweet Symphony" was the song that made The Verve back in 1997.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE VERVE SONG, "BITTER SWEET SYMPHONY")

TSIOULCAS: It became an international hit.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BITTER SWEET SYMPHONY")

THE VERVE: (Singing) Cause it's a bittersweet symphony, this life.

TSIOULCAS: But shortly after it was released, The Verve was sued for plagiarism by the Rolling Stones. Those lush, hypnotic strings leaned very heavily on an instrumental version of the Stones' song, "The Last Time."

(SOUNDBITE OF THE ROLLING STONES SONG, "THE LAST TIME")

TSIOULCAS: And this is where the story gets complicated. This version of "The Last Time" is an arrangement, recorded in 1965, by the Andrew Oldham Orchestra. That was a side project with session musicians created by the Stones' manager and record producer. And the Rolling Stones got the songwriting credits.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE ROLLING STONES SONG, "THE LAST TIME")

TSIOULCAS: Spin forward about 30 years. The Verve got permission to use a few notes of the string melody. The deal was that The Verve would pass over half of the royalties. Once "Bitter Sweet Symphony" dropped, the Stones said that the younger musicians had used far more of "The Last Time" than had been agreed upon. So The Verve settled. They gave Mick Jagger and Keith Richards songwriter credits and handed over all the publishing royalties.

And it stayed that way until last week. Verve singer Richard Ashcroft announced in London on Wednesday that finally, Jagger and Richards were giving the credit and royalties back. Ironically, "The Last Time" has an even longer history if you work your way backwards. The Rolling Stones released their version in 1965...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE LAST TIME")

THE ROLLING STONES: (Singing) Well, this could be the last time. This could be the last time.

TSIOULCAS: But about a decade earlier, gospel legends The Staple Singers put out this song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THIS MAY BE THE LAST TIME")

THE STAPLE SINGERS: (Singing) This may be my last time. May be my last time.

TSIOULCAS: In a 2003 interview, Keith Richards acknowledged the Staple Singers version but he claimed, quote, "luckily the song itself goes back into the mists of time."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THIS MAY BE THE LAST TIME")

THE STAPLE SINGERS: (Singing) This may be my last time.

TSIOULCAS: Anastasia Tsioulcas, NPR News.

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