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The Verve’s ‘Bitter Sweet Symphony’ Returns to Charts After Songwriting Dispute Resolved

The song first became a hit in 1997, and issues over its Rolling Stones sample followed until recently.

The Verve revisits Billboard‘s charts following the May 23 news that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones relinquished their share of royalties for “Bitter Sweet Symphony,” the former’s signature hit, more than two decades after its initial release.

“Symphony” enters the Hot Rock Songs chart dated June 8 at No. 13 with a 132% blast to 2,000 downloads sold and a 7% lift to 2.5 million U.S. streams in the week ending May 30, according to Nielsen Music. (Older songs are eligible for Billboard‘s multi-metric song charts, such as Hot Rock Songs and the Billboard Hot 100, which blend streaming, airplay and sales data, if accruing enough points to rank in the top half of the surveys and with an especially notable cause for their resurgences.)

“Symphony” re-enters the Alternative Digital Song Sales and Rock Digital Song Sales charts at Nos. 20 and 23, respectively, marking its first appearance on either list in nearly four years.


In its original run, “Symphony” broke the England-based group in the U.S., reaching No. 12 on the Hot 100 in April 1998. It also hit Nos. 3 and 4 on the Adult Alternative Songs and Alternative Songs airplay charts, respectively, prior to crossing to pop radio and reaching No. 8 on Adult Pop Songs and No. 23 on Pop Songs. (Hot Rock Songs began in 2009.)

But controversy arose from the start, as the song sampled the strings of the Andrew Oldham Orchestra’s rendition of the Stones’ 1965 song “The Last Time.” After the Stones’ business manager, Allan Klein, successfully argued that The Verve used more of the sample than its license permitted, 100% of the royalties for the track were stripped from the band and its writing credits were updated.

Earlier this year, Ashcroft’s managers made a direct appeal to Jagger and Richards to relinquish their interests in “Symphony.” As reported on May 23, “Mick and Keith immediately, unhesitatingly and unconditionally agreed to this request,” Ashcroft’s publicist announced.


“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,” Ashcroft added.

The Verve broke up in 1999, reunited in 2007 for a tour and album and went defunct in 2008.