Yet another twist in legal saga of 60s classic
Procol Harum’s lead singer, Gary Brooker, and lyricist Keith Reid have won back full royalty rights for “A Whiter Shade of Pale”. The pair had been forced to share the songwriting credits with organist Matthew Fisher, after a 2006 legal ruling. But this morning, London’s Court of Appeal reversed the decision in favour of Brooker and Reid, ruling that there had been an “excessive delay” in Fisher’s original claim.
In October, Brooker’s barrister, John Baldwin QC, told the Court of Appeal that Mr Fisher had failed to take the case to court earlier because “he wanted to stay in the band and live the life of a pop star”.
Fisher had filed a lawsuit against Brooker in 2005, nearly 40 years after the hit was recorded, claiming his distinctive organ melody was integral to the song and he should be acknowledged as one of the song’s creators.
“It was entirely my idea to compose a set solo, and give the last two bars a satisfying ‘shape’,” Fisher told Uncut late last year. “What I added was the tune. You don’t sell 10 million records without a tune.”
But today’s ruling by Lord Justice Mummery overturns the 2006 decision to credit Fisher with co-writing the ’60s classic and awarding him 40 per cent of past and future royalties.
Speaking to Uncut last year, Brooker played down Fisher’s contribution.
“Of course it has improvisation on it, from the rehearsals. But it was based on my ideas, my music and playing,” said Brooker. “If there was any question over credits then that should have been sorted on the day.”
With its haunting, Bach-inspired organ line and enigmatic lyrics, “A Whiter Shade of Pale” became one of the most successful songs of all time: in 2004, the Performing Rights Group certified it the most played song of the last 70 years, clocking up almost 1000 cover versions and 10 million sales.