Matthew Fisher, the original organist with Procol Harum, is in court in London
this week seeking £1m for his creative part in their 1967 hit A Whiter Shade
The track's surreal lyrics fitted perfectly with the drug haze of the Summer of Love but what continues to make it unique is its mournful organ introduction and solo. Singer Gary Brooker claims he wrote it, inspired by Bach's Air on a G String – Fisher begs to differ.
But why has it taken Fisher nearly 40 years – he left the group in 1969 after all – to take legal action? He says he "didn't want to rock the boat". More likely is that copyright cases are more common today and that the money to be made from iconic hits has multiplied vastly.
Backdated claims have had mixed success in the past, however. In November 2005, Lindisfarne member Ray Jackson lost his court battle with Rod Stewart - he claimed he'd written the mandolin hook for Maggie May but had only been paid £15. Furthermore on the record sleeve he had been credited as: "The mandolin player from Lindisfarne. The name slips my mind."
When Whiter Shade Of Pale was written, the opportunities to hear music were few. Today they are endless. Composers earn money from radio play and CD sales but also from downloads, ringtones, toys, newspaper cover mounts, video games, adverts, soundtracks - even music played while you are put on hold to a call centre.
In her 2004 divorce papers Lionel Richie's wife Diane claimed he earned $200,000 a month in royalty payments, while the New York Times estimated that Dolly Parton's I Will Always Love You earned her over $4m in 1995 alone. Nice work if you can get it. No wonder Fisher is skipping the light fandango to the high court.
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