All aboard the sample train, this is going to be a long ride.

Let’s start in 1948. Roebuck Staples forms a gospel group with his family called The Staple Singers. Not even mentioned in their Wikipedia-page is the fact that in 1955 they released a recording of the traditional gospel song This May be the Last Time in a blues style.

Ten years later in 1965, The Rolling Stones ‘borrowed’ most of the lyrics for their single The Last Time. This was not uncommon in those days (see: When the Levee Breaks). On a side note: also not uncommon was for the big bands of that era (The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, The Who) to cover each other’s songs. So when half of the Rolling Stones were sentenced to prison for drug charges in 1967, The Who recorded their cover version of the song out of support and a bit of irony.

Back on track, in 1966 Andrew Oldham, former manager/producer of the Rolling Stones created an orchestrated version of the Last Time and released it on the 1966 album The Rolling Stones Songbook. Even though the song barely resembles the original, copyrights were attributed to the Stones. This became an important issue decades later in 1997 when The Verve released their song Bitter Sweet Symphony. It clearly uses a sample of the Oldham version, which they licensed. Strangely enough however they got sued by The Rolling Stones, because according to them they used a lot more of their own song than the license had specified. Eventually, the Verve also got sued by Andrew Oldham. The result was that all of the credits on Bitter Sweet Symphony now point to Keith Richards and Mick Jagger, writers of the Rolling Stones song The Last Time. Which in itself is ‘stolen’ from a 1955 song. An irony also pointed out in the sample-documentary RIP, a Remix Manifesto.

The Verve’s song has led to many other artists sampling their track again. Our last stop on this long ride ends with just one of them: Mark van Dale’s Water Verve. Although it’s arguable that this track was probably sampled from the Oldham version, the fact that it was released just a year after Bitter Sweet Symphony should be proof enough that it was riding The Verve’s popularity wave. Oh and the title Water Verve is a play on words, since  the word waterverf not only sounds like Water Verve, it means “water paint” in Dutch.

After all the music that was inspired by each other, here’s the place where we started: The Staple Singers – This May be the Last Time:

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