Led Zeppelin Loses First Round in Plagiarism Lawsuit

Led Zeppelin’s lead singer Robert Plant and guitarist Jimmy Page will face a jury trial over whether they stole opening chords for their 1971 classic “Stairway to Heaven” from the band Spirit’s 1967 song “Taurus.” A trial is scheduled for May 10. (Reuters)

Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” has been a subject of various accusations since it was released. Some say it’s overplayed, other say it’s too long. But, for years, we have been hearing people saying “Stairway” sounds too similar to “Taurus” – a song by a band called Spirit, clearly much less famous than Led Zeppelin. Spirit allegedly performed this song while “sharing bills with Zeppelin in the late 1960s”.

After almost half a century of gossip, singer Robert Plant and guitarist Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin will actually face a trial on May 10.

The main question here is: Did they copy their most favorite song from Spirit?

“While it is true that a descending chromatic four-chord progression is a common convention that abounds in the music industry, the similarities here transcend this core structure,” U.S. District Judge Gary Klausner of the Central District of California wrote in a 20-page opinion denying, in part, Led Zeppelin’s motion for summary judgment. “For example, the descending bass line in both Taurus and Stairway to Heaven appears at the beginning of both songs, arguably the most recognizable and important segments. … Additionally, the descending bass line is played at the same pitch, repeated twice, and separated by a short bridge in both songs.” Citing another opinion, he added: “Enough similar protectable expression is here that the issue of substantial similarity should proceed to the jury.” – Washington Post

Wolfe, a.k.a. Randy California, wrote “Taurus” in 1967, the suit said; the two sides can’t agree on whether Page and Plant, before they wrote “Stairway,” heard Spirit play “Taurus” while playing at music festivals in the late 1960s.

In 1991, Wolfe said Led Zep “used to come up and sit in the front row of all [Spirit’s] shows and became friends … and if they wanted to use Taurus, that’s fine,” adding, “I’ll let Led Zeppelin have the beginning of Taurus for their song without a lawsuit.” But this declaration, the court said, doesn’t mean Wolfe abandoned his claim, noting testimony that he had contemplated a lawsuit in the 1980s.

Check out the videos below and share your thoughts with us in the comments.

“Stairway to Heaven”

“Taurus” by Spirit

Do you think this is a rip off?


(Source: The Washington Post)

Photo by Dina Regine