Lawsuit alleges Led Zeppelin lifted their 1971 song’s famous opening riff from Spirit – a psychedelic band they shared concert billings with in the late 1960s.
Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page and Robert Plant appeared in a Los Angeles court on Tuesday to defend Stairway to Heaven – one of the most famous anthems in rock – from accusations of plagiarism.
The British duo – sporting dark suits and ponytails – arrived for the start of a trial which will reach back into centuries of music history to determine if they stole a melancholic riff which has enchanted – and irritated – millions around the world.
It is alleged the band nicked the 1971 song’s opening passage – which evokes Renaissance folk music – from an LA-based psychedelic band called Spirit.
The two bands shared concert billings in the late 1960s.
The estate of Spirit’s guitarist Randy Wolfe – also known as Randy California – who died in 1997 – is suing for recognition and a share of the proceeds from a mega-hit estimated to have generated more than $500m.The estate’s trustee – Michael Skidmore – claims Led Zeppelin ripped off a musical theme which recurs in Taurus – an instrumental on Spirit’s 1968 debut album – three years before Stairway to Heaven featured on the British band’s untitled fourth album – known as Led Zeppelin IV.
‘If you listen to the two songs – you can make your own judgment … I’d say it was a rip-off’ Wolfe speaking shortly before his death said in magazine interview quoted in the lawsuit.
‘And the guys made millions of bucks on it and never said ‘thank you’ – never said ‘can we pay you some money for it?’
It’s kind of a sore point with me’.
(ed:..i have listed to both..and the similarities are somewhat remarkable..
..and i know the counter-arguments are that this is a common theme/musical-progression…
..but i’m guessing a jury unschooled in such nuances will find that note-for-note similarity..coupled with them sharing musical-bills way back when..
..as pretty compelling evidence to come back with a guilty verdict..)