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Did Led Zeppelin steal ‘Stairway to Heaven?’

Posted by on May 20, 2014

While Led Zeppelin might have been considered ‘metal’ in their initial ’70s run, it’d be pretty hard to consider them that now. Regardless, their iconic anthem “Stairway to Heaven” is written into rock’s DNA, and the eight-minute anthem is probably playing on about 50 classic rock stations around the country right now as you read this. The thing is, they might not have written the song, or at least it’s gentle guitar opening. Business Week reports that Los Angeles band Spirit played a show with Zeppelin opening for them the day after Christmas in 1968. The band played together a handful of times in 1969, and Zeppelin even covered the band’s “Fresh-Garbage.”

Fast forward to 1971, when Zeppelin’s fourth album was released. The opening to “Stairway” sounds very similar to Spirit’s “Taurus,” which was being played quite a bit when they toured together. “It was such a pretty moment, and it would typically come after a big forceful number and always got a good response,” founding bassist Mark Andes says. The songwriting trust of Spirit guitarist Randy California, who died in 1997, is suing Zeppelin, having filed an injunction to prevent the reissue of Led Zeppelin IV. Essentially, they want California listed as one of the songwriters.  It wasn’t until the year he died that California said anything publicly about Zep stealing his song. “I’d say it was a ripoff,” California told Listener magazine. “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. Maybe someday their conscience will make them do something about it.”

Looks like maybe a lawyer might make them do something about it instead of their consciences. It’s pretty hard to deny the similarities. It’s also not the first time that Zeppelin have been sued for appropriating songs, having altered the credits to “The Lemon Song,” “Whole Lotta Love,” “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” and “Dazed and Confused” to give royalties to songwriters that the band admitted in a court that they took from.

 

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Categorised in: Classic Rock Insider, Legal Woes