Led Zeppelin Face Plagiarism Lawsuit for Stairway to Heaven
Led Zeppelin is in plagiarism trouble yet again, this time for allegedly lifting the famous intro of Stairway to Heaven from an obscure instrumental called Taurus.
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The late Randy California (born Randy Craig Wolfe who wrote Taurus), is being represented by lawyer Francis Malofiy, demanding compensation and songwriting credit for the popular song.
The authorship of the intro to Stairway to Heaven were questioned after comparisons were made with an instrumental track that predated the song. Now this claim will officially be heard in court, adding to the plagiarism cases that were previously hurled against the band.
Comparing the two songs, I found that only the intro was similar, which may seem like a trivial resemblance. But taking into consideration that the intro is the most popular part of the song, it is easy to understand why this is a big deal. Depending on the outcome of this case, everything we know about one of the most popular guitar riff in rock music may officially change. If the plaintiffs do win, then the most popular "guitar store anthem" would now come with an interesting story! Listen to Taurus below and decide for yourself:
Technically speaking, descending bass lines with minor chord progressions are common in various types of music. Jimmy Page may have simply taken the idea from another song with the same theme and arrived at the same riff as Randy's Taurus. I remember when I was starting out, I learned an open string tune that features a descending bass line that's quite similar to Stairway. However, the circumstances behind the band Spirit and Led Zep makes this plagiarism case more interesting.
Aside from the uncanny similarity of the guitar riff in the intro, the most interesting connection is that Spirit and Led Zeppelin played a number of events together. According to the lawsuit, Led Zeppelin "opened" for Spirit a number of times in 1968, the same year that Spirit released the album that contained the instrumental Taurus. This puts Page in the position where he actually heard the opening riff of Taurus, years before Stairway to Heaven was produced.
Another interesting bit found in the lawsuit is an interview with Randy, shortly before his passing. He is quoted saying, "Well, if you listen to the two songs, you can make your own judgment. It’s an exact… I’d say it was a rip-off. 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 some day their conscience will make them do something about it. I don’t know. There are funny business dealings between record companies, managers, publishers, and artists. But when artists do it to other artists, there’s no excuse for that. I’m mad!
The lawyer knew that Led Zep's plagiarism reputation will help Randy's case, so he listed down 17 songs from the band that are allegedly infringed from other authors. On the flipside, it's not all sunny for the plaintiffs either because this same lawyer was recently rebuked by a judge after his other copyright infringement case against Usher was dismissed.
You can read the entirety of the lawsuit here. The band is yet to make a press release in response to the lawsuit, but Jimmy Page has commented that the charge was "ridiculous". The progress of this case will definitely be an interesting story not just for us guitar players, but for songwriters as well.
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