Well… that’s now for the jury to decide.
Led Zeppelin’s lead singer Robert Plant and guitarist Jimmy Page are now facing one of the most serious copyright trials in history, with a jury set to deliberate. And the question is whether their long-winded rock classic, “Stairway to Heaven,” was actually ripped off from another band.
A U.S. District Court judge in Los Angeles has now allowed the case from Michael Skidmore, a trustee of Randy Wolfe’s estate, to move the case forward based on considerable similarities.
Randy Wolfe, also known as Randy California, was the main songwriter for an American Rock group called Spirit. Spirit was a Los Angeles-based group best known for their song, ‘I Got A Line On You’. In their day, the group had success with several charting albums (i.e., they were a known group).
The case claims that pieces of ‘Stairway to Heaven,’ regarded as one of the world’s greatest rock songs, was lifted note-for-note from the opening of a Spirit song titled ‘Taurus’ (among other grafts). After looking at the case, the judge deemed it strong enough to move forward.
What’s interesting about this case is that Spirit had appeared at various music festivals with Led Zeppelin in the 1960s. The bands also performed on the same stage as supporting acts throughout the same period that Spirit performed ‘Taurus’. Another interesting tidbit is that ‘Taurus’ was released just three years prior to ‘Stairway to Heaven’.
The case suggests that Jimmy Page may have been inspired after listening to Spirit’s song at these music festivals, as ‘Taurus’ was performed on stage at three festivals in which both bands were present. On that point, Jimmy Page reportedly stated in the case that he had never seen Spirit perform.
Regardless, the beginning of both songs do bear undeniable ‘similarities’. The Judge on the case stated “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.”
Here’s what the jury will be comparing.
(Image by Happybeatle2, Creative Commons, Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International,cc by-sa 4.0)