May 20, 2014 11:19 am -

The ’60’s group Spirit is suing Jimmy Page and Led Zeppelin over the opening chord progression in “Stairway To Heaven.”

The estate of late Spirit guitarist Randy California alleges the famous fingerpicked intro is actionably similar to that of Spirit tune “Taurus” — a similarity Spirit fans, however many of them, have noted for decades.

Zeppelin opened for Spirit on a 1969 tour, during which Page had multiple opportunities to hear “Taurus.” “Stairway” was released the next year.

California brought this up in a 1997 interview. “I’d say it was a ripoff,” California said. “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.” But California lacked the funds to acquire legal representation, and figured the statute of limitations was up anyway.

So why sue now? Led Zep is gearing up to release reissues of all its albums, including Led Zeppelin IV, and California’s estate wants a writing credit at the very least.

D.B. Hirsch
D.B. Hirsch is a political activist, news junkie, and retired ad copy writer and spin doctor. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

No responses to Led Zeppelin Sued Over ‘Stairway To Heaven’

  1. mea_mark May 20th, 2014 at 11:50 am

    Similar but not the same. Like a lot of music sounds like something else. It is music, almost all music is inspired by something similar. Sounds like greedy, under achieving inheritors of an estate looking for an additional handout by putting some lawyers to work.

    • RuralStupidity May 20th, 2014 at 2:10 pm

      Without Page at the very least lifting the intro subliminally and at worst intentionally, Stairway may have never been the iconic song it’s been for 40 years. It’s only right that they should want to pay homage to the one who inspired it and should have done so voluntarily decades ago. I hope they get a nice payout from this.

      • arc99 May 20th, 2014 at 3:51 pm

        I agree with both of you. I am an amateur guitarist. If you learn the chords to the old drinking song “Louie, Louie”, you can also play Wild Thing, Like a Rolling Stone, Hang On Sloopy, and a couple hundred other popular songs from the glory days of rock. But it is all in how the material is used.

        The main riff for the Rolling Stones’ song Satisfaction is only 3 notes. You cannot copyright those notes. But you can certainly copyright the way Keith Richards played them. I suspect that is what is happening here. When the commonplace reuse of chords and riffs morphs into actually copying somebody’s work. That is plagiarism.

        If Page copied the lick, the songwriter should get credit. Even the late, great George Harrison was found culpable in a similar kind of case where he was accused of appropriating the melody he used in his solo song, My Sweet Lord.

        Those few musicians who are lucky enough to make millions need to do the right thing, and extend proper credit where credit is due.

  2. Foundryman May 20th, 2014 at 12:22 pm

    Darn it, i thought some holy roller played Stairway backwards again and is suing over the subliminal satanic message.