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Was 'Stairway To Heaven' Plagiarized? Copyright Infringement Lawsuit Filed Against Led Zeppelin
"Stairway To Heaven" is arguably the most classic of rock songs. Everyone knows it, even the millennials! But is "Stairway To Heaven" also the greatest scam in rock history? A copyright infringement lawsuit filed against Led Zeppelin members has been moving its way through the courts, and now a jury is going to decide if it's original, or ripped off from a band called Spirit. The lawsuit was brought by Michael Skidmore, who is a trustee for the late Randy Wolfe of Spirit, who made similar allegations in the 1990s before his death.Spirit toured with Led Zeppelin in 1968 and 1969, performing the song in question, titled "Taurus." This was years before Led Zeppelin IV (which featured "Stairway to Heaven") was released.
Robert Plant and Jimmy Page are specifically the ones being accused of stealing the opening chords for their 1971 classic, and they'll be headed to a Los Angeles courtroom on May 10th. According to the Guardian, U.S. district judge Gary Klausner decided last week that the opening of the songs were similar enough, and a jury would decide. He declared:
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. For example, the descending bass line in both "Taurus" and "Stairway to Heaven" appears at the beginning of both songs, arguably the most recognizable and important segments. Additionally, the descending bass line is played at the same pitch, repeated twice, and separated by a short bridge in both songs.
To break it down further, here's TJR of TJR Music with an incredibly helpful explainer on all of this.
Here's Spirit's "Taurus" in full:
And here's "Stairway to Heaven" — at least we can agree that Zeppelin did very good things with those chords, if they did in fact steal them.