It's no secret that there are similarities between Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" and the instrumental "Taurus" by Spirit, but the band formed in L.A. in 1967 never filed any copyright infringement against Zeppelin, whose very first show in the U.S. in 1968 was opening for Spirit and Vanilla Fudge. But that may change. An article in Bloomberg Businessweek suggests that Jimmy Page may have borrowed a riff from 1968's "Taurus" to create the opening of "Stairway" in 1970.
Mark Andes, the bassist in Spirit, says the two bands played many shows together in 1969 and he believes Page heard them doing "Taurus." In an interview in 1997, Spirit guitarist Randy California, who wrote "Taurus," said, "It was a ripoff 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." California died in 1997 and now Andes is working with a legal team who plan to file suit against Zeppelin.
Lawyer Francis Alexander Malofiy says, "The idea behind this is to make sure that Randy California is given a writing credit on 'Stairway to Heaven'.” And Andes adds, "The clarity seems to be a present-day clarity, not at the time of infringement. I can’t explain it. It is fairly blatant, and note for note. It would just be nice if the Led Zeppelin guys gave Randy a little nod. That would be lovely." Led Zeppelin has no comment on the Businessweek story.
If talk of a lawsuit goes forward and Zeppelin is found to have lifted the riff, this won't be the first time they have been accused of plagiarism. They have been sued over "The Lemon Song," which was derived from Howlin' Wolf's "Killing Floor." That case was settled out of court. Another blues legend, Willie Dixon, settled with Zeppelin over "Whole Lotta Love," which was similar to his "You Need Love." There has also been debate over who wrote "Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You" and "Dazed and Confused," which, like the other two songs, were also settled out of court.
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