Where would rock history be if “Stairway To Heaven” by Led Zeppelin never existed? The trippy, melodic single, released in 1971 was at the top of the charts for weeks, and still remains an iconic track of a glorious era we still feed on today.
However, like everything else that has made an indelible mark in history, Stairway To Heaven has it’s own share of controversy. A lawsuit is being filed against Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, the founders and Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame inductees, for plagiarizing the intro to the track. It apparently bears a striking similarity to “Taurus” – a composition by the band, Spirit. The similarities are not completely the same, however it still warrants a trial just because of a missing song writing credit.
Listen to Stairway To Heaven By Led Zeppelin.
The lawsuit was filed in 2014, on behalf of the now-deceased member and composer of the alleged OG track, Randy California. It has been filed by a trust set up by Randy’s mother and a former rock journalist that states that California had composed the melody in the 1960s for his girlfriend. Spirit played for Led Zeppelin on some of their tours and it is alleged that the intro to Stairway To Heaven was lifted from here.
Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and Warner Music Group have asked District Judge R. Gary Klausner to dismiss the case, stating that Randy was a songwriter-on-hire and therefore, did not have the rights over the iconic song. Also, “The Similarity between Stairway To Heaven and Taurus was limited to a “descending chromatic scale of pitches that have been known for centuries and are too commonplace in music to be entitled to copyright protection”. However, Klausner has observed: “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”.
This is not the first time that Led Zeppelin have faced a lawsuit for ripping off other artists. Some of their other hits, including “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You” had their credits altered and the band was forced to pay royalties to those deserving of it, due to their previously uncredited contributions. Stairway To Heaven is probably the biggest hit by them, and has earned hundreds of millions of dollars over the years.
The original composer, Randy California met with an unfortunate fate himself when he drowned trying to save his son in Hawaii. He had not mentioned the similarities between Taurus and Stairway To Heaven until an interview in the late 90s, though his case was thrown out because he filed it under “falsification of rock n roll history”.