Music Monday: Stairway To Copyright

led zeppelin
Original photo found at Ultimate Classic Rock

Some 44 years ago, “Stairway To Heaven” hit the airwaves of FM rock radio and made Led Zeppelin an even bigger band than what they were in 1971. Since then, it’s the song that defines the band for many, including those who are not die hard fans.

It was a song that lived in infamy for this quartet of rock and roll heroes.

Inspired By

But recently, a trustee representing the lead singer of a band called Spirit decided to file a lawsuit against Jimmy Page and Robert Plant that “Stairway To Heaven” lifted part of the songs’ sound from a song released in January 1968 called “Taurus” The song is instrumental. It was written by Randy Wolfe, who went by Randy California.

Listen to the YouTube video above, which compares both parts of the song that sound similar.

Listening to the above, there is a very familiar sound on “Stairway To Heaven” that sounds very much like the one part in “Taurus” and now that this case will be going to a jury, it’s very possible that to average people’s ears, this could be a legal win for the late Randy California. Add to that the fact that Spirit used to tour with Led Zeppelin. Then add to that that Jimmy Page has agreed that “Stairway To Heaven” was inspired by the Spirit song, and this case sounds like a slam dunk.

But if you consider how many songs use similar notes put together without lifting any real parts of any previous song, then this case is just the search for money. I mean, who waits 44 years for a case to finally make it to a jury? If the song was that similar, why didn’t this suit take place back in the 70’s? Randy Wolfe aka California, complained back in 1997 that the songs sounded similar, but that was a good 16 years later after “Stairway To Heaven” was released.

I think this case has merit on the level of debating the song similarities, but I don’t think the jury should award any winnings to the late songwriter of “Taurus”. And not because it’s 44 years later. But because there are chords that are put together all the time and songs are commonly inspired in some way on others songs. Hundreds and thousands of songs have been created over the course of time. At some point, there’s bound to be similar construction of notes. I think this is the key to how music works.

I guess we will know come May, when this case goes to trial.

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  • Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven may be partly stolen, judge says
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