Man at His Best

Jury Rules Led Zeppelin Didn’t Steal ‘Stairway to Heaven’ Riff

Spirit won’t see any of the ‘Stairway’ millions.

BY Jason S Ganesan | Jun 25, 2016 | Music

Wikipedia Commons

Proving once again that they are above the laws of mortal men, Led Zeppelin were cleared of stealing the ubiquitous riff of ‘Stairway to Heaven’ from ‘Taurus’, a song by '70s psychedelic band Spirit.

The estate of late Spirit guitarist Randy Wolfe (or Randy California) had filed the lawsuit to get some of the piles of ‘Stairway’ cash, but mostly to receive partial songwriting credit for the track.

The lawsuit alleged that Jimmy Page and Robert Plant knowingly lifted the riff after having heard ‘Taurus’ at some point in the late '60s—around the time Led Zep and Spirit shared a concert billing.

Page testified that he hadn’t heard ‘Taurus’ before composing ‘Stairway’. Besides the shared billing, the jury also heard that the two bands ran in the same rock scene circles, that Page actually owned the Spirit album that ‘Taurus’ is on, and that Led Zep even performed a Spirit song early in their career.

Francis Malofiy, who represented Wolfe’s estate, also pointed to the 16 previous disputes over Led Zep songs, showing that they had a reputation for stealing stuff from other artists.

The Los Angeles jury, however, went with the famous dudes. Interestingly, they weren’t allowed to actually listen to ‘Stairway’ and ‘Taurus’ for the sake of comparison, but instead got to hear the testimonies of musicologists.

Those who spoke for the plaintiff noted similarities in the chord progression of both songs, while those who testified for Led Zep said that the progression has been floating around the musical aether for centuries. Even ‘Chim Chim Cher-ee’ from Mary Poppins, they said, had a descending A-minor progression.

Page carried a guitar into the court, but not for melting the jurors’ faces before making a run for it, because he never actually got to play the thing. However—like your old uncle who still has a ponytail and waxes lyrical about the death of rock—he did mime some air guitar and whip out a dance move in public.

Have a listen below and maybe you can make a comparison yourself.