June 27, 2019
In 1971, the rock group Led Zeppelin released the single “Stairway to Heaven.” It is frequently called one of the greatest rock songs of all time. It was voted number three in 2000 by VH1 on its list of the 100 Greatest Rock Songs, and was placed at number 31 on Rolling Stone‘s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
It has long been suspected that Led Zeppelin lead guitarist Jimmy Page borrowed the opening progression from the song “Taurus” by the band Spirit, with whom Led Zeppelin had played together. Randy “California” Wolfe, who composed “Taurus”, was quoted in the early 90’s as saying that, while credit might have been nice, he thought it was cool that a great band like Zeppelin used a bit of his work on their greatest song.
After his accidental drowning in 1997, however, lawyers for his family got involved and suit was filed against Led Zeppelin for copyright infringement. The matter went to trial in 2016, and a federal jury found against Wolfe’s estate, but the estate appealed, and the appellate court ordered a new trial, citing procedural irregularities.
But not so fast.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered a rehearing en banc, giving Led Zeppelin another shot at convincing the court that whatever errors the trial court may have made, if any, did not justify a new trial.
In the meantime, you can see for yourself if the songs are similar. Click here for a link to the song “Taurus.” The part that will sound familiar starts at 0:44.