'Stairway to Heaven' a Ripoff? Led Zeppelin Sued for Plagiarism

Image: 'Stairway to Heaven' a Ripoff? Led Zeppelin Sued for Plagiarism Left to right, John Paul Jones, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014 06:55 AM

By Clyde Hughes

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"Stairway to Heaven" is a ripoff of the Spirit song "Taurus," a new lawsuit filed against Led Zepplin claims.

Randy California, the late guitarist and writer of the band Spirit, accused Led Zeppelin for years of taking the opening chords of "Stairway to Heaven" from his song "Taurus," Philly.com reported. Spirit's founding bassist Mark Andes, now 66, is now working with Philadelphia attorney Francis Alexander Malofiy to bring the suit.

Malofiy told Businessweek.com that the lawsuit Spirit plans to file will have present-day implications as he is also seeking an injunction to keep Led Zeppelin from using "Stairway to Heaven" on its upcoming rerelease album.

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"The idea behind this is to make sure that Randy California is given a writing credit on 'Stairway to Heaven," Malofiy said. "It's been a long time coming."

Andes told Businessweek that it was only recently that he noticed the striking similarities between "Stairway to Heaven" and "Taurus."

"The clarity seems to be a present-day clarity, not at the time of infringement," Andes said. "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."

Andes told Businessweek that Led Zeppelin and Spirit crossed paths often in 1969, doing shows together at the start of their careers.

"We did quite a few shows with those guys," he said of gigs with Led Zeppelin, which was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995. "Not to say they might not have heard it from the record."

Andes pointed to concerts in Detroit and Atlanta, and cities in Texas where Led Zeppelin would have heard Spirit play the song.

Businessweek said California told Listener magazine in 1997 that he believed Led Zeppelin took his song.

"I’d say it was a ripoff," he said at the time. "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 later that year trying to rescue his 12-year-old son who was caught in a rip current in Hawaii.

Here is audio of the two songs in question:

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