In what could become one of the more entertaining court battles in music history, Led Zeppelin is being sued for stealing parts of “Stairway To Heaven” from a song by the 60s band Spirit called “Taurus” more than 45 years after the song was written. The estate of Spirit guitarist and “Taurus” songwriter Randy California filed the lawsuit, which is going to trial on May 10th.
All this stems from the fact that Zep opened for Spirit several times during their first tour of the United States during which Spirit performed “Taurus” as part of their set. OK, we get that, but why wait 40+ years to sue?
If you listen to the Spirit song below, you’ll hear some vague similarities to the intro of “Stairway,” but it’s of a rather generic guitar pattern and nothing like the song’s melody. That said, after last year’s “Blurred Lines” plagiarism lawsuit won by the estate of Marvin Gaye, suits like this are now leaning more in favor of the plaintiff than ever before.
It’s been estimated that “Stairway” has made the Zeps $540 million over the years, and the California estate is obviously hoping for at least a reasonable piece of that, but songwriters Jimmy Page and Robert Plant (who are the only Zeps named in the suit) obviously have deep pockets and are willing to fight as necessary.
So songwriters beware, there’s nothing new under the sun given the 12 note scale that western musicians use, so you’re probably copying a previous song without even knowing it. And today, that’s enough to get you sued.
Go to 0:45 on the video below to hear what’s considered to be the similarities between songs.
(photo: Jim Summaria via Wikipedia)