After threats issued last month, the estate of former spirit guitarist Randy “California” Wolfe has filed suit against Led Zeppelin, claiming that the British rockers lifted part of their biggest hit, Stairway To Heaven, from one of California’s songs.
The suit, filed in the US District Court of Eastern Pennsylvania on May 31st, alleges that California’s instrumental song Taurus, which appears on Spirit’s 1968 debut, was the genesis for Zeppelin’s anthemic song, according to Billboard. “Any reasonable observer,” the suit claims, “when comparing ‘Taurus’ and ‘Stairway to Heaven,’ must conclude that—at the very least—significant portions of the songs are nearly identical.”
Amazingly presented in typeface matching that found on Led Zeppelin’s untitled fourth album, the document goes on to accuse the band of “Falsification of Rock N’ Roll history.” Listing 17 other songs allegedly stolen by Led Zeppelin, it notes that “this is hardly the first time Zeppelin has been accused of lifting their most famous songs.” Tracks such as Dazed And Confused, Whole Lotta Love, and Since I’ve Been Loving You are referenced, as well as artists like Willie Dixon, Ritchie Valens, and Howlin’ Wolf.
The plaintiffs even go so far as to allege that Led Zeppelin guitarist and producer Jimmy Page borrowed some of his trademark techniques and stage presence from California, most notably his dramatic use onstage of an electronic instrument known as a theremin. Claiming that Page appropriated the idea while Led Zeppelin were touring as an opening act for Spirit in 1968, the document states that Page’s use of the instrument, as well as “other psychadelic-type audio devices which helped give Led Zeppelin its distinctive sound” were directly attributable to the young Led Zeppelin guitarist “seeing California effectively use these types of audio-enhancing effects on tour.”
As The Inquisitr previously reported, while California’s estate may have a case, the issue of copyright is far from black and white, and Led Zeppelin is not without its legal defenses. The plaintiffs are seeking monetary damages, royalties, and a court order giving California a writing credit for the iconic tune.
Jimmy Page has hardly minced words on the topic. During his promotional tour for the newly released Led Zeppelin reissues, the question was put directly to him in an interview with France’s Liberation newspaper.
“That’s ridiculous,” Page said. “I have no further comment on the subject.”
After listening to the songs, Inquisitr readers will have to decide for themselves. Did Led Zeppelin steal the opening of Stairway To Heaven?
[Image via Stereogum ]