Led Zeppelin are being accused plagiarising the introduction of their iconic 1971 anthem, “Stairway To Heaven”, in a new lawsuit brought by the estate of Spirit guitarist Randy California and members of the band.
Business Week reports the estate – and group’s members – believe the acoustic introduction to “Stairway” was lifted from their 1968 instrumental, “Taurus.”
The two bands crossed paths during Zeppelin’s first US tour, which saw the future rock legends open for Vanilla Fudge and Spirit, and that’s where the Los Angeles band claims Jimmy Page was exposed to “Taurus.”
California told journalist Jeff McLaughlin in the winter 1997 issue of Listener magazine that Led Zeppelin had filched his song. “I’d say it was a ripoff,” California said. “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 drowned while rescuing his 12-year-old son from a rip current in Hawaii in early 1997.
Spirit founding bassist Mark Andes and the trust that handles California’s royalties are working with Phladelphia lawyer Francis Alexander Malofiy, who says he is going to file a copyright infringement lawsuit and seek an injunction to block the rerelease of “Led Zeppelin IV” (as part of that band’s expanded reissue series, which starts next month).
“The idea behind this is to make sure that Randy California is given a writing credit on Stairway To Heaven,” says Malofiy. “It’s been a long time coming.”
“The clarity seems to be a present-day clarity, not at the time of infringement,” adds Andes. “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.”
A spokesperson for Warner Music says neither the label or the band will comment on the case.
“Stairway” originally appeared on Led Zeppelin’s untitled 1971 album; it has since been referred to as “Led Zeppelin IV.”
On June 2 (June 3 in North America), the UK rockers are releasing expanded reissues of “Led Zeppelin I”, “Led Zeppelin II” and “Led Zeppelin III” on the same day.
Deluxe editions of the group’s first three albums are the first projects announced as part of an extensive reissue program that will see all nine of the band’s studio albums reissued in chronological order, each remastered by Page.
The “Led Zeppelin IV” reissue will follow at a later date.
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