Did Led Zepplin Rip Off “Stairway To Heaven”

led zeppelin - Hulton Archive 1973

led zeppelin - Hulton Archive 1973

Led Zepplin are no strangers to being accused of “stealing” music and lyrics, and they’ve actually given credit where it was due years earlier (and some of those credits have been given posthumously). The latest case of plagiarism concerns the accoustic refrain in “Stairway to Heaven” (1971) — yup, that one, the one many aspiring guitarists learn first and the one that was banned from being played in the guitar store in Wayne’s World.

In light of the inevitable reissue of Led Zepplin IV (reissues of Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin II, and Led Zeppelin III will be released on June 3rd), Attorney Francis Alexander Molofiy is seeking songwriting credit for the late Randy California (died 1997) of Spirit for the 1968 song “Taurus.”

The year he died, California expressed to Listener magazine that he felt “Stairway to Heaven was a rip-off:

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.

Have a listen to “Taurus” and let us know what you think:

There are glaring similarities, but is it a rip-off? Why, after more than 40 years, is this being pursued now, and posthumously no less?

According to Rolling Stone, Spirit and California couldn’t afford legal representation to pursue the case prior to California’s death. That answers one question.

Led Zepplin has doled out numerous songwriting credits years after the initial release of songs, but is it fair to discredit them as musicians or songwriters themselves? I think it’s safe to say that we all love (if we’re Zep fans) the pre-heavy metal package that Led Zepplin provided for their songs, whether they started out as their own or not. And really, is there a lot left that’s original anyway?

Give us your two cents in the comments section below.

Rock Hard \m/

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