A federal jury has concluded that Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page and Robert Plant did not lift the opening guitar riff on “Stairway to Heaven” from the instrumental “Taurus” by the ’60’s psychedelic group Spirit. “Taurus” was recorded nearly four years before “Stairway to Heaven” on their eponymous debut album. The two bands toured together at this time so it is inconceivable that Page and Plant hadn’t heard “Taurus”. The suit had been brought by the estate of Randy Wolfe (a.k.a. Randy California), who composed the instrumental and was one of Spirit’s founding members.
Given that the estate of Marvin Gaye, Jr. had successfully sued Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams last year for copyright infringement because “Blurred Lines” sounded way too much like “Got To Give It Up”, this case ought to have been a slam dunk for California’s estate. However, the jury did not get to hear the two songs side by side and relied solely on the sheet music.
The best I can explain is that the jury was simply star struck by the presence of Page and Plant. Randy California is dead, gone and long forgotten. For shame.
I first heard “Taurus” not long after moving to Boston 16 years ago and it jumped out at me immediately. I haven’t been able to listen to “Stairway to Heaven” the same since. The song does not remain the same. When the suit was filed two years ago, I thought it was long overdue.
Since the jury didn’t get to hear the songs side by side, you will. With regard to “Taurus”, the familiar descending chord progression begins about 45 seconds into the song and continue thereafter. Judge for yourself.