May 20, 2014

Did Led Zeppelin Steal The ‘Stairway to Heaven’ Riff? Now Updated.


IT is perhaps the best known riff in rock, a progression of finger-picked chords that is estimated to have earned more than half a billion dollars and that made Jimmy Page a guitar god. 

Now it is alleged that the intro to Stairway to Heaven, by Led Zeppelin, was stolen.
The Led Zeppelin guitarist said he wrote the song in 1970 while recuperating from a tour. In 1975, he told Rolling Stone magazine: "Every musician wants to do something of lasting quality, something which will hold up for a long time, and I guess we did it with Stairway."
That story has become part of rock history — but it may now be rewritten.

Francis Malofiy, an American lawyer, is preparing a case against Led Zeppelin, alleging that the intro was actually written by Randy California, who played with the band Spirit, performing alongside Led Zeppelin in the 1960s. At those gigs, it is claimed that Spirit played Taurus, which is alleged to be the source of the opening chords of Stairway to Heaven.

"The idea behind this is to make sure that Randy California is given a writing credit on Stairway to Heaven," Mr Malofiy, who is representing California's estate, told Business Week.

California drowned saving his son from a rip-tide in Hawaii in 1997. Towards the end of his life, he played sitar at an Indian restaurant for food.

At stake is perhaps rock's fattest cash cow. In 2008, it was estimated that Stairway to Heaven had earned at least $562 million in royalties and sales.

Led Zeppelin and their label, Warner Music, have declined to comment on the pending legal action.

It is not the first allegation of plagiarism against the band, who settled out of court in 1972 when the publishing arm of Chess Records sued them, claiming that they had borrowed too closely from tracks such as Howlin' Wolf's Killing Floor.

In an interview with Listener magazine in 1997, California complained that Stairway to Heaven was a "rip-off". He said: "The guys made millions of bucks on it and never said 'Thank you', never said, 'Can we pay you some money for it?' Maybe some day their conscience will make them do something about it." 

By Rhys Blakely 

With thanks to The Australian



October 2014:
Led Zeppelin Lose First Round Of Stairway To Heaven Legal Battle With Spirit

Father Of Anne Frank Listed As Co-Author Of Diary To Extend Copyright

Much more here about borrowing and copyright infringement, not just with this song but several others.
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