Led Zeppelin‘s Stairway To Heaven is one of the most iconic songs in the world – but was it stolen from another band?
There’s been much media coverage of the Michael Skidmore v Led Zeppelin et al case so far, but now, courtroom proceedings have finally begun. Skidmore, a trustee for the late Randy Wolfe (aka Randy California), alleges that the opening chords of Stairway were stolen from Wolfe’s 1967 instrumental track Taurus, by his band Spirit.
Robert Plant and Jimmy Page appeared in court over the matter, but didn’t speak a word to each other.
Back in April, US District Judge Gary Klausner suggested that the jury might find that there’s a “substantial” likeness between Taurus and Stairway. Fancy yourself an expert on these matters? You can compare the two below.
Of course, there’s a lot more to these sorts of lawsuits than just whether or not the two songs sound similar.
Led Zeppelin’s lawyers have already made the case that the chord progression used at the beginning of Stairway is so cliche that it doesn’t warrant copyright protection. There’s obviously something to be said for that argument, but the fact that Zeppelin & Spirit toured together in the late 60s doesn’t exactly look great.
It’s shaping up to be a pretty entertaining case to follow, whatever the outcome. The plaintiff’s lawyer, Francis Malofiy, has rattled off a long list of notable witnesses who would help Skidmore argue his case. The list includes Linda Mensch (the wife of big-wig manager Peter Mensch, who previously managed Jimmy Page), former Spirit members Mark Andes and Jay Ferguson, music tycoon Lou Adler, and Brad Tolinski, the editor of Guitar World who wrote Light and Shade: Conversations with Jimmy Page. In stark contrast, the defense’s witness list is just one name long: Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones.
Who knows what the jury will decide, and exactly what impact a ruling in Skidmore’s favour might have. We imagine it’d look something like this:
Image: Reuters: Carlo Allegri/Hans Deryk