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Musical Space

Stairway To Litigation

Heinrich Klaffs / Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons

Led Zeppelin was one of a wave of British bands enamored with American delta blues, and they covered a large number of blues artists like Robert Johnson and Willie Dixon.

“Borrowing” songs from someone else is part of the blues tradition, but Led Zeppelin might have taken things too far. They have already been sued in the past for plagiarisingHowlin’ Wolf and Sonny Boy Williamson. Now, they find themselves in court again, this time over the authorship of the band’s colossus, "Stairway to Heaven," a song that has earned more than half a billion dollars.

The opening acoustic guitar riff sounds like a section of a tune called “Taurus,” released by the band Spirit in 1968. And when I say “sounds like,” I mean sounds a LOT like. Same chords, key, tempo and descending bassline. Led Zeppelin played on the same bill with Spirit many times in the late 60s.

Listen to that part of “Taurus” at the end of this sound clip, and decide for yourself if this is a case of larceny.