Why did these people wait so long? Led Zeppelin is gonna be sued for their famous song ‘Stairway to Heaven’ which was written in 1970! Attorney Francis Alexander Malofiy, who represents Randy California a guitarist of the band Spirit, declared to the Guardian: ‘It’s been a long time coming!’ California, now deceased, claimed that the opening of ‘Stairway to Heaven’ was stolen from his band as it bears a close resemblance to an instrumental track called ‘Taurus’ which appeared on the band 1968 debut album. But who has heard of Spirit or Taurus? Almost nobody right?
According to the Guardian, Led Zeppelin and Spirit played together in Detroit, Atlanta, and Seattle, and Zeppelin were even Spirit’s opening act at the Denver auditorium Arena in 1968. ‘Taurus’ was ‘such a pretty moment, and it would typically come after a big forceful number and always got a good response,’ declared Spirit’s cofounder Mark Andes. Another song from Spirit, ‘Fresh Garbage’ was even probably integrated into some Zeppelin 1969 tour sets, and this is a proof of the real interaction going on at the time between the two bands.
‘Stairway to Heaven’ is probably one of Led Zeppelin’s most well-known numbers, and it may be plagiarism? ‘[Led Zeppelin] made millions of bucks on it and never said thank you; never said, ‘Can we pay you some money for it?’ said California to Listener magazine in 1997. He thought that the stature of limitations was done so he didn’t initiate the lawsuit and died at the young age of 45.
However, Zeppelin is about to release re-mastered versions of their original albums and Malofiy probably thought it was the right time to brought this up. ‘The idea behind this is to make sure that Randy California is given a writing credit on Stairway to Heaven,’ he said. Spirit could even get royalties and they could be huge, as ‘experts have valued Stairway to Heaven at more than $560m – well over $10m per year.’
I don’t really understand all these re-issues, this re-mastering business, it seems to be an excuse to make money off old material, plus why did Spirit wait so long if they were so sure it was a rip-off? When you listen to it, the introduction of the Spirit Song effectively does sound like ‘Stairway to Heaven’, but then the Zeppelin song takes a totally different journey, and a very long one. Similar at the beginning, yes, but are the songs similar enough to be plagiarism?
Musicians find inspirations from each other all the time, and except if it is sampling – which is truly borrowing – create is always stealing. Actually someone in the comments indicated this website, ‘Led Zeppelin: Plagiarism?’ and apparently there is a long list of songs whose songwriting credits should be changed — and some have effectively been changed on re-issues. All music is hybrid, and every song is the bastard child of its creator, there is rarely something coming out of nowhere. If anything good comes from lawsuits like this one, it could be to bring some light on Spirit, a band largely ignored by music history.
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