Sunday 23 October 2016

Led Zeppelin win Stairway to Heaven plagiarism case after claims famous guitar riff was 'lifted'

David Mercer

Published 23/06/2016 | 19:06

John Paul Jones, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin
John Paul Jones, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page and Robert Plant did not plagiarise a song by the American band Spirit when they wrote Stairway To Heaven, a jury has found.

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The veteran rock stars appeared at a federal court in Los Angeles to deny claims that the guitar intro to the 1971 song was "lifted" from an instrumental track called Taurus.

A lawsuit was filed by Michael Skidmore, the trustee of Spirit guitarist Randy Wolfe - known as Randy California - who drowned in 1997 having never taken legal action over the song.

Following a week-long trial, a jury of four men and four women found Taurus and Stairway To Heaven were not "extrinsically similar"

During the trial, guitarist Page said he owned five Spirit albums but he had never watched the band play live and Taurus was "totally alien" to him.

He said he first heard the 1968 song when his son-in-law showed him a comparison with Stairway To Heaven on the internet a few years ago.

"I knew I had never heard it before. Something like that would have stuck in my mind," Page told the court.

"I was a bit confused because I thought, 'What has this got to do with Stairway To Heaven?'."

Page, 72, said he wrote the music for Stairway To Heaven at Headley Grange Manor House in Hampshire, as the earliest surviving recording of the song was played to the court.

Denying claims that he copied Taurus, Page compared Stairway To Heaven to Chim Chim Cher-ee from the Disney film Mary Poppins because they both had a chord sequence that has "been around forever".

Music experts contested whether Stairway To Heaven and Taurus were "substantially similar" after the jury was told both songs feature a "descending chromatic chord progression" in A minor.

Musicologist Alexander Stewart said the rhythm, chords and harmonies of Taurus, and the introduction to Stairway To Heaven, were "virtually identical", while professional musician Kevin Hanson said the two songs had a "striking similarity".

But Lawrence Ferrara, a music professor at New York University, said a descending chromatic chord progression was a "musical building block" for a song and it can be found in music dating back 300 years.

The opening of Michelle by The Beatles, Johnny Mathis's 1960 hit My Funny Valentine and the 1967 song Music To Watch Girls By could all be compared with Taurus, he said.

In his evidence, singer Plant, 67, said he had no memory of watching Spirit in Birmingham in 1970, because he was involved in a car crash that night.

The three surviving members of Led Zeppelin were briefly reunited during the trial when bassist John Paul Jones gave evidence. Jones - who was not a defendant in the case - said he could not recall seeing Spirit live and denied owning any of their albums or singles.

Press Association

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