It’s one of the most recognizable guitar riffs in the history of rock and roll, but what if Jimmy Page actually stole the riff from Spirit, a band Led Zeppelin toured with years before Stairway To Heaven was written?
There have been legal battles over copyright infringement for as long as anyone has been writing music. Every masterpiece is inspired in some way by a lesser known piece of art, which often times goes without being credited. There’s a fine line between inspiration and plagiarism, and in some cases the success that is seen by the alleged ripoff is far greater than the original creation, as is the case of “Stairway To Heaven” and “Taurus.”
In 1968, Led Zeppelin opened for Spirit while on tour in the US to promote their debut album. Only days into the tour, Led Zeppelin began adding parts of Spirit’s music into their setlist. This may come as no surprise, as Page is known for taking parts from other songs to create his own.
“I always tried to bring something fresh to anything that I used,” Page said in an interview for Light & Shade: Conversations With Jimmy Page by Brad Tolinski. “I always made sure to come up with some variation. In fact, I think in most cases, you would never know what the original source could be.”
However, the bands from which Page drew inspiration did not always agree with his methods. The band has seen legal actions taken for some of their biggest hits including, “Whole Lotta Love” and “Dazed and Confused,” which have both had the song credits changed to include the original writers.
In an interview with Listener magazine, Spirit’s guitarist, Randy California, had this to say:
“…the guys made millions of bucks on it and never said ‘Thank you,’ never said, ‘Can we pay you some money for it?’ It’s kind of a sore point with me. Maybe someday their conscience will make them do something about it.”
California passed away on January 2, 1997, but steps are being taken to have his name credited for the upcoming reissue of Led Zeppelin IV.
Neither Led Zeppelin nor Warner Music have released a comment on the story.
To judge for yourself, check out the videos below.
Here’s Led Zeppelin: