Led Zeppelin could be sued over claims they stole the opening riff of Stairway To Heaven, their most famous song.
A band called Spirit are attempting to block the track’s re-release after claiming their late guitarist Randy California should be given a writing credit on the 1971 track.
They and others say Stairway’s famous picked guitar riff, written by Jimmy Page, closely resembles the guitar part on their 1968 song Taurus.
Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin on stage in the mid-1970s, after the song Stairway To Heaven propelled the band to international megastardom
Randy California pictured in 1984. It is claimed that he originally wrote the riff which appears in the opening bars of Led Zeppelin’s Stairway To Heaven
Who really wrote it? Jimmy Page, left, of Led Zeppelin laid down the guitar parts for Stairway To Heaven, but it is now claimed that the notes in the song’s opening bars were in fact written by Randy California, right
Spirit bassist Mark Andes reckons Led Zeppelin would have heard the song when the two bands were on tour together in the late 1960s – which they then copied for their smash hit song.
He told Bloomberg Businessweek: ‘It would typically come after a big forceful number and always got a good response. They would have seen it in that context.
‘It is fairly blatant, and note for note. It would just be nice if the Led Zeppelin guys gave Randy a little nod. That would be lovely.’
It’s not the first time that Led Zeppelin have been taken to court over their music.
Guitarist Jimmy Page has previously admitted taking inspiration from blues and folk musicians in crafting the band’s hits, although he claimed he ‘always tried to bring something fresh’.
Nevertheless, songwriters have over the decades brought successful legal challenges to the group and its label, forcing them to pay royalties and add credits to songs they claimed as their own.
Album listings for Whole Lotta Love, Babe I’m Gonna Leave You, The Lemon Song and Dazed And Confused have all had to be amended to include names of artists which courts ruled were the true originators of the music.
But the row over Stairway To Heaven, the song which arguably propelled them to rock megastardom, could be the biggest yet.
In 2008, Conde Nast Portfolio magazine estimated that the song had earned at least $525million dollars in royalties and record sales. It appears on America’s third biggest-selling album of all time, Led Zeppelin IV.
Randy California’s family said the reason they waited so long to take legal action was because they could never afford it.
They are seeking an injunction to block the re-release of Led Zepellin IV in deluxe, remastered vinyl and CD editions, planned for this June, while they file a copyright infringement lawsuit.
Led Zeppelin IV album sleeve: The litigants are seeking an injunction to block the album’s re-release of in deluxe, remastered vinyl and CD editions this June, while they file a copyright infringement lawsuit.
U.S. lawyer Francis Alexander Molofiy, who is handling the case, said: ‘The idea behind this is to make sure that Randy California is given a writing credit on Stairway to Heaven. It’s been a long time coming.’
And, of course, there’s the money. California drowned in 1997 while rescuing his son from a rip current while on holiday in Hawaii and the royalties from his music career are now collected by a trust.
The beneficiary of that trust is the Randy California Project in Ventura County, California, which teachers youngsters music.
Led Zeppelin would not comment on the case.
Is there a case to answer? Listen to Led Zeppelin’s track Stairway To Heaven and Spirit’s track Taurus and decide for yourself
SOURCES: UK Mail Online, Rolling Stone Magazine, Ultimate Classic Rock