Jury Trial Scheduled as Spirit Sues Led Zeppelin Over “Stairway to Heaven”

A jury trial is scheduled for May 10 to decide whether Led Zeppelin copied the chord progression used in “Taurus,” a song by Spirit, for “Stairway to Heaven.”

“While it is true that a descending chromatic four-chord progression is a common convention that abounds in the music industry, the similarities here transcend this core structure,” said U.S. District Judge Gary Klausner of the Central District of California in his opinion, which in part denied Led Zeppelin’s motion for summary judgment. “[T]he descending bass line in both ‘Taurus’ and ‘Stairway to Heaven’ appears at the beginning of both songs, arguably the most recognizable and important segments … Additionally, the descending bass line is played at the same pitch, repeated twice, and separated by a short bridge in both songs.”

"While it is true that a descending chromatic four-chord progression is a common convention that abounds in the music industry, the similarities here transcend this core structure"

The two sides can’t agree on whether Page and Plant heard Spirit play “Taurus” before Led Zeppelin wrote “Stairway to Heaven,” which has earned Led Zeppelin more than $562 million, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

The suit was filed by Michael Skidmore, a trustee for “Randy California” Wolfe of Spirit, who died in 1997. Wolfe wrote “Taurus” in 1967, according to the suit, and Led Zeppelin and Spirit did tour together.

“We did quite a few shows with those guys,” said Mark Andes, Spirit’s founding bassist in an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek. “Not to say they might not have heard it from the record.” According to Bloomberg Businessweek, the bands played concerts together in Detroit at the Grande Ballroom on May 16, 1969; on July 5, 1969, at the Atlanta Pop Festival; and on the closing day of the Seattle Pop Festival, July 27, ‘69; and played on two separate days at the Texas International Pop Festival in late August, ‘69.

Spirit - "Taurus"
Jimmy Page: How "Stairway to Heaven" was written - BBC News
comments powered by Disqus