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Led Zeppelin Accused of Ripping Off "Stairway to Heaven," Sued by Spirit for Plagiarism

Led Zeppelin Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Legendary rock band Led Zeppelin is being sued by another band named Spirit for plagiarism after allegedly lifting their famous hit "Stairway to Heaven," according to reports.

Spirit is reportedly claiming that the opening notes in the Zeppelin track are extremely similar to their 1968 song "Taurus," and want to block the re-release of "Stairway to Heaven" on the band's remastered deluxe versions of their original albums, claiming that Spirit's late guitarist Randy California (born Randy Wolfe) should be given a writing credit.

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"It's been a long time coming," attorney Francis Alexander Malofiy said in Bloomberg Businessweek. Malofiy is representing a trust for deceased guitarist California, who wrote "Taurus," the instrumental track that was allegedly used to rip off the opening chords and appeared on the band's 1968 debut album.

"The idea behind this is to make sure that Randy California is given a writing credit on ‘Stairway to Heaven,'" Malofiy said. They are most likely seeking monetary reparations as well. Businessweek quotes an estimate that by 2008, "Stairway to Heaven" had earned at least $562 million.

The music to "Stairway to Heaven" is credited to Zeppelin's Jimmy Page; he is thought to have written it in 1970, two years after "Taurus" was released and one year after the band shared stages with Spirit at gigs across the U.S. in 1969.

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"'Stairway' crystallized the essence of the band," he told then-teenage rock writer Cameron Crowe in a March 13, 1975, Rolling Stone interview. "It was a milestone for us. Every musician wants to do something of lasting quality, something which will hold up for a long time, and I guess we did it with 'Stairway.'"

During an interview with The New York TImes published last month, Page was asked about having to credit the work of bluesman Willie Dixon after some legal wrangling related to a different song. Page told the newspaper that the riff and song structure were unique but "within the lyrics of it, there's "You Need Love," and there are similarities within the lyrics. Now I'm not pointing a finger at anybody, but I'm just saying that's what happened, and Willie Dixon got credit. Fair enough."

Mark Andes, Spirit's founding bassist, says he was so wrapped up in his music back then that he only recently noticed how similar "Stairway" was to "Taurus."

Andes told Bloomberg Businessweek. "I can't explain it. 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."

A spokesman for New York-based Warner Music told Bloomberg Businessweek, "Both Led Zeppelin and Warner Music will be offering no comment for this story."

Do you think there are similarities between the tracks? Take a listen and let us know in the comments!

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