Led Zeppelin Sued by Spirit Bassist For ‘Stairway To Heaven’
Once again, Led Zeppelin are finding themselves as defendants in a lawsuit alleging that they stole one of their classics from another musician. Only this time it's not a folk or blues musician, but a fellow rocker.
Business Week reports that Mark Andes, the founding bassist of Spirit, is filing suit agains the band, claiming that the introduction to 'Stairway to Heaven' is very similar to their song, 'Taurus.' Ultimate Classic Rock noticed the resemblance between the two on our list of the Top 10 Spirit Songs.
Andes is seeking an injunction to block the impending re-release of Zeppelin's fourth album, on which 'Stairway' appears, in the hopes that guitarist Randy California, who wrote 'Taurus,' gets a co-writing credit on the song. California died in 1997, but not before telling a reporter, “I’d say it was a ripoff. And 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.”
In order to prove copyright infringement in a U.S. court, the claimant has to prove not only that the songs are virtually identical, but also that the defendant had access to the source material. Led Zeppelin's first concert in America was as Spirit's opening act in 1968, the year in which 'Taurus' was released on their self-titled debut. The two bands also appeared together on several festivals in 1969.
Led Zeppelin's history with copyright infringement is one of the most notorious and well-documented in rock history. Previous lawsuits have forced them to give co-writing credit on 'Whole Lotta Love,' 'Babe I'm Gonna Leave You,' 'The Lemon Song' and 'Dazed and Confused.'
We've embedded the two songs below so you can judge for yourself if the songs are similar.
Listen to 'Taurus' by Spirit
Listen to 'Stairway to Heaven' by Led Zeppelin