Led Zeppelin’s Long Legal Battle over “Stairway to Heaven” Finally Over

Jimmy Page performs during the ARMS Charity Concerts which were a series of charitable rock concerts in support of Action into Research for Multiple Sclerosis in 1983.on December 8, 1983 in New York City.

(Photo by Bill Tompkins/Getty Images)

English Rock legends Led Zeppelin have finally won their long-standing copyright battle over their iconic track “Stairway to Heaven”.

In 2014 American rock band Spirit alleged that the group had stolen the main guitar riff from their song Taurus. The suit was initially unsuccessful but was revived in 2018 on an appeal where it’s original verdict would be overturned. On March 9th, 2020, the Ninth Circuit of Appeals reinstated the original verdict. Spirit’s last hope stood with the U.S. Supreme Court.

On October 5th, 2020 it was announced that the U.S. Supreme Court would not see the case, putting the case to rest for good.

Spirit, getting its start in around 1967, and Zeppelin, forming around 1968, actually played several shows together in their early years. Spirit’s contested track, Taurus, first appeared on the group’s debut self-titled album in 1968. Stairway to Heaven would later appear on Led Zeppelin IV, released in 1971 and would also feature hits like: Black DogRock and Roll, and When the Levee Breaks. These early shows have lead many people over the years to draw parallels to Zeppelin’s performances being inspired by Spirit, including Page’s use of a theremin.

Lead guitarist Jimmy Page has denied these claims over the years but many publications have sided with Spirit. Strangely, Page also denied ever even sharing a stage with them.

“I do not recall ever seeing Spirit perform live,” said Page in a 2016 deposition. “I am absolutely certain I never heard them, or anyone else, perform ‘Taurus.’”

While the chord progression and plucking pattern are very similar the presentation is very different. Spirit’s guitar comes in softly at the midway point of an orchestral instrumental track, Zeppelin leads with it, dancing with Robert Plant‘s solemn voice while also resolving the progression differently and adding some slides and other frills.

Each song’s chord progression is as follows:

(Via https://www.premierguitar.com/articles/29116-the-stairway-progression)

While the courts have decided the fate of the case, some of the fans’ verdicts might still be out on this one. Compare for yourself.




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