Led Zeppelin Being Sued for Alleged 'Stairway to Heaven' Plagiarism

The group has been dogged by accusations of plagiarism for years, and has settled a few suits out of court

Photo: Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns/Getty

It’s a riff you’ve likely heard hundreds of times. And it might not even belong to the band most associated with it.

Led Zeppelin are in court (again) for allegedly plagiarizing their best-known work, “Stairway to Heaven,” from a little-known band called Spirit.

“It’s been a long time coming,” attorney Francis Alexander Malofiy told Bloomberg Businessweek. Indeed: Videos showing the suspicious similarity between the introductory riff of “Stairway” and a passage from Spirit’s instrumental “Taurus” have persisted for years on YouTube. Zeppelin also toured with Spirit in 1968, the year the group released “Taurus” and two years before Page claims to have written “Stairway.”

“The idea behind this [suit] is to make sure that ["Taurus" writer and Spirit guitarist] Randy California is given a writing credit on ‘Stairway to Heaven,’ ” Malofiy said. The suit, filed by a trust in California’s name, seeks an injunction that would block the reissue of Led Zeppelin IV, the album containing “Stairway to Heaven,” and financial reparations as well.

This is hardly Zep’s first time in the courtroom. Allegations of plagiarism involving artists from folk singer Bert Jansch to Joan Baez have dogged the group for years, and they’ve paid settlements to Willie Dixon (and added him as a cowriter) and Ritchie Valens’s publisher for “Bring It On Home,” “The Lemon Song,” (for Dixon) and “Boogie with Stu” (for Valens).

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