Arguably the top story in music news this past week was the lawsuit against Led Zeppelin by the relatively unknown (compared to Led Zeppelin) rock group Spirit. Spirit had its greatest success in the 1960s and ’70s. I have a complete collection of music by both groups.
My high school friends introduced me to the two groups when I was 16. Everyone knew how much I loved music since I played the piano and violin, and sang in the high school choir. When they had a surprise birthday party for me in March 1971, Mark Johnson gave me Spirit’s “The Family That Plays Together” album and Jamie Perez gave me “Led Zeppelin III.”
Led Zeppelin is in the process of re-mastering and re-releasing their music. The re-mastered Led Zeppelin I, II, and III are out. Led Zeppelin IV, their most famous album since it contains the incomparable “Stairway To Heaven,” was due to be re-released in a few weeks.
The lawsuit claims that Led Zeppelin plagiarized “Stairway to Heaven” from an instrumental section of Spirit’s song “Taurus.” I have known about the supposed similarities since 1997 when Randy California of Spirit discussed it in an interview just before he died. It should be noted that Led Zeppelin and Spirit toured together in 1968 and 1969. “Taurus” was released by Spirit in January 1968. “Stairway to Heaven” was released by Led Zeppelin in November 1971.
Have a listen; it’s the guitar in the introduction of “Stairway to Heaven” that is said to be plagiarized. Listen to “Taurus” beginning at 0:44 and then listen to the guitar in “Stairway to Heaven,” specifically the first 2:15.
What do I think? Here’s what I think:
“All You Need Is Love”…. One of the greatest plagiarized songs of all time! (LOL). In the beginning you hear a Beatles rendition of the French national anthem, “La Marseillaise,” written and composed by Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle in April 1792. Other bits and pieces include “Greensleeves,” first registered at the London Stationer’s Company in September 1580 by Richard Jones (“A Newe Northen Dittye of ye Ladye Greene Sleves”), and Glen Miller’s “In The Mood.” Sources indicate that The Beatles paid royalties to Glen Miller for his contribution.
The Spirit lawsuit seeks to give Randy California writing credit on “Stairway To Heaven” and to block the re-release of “Led Zeppelin IV.”
So it took 43 years for Spirit to realize a similarity and file a lawsuit? Hmmmmmmm. Dubious. Then again, maybe it’s not too late for Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle and Richard Jones!
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