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Published: 2014/05/19

Plagiarism Claim May Jeopardize Led Zeppelin IV Reissue

Attorneys representing Randy California, the deceased guitarist for 60s/70s rock band Spirit, claim that Led Zeppelin stole the intro to their classic “Stairway to Heaven” from Spirit’s 1968 track “Taurus.” The lawyers would like to halt the release of the band’s upcoming reissue of Led Zeppelin IV in order to make sure that California is given a writing credit.

Rolling Stone reports that Led Zeppelin and Spirit played four shows together in 1968 and 1969. It also appears that the song in question—“Taurus”—was played during those performances. Additionally, it seems that Led Zeppelin worked a medley of songs that included Spirit’s “Fresh Garbage” into their repertoire during their first U.S. tour.

According to Rolling Stone, Listener magazine published an interview with California in 1997—the year he died—in which the guitarist called “Stairway to Heaven” a “rip-off” and stated that, “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.”

California’s family claims that they waited until now to take legal action because they were unable to afford attorneys beforehand.

As previously reported, Led Zeppelin will release their highly anticipated reissues of Led Zeppelin I, Led Zeppelin II and Led Zeppelin III on June 3, with reissues of the band’s later album planned for the near future.

This is not the first time that Led Zeppelin has dealt with plagiarism charges. The band was famously forced to give Willie Dixon a writing credit for their hit “Whole Lotta Love” after settling a lawsuit with him out of court. Singer-songwriter Jake Holmes also sued Led Zeppelin for copyright infringement in 2010, claiming the band failed to provide credit or compensation for the use of his 1967 song “Dazed and Confused.” That case also appears to have been settled out of court.

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