Led Zeppelin didn't steal ‘Stairway’ riff from Jewish rocker, jury rules

The suit charged that Led Zeppelin stole the “Stairway to Heaven” riff from Spirit’s song “Taurus.”

June 23, 2016 23:58
1 minute read.
led zeppelin

Lead singer Robert Plant (L) and guitarist Jimmy Page of British rock band Led Zeppelin are seen October 9, 2012 and July 21, 2015 in New York and Toronto in this combination file photo.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Led Zeppelin did not lift a guitar riff used in its signature song "Stairway to Heaven" from the US group Spirit, a Los Angeles jury found on Thursday, saying there were substantial differences between the two.

The jury's decision, reached on its second day of deliberations, followed a week-long trial in US District Court in Los Angeles that had called into question the originality of the classic 1971 song of Led Zeppelin, one of the top-selling rock acts of all time.

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The jury found that Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant and guitarist Jimmy Page had access to Spirit's 1967 song "Taurus" but that the riff they were accused of taking was not intrinsically similar to the opening chords of "Stairway."

Page and Plant, who attended court since the beginning of the closely watched trial on June 14, showed little reaction immediately after the verdict was announced.

Page, who co-wrote the song with Plant and worked on the guitar riff, testified that he was largely unfamiliar with "Taurus" but that he did own a copy of defunct band Spirit's self-titled album that contained the song.

Michael Skidmore, a trustee for the estate of the late Spirit guitarist, Jewish songwriter Randy Wolfe, had filed the lawsuit in 2014 accusing Led Zeppelin of taking the chord progression from "Taurus," an instrumental that in the decades since its release had fallen into obscurity.

"This song, 'Taurus' -- 'Stairway to Heaven' is clearly based on it but the jury was not allowed to hear 'Taurus'. If the jury had heard the actual sound recording of 'Taurus', there's no doubt in my mind that we would have won," he said.

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