Planned lawsuit to claim Led Zeppelin ripped off ‘Stairway’ riff
There’s a lady that’s sure all that glitters is gold -- and a lawyer that’s sure Led Zeppelin ripped off a classic riff from their client.
That’s the belated allegation put forth from representatives of the estate of Randy California, the guitarist for the proto-classic-rock band Spirit. The estate’s representatives say they plan to file a lawsuit claiming that Spirit’s old show-mates Led Zeppelin stole part of the classic intro riff to “Stairway to Heaven” from Spirit’s 1968 track “Taurus.”
FOR THE RECORD
The headline on an earlier version of this story implied that the planned lawsuit had already been filed. It has not been filed.
They aim to get California (who died in 1997) a co-writing credit on the tune.
Obviously, the suit wouldn’t do much to dislodge the song from the Zeppelin canon and the bedrooms of teenage guitarists around the world. California never publicly complained about the alleged swipe for most of his life, and Zeppelin’s blues-rock tradition has a long history of elaborating and riffing on other melodies and song ideas.
But according to Bloomberg Businessweek, in 1997 California told “Listener” magazine that “I’d say it was a ripoff... And 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.”
A representative for Warner Music told the magazine that the label would not comment, but Mark Andes, Spirit’s founding bassist said that “it is fairly blatant, and note for note...It would just be nice if the Led Zeppelin guys gave Randy a little nod. That would be lovely.”
Inside the business of entertainment
The Wide Shot brings you news, analysis and insights on everything from streaming wars to production — and what it all means for the future.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.