That Led Zeppelin-Spirit “Stairway” vs. “Taurus” Court Case to Proceed

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At stake: potentially millions. Listen to both tracks, below.

By Uncle Blurt

By now everyone knows about the “Stairway to Heaven” controversy: via trustee Mick Skidmore, the estate of the late Spirit guitarist Randy California (Randy Wolfe) sued Led Zeppelin – specifically, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant – for allegedly ripping off Spirit’s “Taurus” for the intro to “Stairway.” California, of course, was the composer of the Spirit song in 1967, and the estate could have quite a sizable settlement awaiting. Led Zep dug in their heels, however, claiming that the chord progression in question that the songs share was very common. This despite the fact that the two bands obviously crossed paths in the late ’60s and early ’70s, and that it’s pretty likely Page had heard “Taurus” at some point.

Randy California 1979

On Friday, US district judge Gary Klausner in Los Angeles ruled that the case can go forward, noting that the similarities between the two songs were striking enough to warrant a jury trial. It’s slated for May 10.

Wrote Klausner, “While it is true that a descending chromatic four-chord progression is a common convention that abounds in the music industry, the similarities here transcend this core structure. What remains is a subjective assessment of the ‘concept and feel’ of two works … a task no more suitable for a judge than for a jury.”

Go HERE to read a fascinatingly detailed account of the lawsuit’s arc to date, along with other related Zeppelin commentary, at Bloomberg.

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