So how did Led Zeppelin get into this “Stairway to Heaven” lawsuit mess?
The lawsuit, which alleges that members of the iconic band plagiarized key elements in the equally iconic song, is to move to a full jury trial.
The lawsuit goes back two years when the estate of Randy Wolfe, a former guitarist with the group Spirit, filied the lawsuit.
On Friday, U.S District Judge R. Gary Klausner ruled that there’s enough evidence to move ahead with a trial to decide whether Led Zeppelin, specifically singer Robert Plant and guitarist Jimmy Page, unfairly and illegally appropriated the guitar line from the Spirit song “Taurus.”
Wolfe — performing as Randy California — wrote years before “Stairway to Heaven” was released in 1971.
The question for the jury: Did they copy at least some parts of their most famous song?
“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,” said U.S. District Judge Gary Klausner of the Central District of California w in a 20-page opinion denying, in part, Led Zeppelin’s motion for summary judgment.
“For example, the descending bass line in both Taurus and Stairway to Heaven appears at the beginning of both songs, arguably the most recognizable and important segments. … Additionally, the descending bass line is played at the same pitch, repeated twice, and separated by a short bridge in both songs.” Citing another opinion, he added: “Enough similar protectable expression is here that the issue of substantial similarity should [proceed to the jury].”
Listen and decide:
The plagiarism lawsuit was filed with a Philadelphia court in 2014, the same year Led Zeppelin released a newly remastered version of “Stairway to Heaven.”
The court venue was changed to California a year later, to the same court that recently ruled in favor of the estate of Marvin Gaye in its copyright infringement lawsuit over the 2013 hit “Blurred Lines,” by Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke.
It will be watched by “Stairway” fans everywhere with high interest. For a song that has been played so much, some would say too much, and often too loud, the legend that is “Stairway to Heaven” continues, unabated.