Posted: May 23 2014
by: Neal Haworth

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Did Led Zeppelin Steal The Riff For Stairway To Heaven?

The song with the most playtime on FM radio ever -- Stairway To Heaven -- may not be original, according to Philadelphia lawyer Francis Alexander Malofiy representing the trust of the late Randy California's of the band Spirit.

Malofiy has filed a lawsuit against Led Zeppelin on behalf of California's family, claiming the riff for the iconic 8-minute rock song was stolen from Spirit's 1968 track Taurus. This lawsuit has certainly raised some eyebrows, with many people asking why now. After all, wouldn't California and the rest of Spirit have sued Led Zeppelin several decades ago when the issue was still fresh?

California's family claims the reason why it took so long to bring legal action against the Led Zeppelin is because they simply didn't have the funds necessary to pay for attorneys and other related legal expenses. Towards the end of his life, California played gigs at various  restaurants in exchange for food.

"It's been a long time coming. The idea behind this is to make sure that Randy California is given a writing credit on Stairway to Heaven," Philadelphia layer Francis Alexander Malofly told Bloomberg Businessweek.

An article published by BusinessWeek.comZeppelin's Stairway To Heaven had grossed over $562 million by 2008. The article notes that part of the song's success was due to the band's reluctance to release it as a single; therefore, fans were forced to purchase the entire album -- also named Stairway To Heaven -- in order to own a copy of the legendary song.

If these numbers are correct, and the court favors with the Malofiy, California's family could be entitled to some major financial compensation.

Did Led Zeppelin really steal the riff from Spirit's Taurus for Stairway To Heaven? I guess this is something that the courts will ultimately have to decide, but you can come with your own opinion by listening to the song in the YouTube video below.

Taurus By Spirit

Granted the song is short and purely instrumental, but there's an undeniable resemblance to Led Zeppelin's hit song Stairway To Heaven. The two songs feature the same 10-15 second riff of finger picking.

Will this be enough for the courts to side with Malofiy? Dr. Charles Fairchild, senior lecturer in popular music doesn't seem to think so. "There are probably a lot of other versions of it out there that would be equally similar," he said. "The obvious and only similarity between them is the finger-picked guitar passage that starts off the guitar playing in both songs.


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