KQED News Staff

Jury Finds Led Zeppelin Did Not Steal Riff for ‘Stairway’

Led Zeppelin did not steal a riff from an obscure 1960s instrumental tune to use for the introduction of its classic rock anthem “Stairway to Heaven,” a federal court jury decided Thursday. The verdict in Los Angeles settles a point that music fans have debated for decades but didn't find its way to court until two years ago, when the trustee for the late Randy Craig Wolfe filed a copyright lawsuit. The trust claimed that Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page lifted a passage that Wolfe, better known as Randy California, wrote for “Taurus,” a short work he recorded with his band Spirit in 1968. Page and singer Robert Plant showed little emotion as the verdict was read then hugged their lawyers. Jurors found the trust had cleared a few hurdles, including that Page and Plant had “access” to “Taurus,” meaning they would have been familiar with it. Trust attorney Francis Malofiy said he was sad and disappointed by the jury's decision. “The reality is that we proved access, but they could never hear what they had access to,” Malofiy said. “It's bizarre.” In trying to show the works were substantially similar, the trust had the tricky task of relying on sheet music because that's what is filed with the U.S. Copyright Office. Jurors were not played the “Taurus” recording, which contains a section that sounds very similar to the instantly recognizable start of “Stairway.” Instead, they were played guitar and piano renditions by musicians on both sides of the case. Not surprisingly, the plaintiff's version on guitar sounded more like “Stairway” than the defense version on piano. Page and Plant, who wrote the “Stairway” lyrics, said their creation was an original. In several hours of often-animated and amusing testimony, they described the craft behind one of rock's best-known songs, all the while denying knowledge of one of the genre's Read More ...