One of the most cherished Rock and Roll songs of all time may be the result of plagiarism according to lawyers of Randy California, the late Spirit frontman. According to lawyer Francis Alexander Malofiy the rights to Led Zeppelin‘s classic Rock song “Stairway to Heaven” should not belong soley to credited writers Robert Plant and Jimmy Page but to California as well.
In 1968 Calfornia’s band Spirit released a self titled album that featured the song Taurus. Within the song is a one minute guitar riff that bears much resemblance to Led Zepplin’s song. Further stacking the deck is the fact that Zepplin toured with Spirit from 1968 to 1969 while “Taurus” was heavily featured in Spirit’s setlist.
“It’s been a long time coming,” attorney Francis Alexander Malofiy told Bloomsburg Business Week. “The idea behind this is to make sure that Randy California is given a writing credit on Stairway to Heaven…there’s millions of dollars at stake here,” Indeed, much of the reason the journey has taken so long is the members of Spirit’s lack of means to bring the case to court. Experts place Stairway to Heaven’s value at $560 million.
Released off of Led Zeppelin’s Untitled fourth studio album, Stairway to Heaven quickly became a celebrated song thanks to that now iconic guitar riff. In 2006, Guitair World ranked the solo as #1 among their list of the 100 Greatest Guitair Solos. Since then the song has been covered multiple times from a far reaching variety of artists from Dolly Parton in a stripped down 2002 performance to Mary J Blige’s 2010 reworking that was released for charity. The news of the upcoming lawsuit comes at the heels of Led Zeppelin’s reissuing of the aforementioned 1971 album. Malofiy hopes to resolve the issue before its re-release and deliver just proceeds to Caifornia’s estate.
In a 1997 interview with Listener magazine, California called “Stairway to Heaven” a “rip-off…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.” California would die later that year drowning from trying to save his son from a wild sea current.