Lisa Respers France
(CNN) — A lawsuit has been filed claiming that the iconic Led Zeppelin song “Stairway to Heaven” was far from original.
The suit, filed on May 31 in the United States District Court Eastern District of Pennsylvania, was brought by the estate of the late musician Randy California against the surviving members of Led Zeppelin and their record label. The copyright infringement case alleges that the Zeppelin song was taken from the single “Taurus” by the 1960s band Spirit, for whom California served as lead guitarist.
“Late in 1968, a then new band named Led Zeppelin began touring in the United States, opening for Spirit,” the suit states. “It was during this time that Jimmy Page, Led Zeppelin’s guitarist, grew familiar with ‘Taurus’ and the rest of Spirit’s catalog. Page stated in interviews that he found Spirit to be ‘very good’ and that the band’s performances struck him ‘on an emotional level.’ “
One of the causes of action for the suit is listed as “Falsification of Rock N’ Roll History” and the typeface in the section headings of the filing resembles that used for Led Zeppelin album covers. According to claims in the suit, “Parts of ‘Stairway to Heaven,’ instantly recognizable to the music fans across the world, sound almost identical to significant portions of ‘Taurus.’ “
The estate is seeking court ordered damages and writing credit for California, born Randy Craig Wolfe. Part of the defense includes a printed interview conducted with California prior to his death from drowning in 1997. In the 1997 interview with Listener Magazine, the guitarist claims that some of the music from “Stairway to Heaven” was taken from his group’s song.
“Well, if you listen to the two songs, you can make your own judgment,” the lawsuit quotes the interview as saying. “It’s an exact … I’d say it was a rip-off. And 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.”
In a May interview with France’s Liberation newspaper, Page said of the claims “That’s ridiculous. I have no further comment on the subject.”
The attorney representing California’s trust, Francis Malofiy, told CNN before the suit was filed that Zeppelin’s guitarist Page “looked to Randy California and Spirit as someone who inspired him.” The attorney also explained why it took so many years for a suit to be filed.
“Justice is available to those who can afford it,” Malofiy said, “It’s very very hard for a musician who’s struggling just to keep a roof over his head … to actually go about and fight some of the biggest giants in the music and entertainment industry.”
One of the plaintiffs of the case, Warner Music Group, is owned by the parent company of CNN. Led Zeppelin reissued their first three albums as both a single remastered album and deluxe editions on Tuesday.