Led Zeppelin (AP/Rusty Kennedy)

Led Zeppelin loses first court battle in "Stairway to Heaven" lawsuit

The band is being sued by heirs of Randy Craig Wolfe, founding member of the band Spirit


Sarah Gray
October 17, 2014 11:50PM (UTC)

Led Zeppelin lost the first court battle in a lawsuit that alleges the legendary British band stole parts of the iconic song "Stairway to Heaven."

The suit, filed in June by the heirs of Randy Craig Wolfe or "Randy California," founding member of the band Spirit, was filed in Pennsylvania. "Under what's known as the 'effects test,'" Billboard explained, "Michael Skidmore, the trustee for the Wolfe trust (and evidently, a Massachusetts resident), can bring his action in Pennsylvania if he alleges an intentional tort, the plaintiff felt the brunt of the harm there, and the defendants aimed their conduct there."

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The band filed a motion to have the suit dismissed because they are all British and have no ties to Pennsylvania. Unfortunately for Led Zeppelin, "U.S. District Court Judge Juan Sánchez has now denied the motion to dismiss or transfer without prejudice," The Hollywood Reporter stated. However, the judge gave no specific reasoning.

The lawsuit's defendants include Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and their music companies.

There is an oft-told story surrounding the writing of "Stairway to Heaven," holed up in a cabin in Wales. In 2003 Page recounted it to NPR:

"I had these pieces, these guitar pieces, that I wanted to put together. I had a whole idea of a piece of music that I really wanted to try and present to everybody and try and come to terms with. Bit difficult really, because it started on acoustic, and as you know it goes through to the electric parts. But we had various run-throughs [at Headley Grange] where I was playing the acoustic guitar and jumping up and picking up the electric guitar. Robert was sitting in the corner, or rather leaning against the wall, and as I was routining the rest of the band with this idea and this piece, he was just writing. And all of a sudden he got up and started singing, along with another run-through, and he must have had 80% of the words there."

The plaintiffs allege that it really came from a Spirit song, "Taurus," and that Led Zeppelin heard "Taurus" when they opened for Spirit in 1968.


Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on innovation. Follow @sarahhhgray or email sgray@salon.com.

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Copyright Lawsuit Led Zeppelin Music "stairway To Heaven"

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