Listen: is Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven a 'rip-off'?

May 21, 2014

Judge the similarities between Stairway to Heaven and the song it is allegedly based on for yourself

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Led Zeppelin have been accused of stealing a chord progression for the opening of their most successful song, Stairway to Heaven. 

Lawyers for late guitarist Randy California are trying to block the re-release of Stairway to Heaven and allege that the similarities between the 1971 track and an instrumental called Taurus by California's band, Spirit, amount to copyright infringement.

Spirit played on the same bill as Led Zeppelin a number of times in the late 60s.

Taurus is a slow-tempo track was written in 1968, and according to Spirit's founding bass-player Mark Andes, "would typically come after a big forceful number and always got a good response".

Stairway to Heaven was recorded in 1971 and went on to become the band's best selling track ever, earning £334m as of 2008, Bloomberg estimates.

Led Zeppelin "could be sued", the Daily Mail says, in a court case likely to be based on allegations that the beginning of the Led Zeppelin song resembles guitar work on Taurus.

Andes said of the similarity: "It is fairly blatant, and note for note. It would just be nice if the Led Zeppelin guys gave Randy a little nod. That would be lovely".

California died in 1997 while attempting to save his son from drowning. Shortly before his death he described Stairway to Heaven as a "rip-off". Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page says he wrote the song while he was on holidays in a cottage in Wales.

So just how similar are the two tracks? Judge for yourself below.

Taurus by Spirit 

Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin


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This is silly! Makes me think of the Morecombe and Wise sketch "You are playing all the wrong notes!" "I'm playing all the right notes, just not necessarily in the right order"....There may be the same note sequences occasionally, but that is like saying Playboy is modelled on the Bible, because they use the same words...This ain't about words and music, its about money!

Absolutely agree. It'a a spurious claim.

I also agree! There should be a statute of limitations on this sort of thing Stairway to heaven came out FORTY years ago! Did they just realize they sounded similar? Pretty sure Taurus is just looking for a quick pay day.