Going for a song: jury to decide whether ‘Stairway to Heaven’ riff is lifted

Generations of aspiring guitarists have tried to copy the riff from Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven”. Starting on Tuesday, a Los Angeles court will try to decide whether the members of Led Zeppelin themselves ripped off the riff. The band’s guitarist Jimmy Page and singer Robert Plant are named as defendants in the lawsuit brought by the trustee of guitarist Randy Wolfe from the band Spirit. Attorneys for the trustee contend that 1971’s Stairway to Heaven copies music from the Spirit song Taurus, which Wolfe wrote in either 1966 or 1967.

What we want is for credit to be given where it’s due. I’m a fan of Led Zeppelin, but in this situation, we want credit for Randy.

Attorney Francis Malofiy

Wolfe died in 1997, drowning while saving his son in Hawaii. Page, Plant and their bandmate John Paul Jones are all expected to testify at the trial, though Jones has been dismissed as a defendant in the case. Led Zeppelin and Spirit performed at some concerts and festivals around the same time, but not on the same stage. U.S District Judge R. Gary Klausner ruled in April evidence made a credible case that Led Zeppelin may have heard Taurus performed before their song was created. Francis Alexander Malofiy, attorney for Wolfe’s trustee Michael Skidmore, said Klausner’s ruling brings his client one step closer to getting Wolfe credit for helping create one of the most recognisable song introductions in rock history. Led Zeppelin’s attorneys argue both songs use notes and combinations that have been circulating in music for centuries.