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Go into the light – dispute over ‘Stairway to Heaven’ guitar riff comes to an end


November 24, 2020

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The BBC has reported that a 6-year legal battle involving Led Zeppelin’s song ‘Stairway to Heaven’ has finally come to an end. The claim concerns the opening guitar riff of the famous ballad, which was alleged to have been copied from a song called ‘Taurus’ by American rock band Spirit. ‘Stairway to Heaven’ was estimated to have earned US$34 million during the period in question, all of which was claimed as damages in the suit.


The claim was brought by Michael Skidmore on behalf of Spirit’s late frontman, Randy Wolfe. The allegations were substantiated by Spirit’s bassist Mark Andes who testified to the fact that Led Zeppelin’s singer, Robert Plant, had seen Spirit in concert and played snooker with them only a year before ‘Stairway to Heaven’ was released. However, Plant was involved in a car crash on the way home that night, and claims to have no recollection of the events of the evening, or the music he heard.


Led Zeppelin won the original trial based on the evidence of expert musicologists who confirmed that the songs were not “intrinsically similar”. Skidmore subsequently appealed that decision.


That appeal was dismissed based on a finding that the minor errors identified in the original trial did not warrant a new proceeding. Skidmore then appealed to the US Supreme Court, which recently refused to hear the appeal, thereby putting an end to the claim and providing finality to Led Zeppelin fans everywhere.

Authors: Scott Kerr and Sasha Seeber

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