Stairway To Heaven: Led Zeppelin 1, The Estate Of Randy Wolfe 0
Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, who are no strangers to claims of plagiarism, spent quite a bit of their time in a California courtroom recently, as defendants in litigation brought by Michael Skidmore, representing the late Spirit frontman Randy Wolfe, who was known professionally as Randy California. The suit alleged that the famous intro to Led Zeppelin‘s Stairway To Heaven was lifted from the instrumental Taurus by Spirit, with whom Zeppelin toured briefly in the late 60s.
Page and Plant will no doubt be breaking out the champagne (or their non-alcoholic celebratory beverage of choice, if that’s the way they’re rolling these days). A Hollywood Reporter article indicates that the eight person jury has ruled in their favor in US Federal Court, saying that there was “no substantial similarity in the extrinsic elements of ‘Stairway…’ and Spirit’s ‘Taurus'”.
Jimmy Page says that time spent on the road with Spirit may have influenced his songwriting, although he feels that being shaded for plagiarism in the $US40 million suit was daft. Meanwhile, Francis Malofiy, lawyer for the plaintiffs, told reporters at the courthouse that “they won on a technicality. We proved access. We proved they had access to the music, but [the jury] never heard the music.” A studio recording of Spirit’s Taurus was never actually played during the trial.
He continued: “So the jury’s sitting there with basically blinders on without ever having the opportunity of hearing the evidence at issue. We’re fighting with a foot stapled to the ground, and an arm tied behind our back, and it wasn’t a fair fight.”
This, of course, may not be the last we hear of this. Says Malofiy, “There’s obviously issues that can be appealed.”