Jury: Led Zeppelin Didn't Steal 'Stairway to Heaven' Riff

Jimmy Page and Robert Plant are 'grateful' for the decision
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 23, 2016 6:05 PM CDT
Jury: Led Zeppelin Didn't Steal 'Stairway to Heaven' Riff
Robert Plant and Jimmy Page during a Led Zeppelin performance in 1985.   (AP Photo/Rusty Kennedy, File)

Led Zeppelin was found innocent of stealing the opening riff to "Stairway to Heaven"—frankly one of the least scandalous things the band has ever been accused of—Thursday in Los Angeles, the Guardian reports. Jimmy Page and Robert Plant were sued by the estate of Randy Wolfe, which claimed Led Zeppelin had stolen the riff from Wolfe's band Spirit. The song in question, "Taurus," was released four years before "Stairway to Heaven." According to CNN, quoting a statement from Plant and Page, the band is "grateful" the jury found in its favor, confirming "what we have known for 45 years." Since its release, "Stairway to Heaven" is estimated to have earned more than $550 million in publishing royalties.

What the Guardian calls “arguably the most famous riff in the most famous anthem in rock” was a "sore point" for Wolfe. “I’d say it was a rip-off," Wolfe said before his death in 1997. "And the guys made millions of bucks on it and never said ‘thank you.’” A lawyer for Wolfe's estate claimed Led Zeppelin and Spirt knew each other and even played shows together, NPR reports. While Plant and Page denied that, they did admit to covering a different Spirit song in their early years and owning an album with "Taurus" on it (though Page said he didn't remember hearing the song until two years ago). Led Zeppelin's lawyer countered that “the delicately descending pattern is a commonplace 'musical building block' that is in the public domain.” And as NPR sums up: “The jury sided with the more famous rock band.” (Read more Led Zeppelin stories.)

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