Led Zeppelin goes on trial for 'Stairway to Heaven' in Los Angeles

Tue Jun 14, 2016 8:05pm EDT
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By Phoenix Tso

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A musical riff Led Zeppelin is accused of stealing from another band for its 1971 classic "Stairway to Heaven" was not unique, singer Robert Plant and guitarist Jimmy Page's attorney said at a civil trial on Tuesday.

"No one owns common musical elements," defense attorney Peter Anderson said in opening arguments for the copyright infringement trial in Los Angeles federal court.

The lawsuit, which alleges the British band stole the opening chords for "Stairway to Heaven" from the 1967 instrumental "Taurus" by the American band Spirit, was brought by Michael Skidmore, a trustee for the late Randy Wolfe, Spirit's guitarist and the composer of "Taurus."

"Stairway to Heaven" is considered one of the most widely heard compositions in rock history and is the signature song of Led Zeppelin, which broke up in 1980.

The case comes just over a year after a federal jury in Los Angeles found recording stars Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams had plagiarized Motown great Marvin Gaye in creating their hit single "Blurred Lines," and awarded Gaye's family $7.4 million.

In the latest case, Plant, 67, and Page, 72, appeared in court on Tuesday sporting long gray hair and are expected to testify eventually in the closely watched trial.

Skidmore has said Page may have been inspired to write "Stairway" after hearing Spirit perform "Taurus" while the bands toured together in 1968 and 1969, but that Wolfe never received credit.

Wolfe, also known as Randy California, drowned in the Pacific Ocean in 1997.   Continued...

Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant (L) and guitarist Jimmy Page are shown sitting in federal court for a hearing in a lawsuit involving their rock classic song "Stairway to Heaven" in this courtroom sketch in Los Angeles, California June 14, 2016. REUTERS/Mona Edwards