In October 2014, the family of Randy California filed a lawsuit against Jimmy Page, guitarist and primary song writer of Led Zeppelin.

Randy who?

Randy California was the guitarist, singer and songwriter for the band Spirit.  His family claims Page stole the chord progression from Spirit’s song “Taurus” and used it for the song “Stairway to Heaven.”  If you have a Facebook account you might have seen the story trend.  If you don’t I envy you, but that is a whole other article.

The song “Taurus” was released in 1968.  “Stairway to Heaven” was released in 1971.  Spirit never reached the popularity Led Zeppelin did, and the timing of this lawsuit seems strange.  What happened?  Someone heard some similarities between the two songs, alerted the family, and decided to a payday was to be had?

On the surface, that HAS to be how this lawsuit started.  Some greedy family of a nobody trying to take money from one of the biggest guitarists in Rock music.  Well…..

I agree.  Bringing these accusations to a court forty-three years later seems really suspicious, however, if one digs into the history of these two bands, there may be some merit to this lawsuit.  Yes, there are some similarities between the openings of both songs.  Without getting too much into music theory, the descending bass note run against the chords chosen has been done before.  Some eager music theory teacher could break it down into numbers and explain that the concept has been around since the era of Mozart.

It’s a coincidence.  Case closed.  Cue the theme music to “People’s Court.”  Initially, that is what I thought, until I found out that during the first tours of the United States, Led Zeppelin shared the tour with Vanilla Fudge.

And Spirit.

Another coincidence?  Maybe.  Until the following year, Led Zeppelin would perform a medley of songs that included the Spirit song “Fresh Garbage.”

Perhaps there is a case for Spirit.  Then again, amongst the discussion of these two songs, one song can be included into this mix.  Track down the song “And She’s Loney” by Chocolate Watchband and jump ahead three minutes into the song.  It is hard to write the similarity off to coincidence, when even the vocal phrasing sounds similar.  Interesting side note, Chocolate Watchband use to tour with The Yardbirds.  The guitarist at the time?

Jimmy Page.

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