Robert Plant recently spoke about the copyright lawsuit over Led Zeppelin’s classic song “Stairway To Heaven.” In June 2016, a five-day trial took place after Michael Skidmore, the trustee on behalf of the late former Spirit guitarist Randy California. Skidmore claimed that the guitar opening of Zeppelin’s iconic was essentially a rip-off from Sprit’s instrumental track “Taurus.” Plant went on to testify in court.
In an interview with Loose Ends, Plant discussed his experience of having to testify at the 2016 trial. “What can you do? I just had to sit there. I was instructed to sit directly opposite the jury: ‘Don’t look at them, but just don’t look at anybody. Just sit there for eight hours.’ He continued to say “As much as I am musical, I cannot comment on anything musical. I just sing. There are zillions and zillions of songs that are carrying the same chord progression, so it was very unfortunate, and it was unpleasant for everybody.”
Plant testified in court that he had no recollection of ever hearing “Taurus” before. “I didn’t remember it then, and I don’t remember it now,” he said. The band’s guitarist Jimmy Page also testified that he had not copied any part of “Taurus” even though he owned five discs by Spirit in his collection of 4,000 vinyl records.
The judge ended up ruling in favor of Zeppelin, but the case ended up being reheard in 2019. A three-judge panel from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals called for a retrial, finding that the judge in that case “provided erroneous jury instructions.” The panel also claimed that the judge “should have told the jury that the selection and arrangement of some musical elements can violate copyright law.” In the rehearing, the judgment was that Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’ did not infringe Spirit’s ‘Taurus.’
Photo Credit: Boston Lynn Schulz