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Led Zeppelin Trial Reactions: Joe Walsh, Robert Plant and More

Rick Diamond / Jason Merritt, Getty Images
Rick Diamond / Jason Merritt, Getty Images

Led Zeppelin have emerged victorious from the lawsuit claiming Jimmy Page and Robert Plant plagiarized a portion of “Stairway to Heaven” from Spirit founder Randy California, and reactions from the rock world are already coming in.

Plant himself offered a brief show of appreciation after being caught by the TMZ gossip network’s cameras, but as has been the case since the suit was filed, the bulk of the commentary has come from outside the band. Kiss co-founder Paul Stanley, for example, took to Twitter to cheer the verdict and support his friend Page.

Joe Walsh, meanwhile, offered his perspective in a note to music business pundit Bob Lefsetz, who published Walsh’s words as part of a mailbag roundup focusing on the trial. As Walsh argued, even though a portion of “Stairway” does have strong similarities to the Spirit song “Taurus,” the building blocks used for both songs are very common — and were even before California wrote his song.

“The ‘Stairway’ claim was based on the four chord descending progression at the beginning of the song, which is similar to the Spirit one (and maybe 30 other songs — one of which Randy California came across and used for the Spirit piece — he didn’t write it. He used it),” wrote Walsh. “The grandfather of these progressions is: C, A minor, F and G. Starting with the early 1950s, there are probably 500 of these songs, all with those four chords — but each with different melodies and words. THAT should be the criteria for claims. C, A minor, F and G wasn’t stolen — it’s a standard single song form. Nobody owns these.”

There are countless videos pointing out the fundamental similarities between many of today’s top hits, the vast majority of which are never prosecuted — or even really noticed — because they also have major melodic differences. “Robert Plant’s vocal melody and haunting lyrics make ‘Stairway’ uniquely different from anything else which might have occasional similar chords,” continued Walsh. “It’s called ‘intellectual property’ and the internet ate it. One more thing: NOBODY in a music business legal procedure is telling the truth.”

The attorney representing California’s estate has a different point of view. Lawyer Francis Malofiy vented to Rolling Stone after the verdict, suggesting the case was “tried in an alternate reality” and adding, “Justice is sweet and musical; but injustice is harsh and discordant. Here there was injustice.” You can read Malofiy’s entire statement, including a detailed list of his problems with the trial.

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