Despite several sonic similarities between the songs in question, a judge has ruled that Led Zeppelin did not steal the riff from Spirit’s instrumental “Taurus” in writing their immortal rocker “Stairway to Heaven,” Rolling Stone reports.
It took merely one day of deliberation for the jury to decide that the intro riff to The Mighty Zep’s classic song wasn’t stolen from the similar, but not the same musical pattern featured on “Taurus.”
The estate of late Spirit guitarist Randy Wolfe is currently under the ownership of trustee Michael Skidmore, a former music journalist, and was represented by attorney Francis Malofiy, who brought the lawsuit forward in 2014.
Malofiy and Led Zeppelin attorney Peter Anderson apparently created a fairly contentious back-and-forth as the trial wore on, with Malofiy mocking the surviving Zeppelin members during their remarks and Anderson referring to the son Wolfe drowned to save as “illegitimate.”
Malofiy attempted to convince the jury that because the bands had at one time shared a bill and Led Zeppelin had covered a Spirit song that appeared on the same album as “Taurus,” the band had been exposed to and was heavily influenced by the instrumental.
A major deciding factor in the trial occurred when the jury was allowed to hear both “Stairway to Heaven” and “Taurus.” They were not legally permitted to listen to the studio recordings, so Dr. Lawrence Ferrara, a professional musicologist and NYU music professor, performed the two tracks from sheet music.
Ferrara also gave testimony to prove his point that though the two compositions share similar sonic details, it is because they are merely culled from centuries of musical innovation dating back to the 1600s.
“We are grateful for the jury’s conscientious service and pleased that it has ruled in our favor, putting to rest questions about the origins of ‘Stairway to Heaven’ and confirming what we have known for 45 years,” said Jimmy Page and Robert Plant in a statement. “We appreciate our fans’ support and look forward to putting this legal matter behind us.”
The real shame in all of this? John Paul Jones, Page and Plant were all in the same room together and were actually legally barred from performing. (The band also reportedly turned down a recent offer to reunite and play the Desert Trip festival.)
Though the debate is officially over, take a listen to the tracks below and draw your own conclusions. The disputed riff comes in on “Taurus” at the 45-second mark.