Led Zeppelin have hired prominent entertainment lawyer Helene Freeman to represent them in a lawsuit that claims the band plagiarised portions of their iconic 1971 anthem, “Stairway To Heaven.”
Business Week reports Freeman has previously done work for boy band NSYNC, singer Diana Ross and corporate clients that include record distributors and advertising agencies.
The lawsuit, brought by the estate of Spirit guitarist Randy California and members of the band, claims the acoustic introduction to “Stairway” was lifted from their 1968 instrumental, “Taurus.”
The two bands crossed paths during Zeppelin’s first US tour, which saw the future rock legends open for Vanilla Fudge and Spirit, and that’s where the Los Angeles band claims Jimmy Page was exposed to “Taurus.”
California told journalist Jeff McLaughlin in the winter 1997 issue of Listener magazine that Led Zeppelin had filched his song. “I’d say it was a ripoff,” California said. “And the guys made millions of bucks on it and never said ‘Thank you,’ never said, ‘Can we pay you some money for it?’ It’s kind of a sore point with me. Maybe someday their conscience will make them do something about it.”
This spring, guitarist Jimmy Page called the lawsuit “ridiculous.” Lawyers for Led Zeppelin and its record company, Warner Music, have until September 22 to respond to the suit.California drowned while rescuing his 12-year-old son from a rip current in Hawaii in early 1997.
“Stairway” originally appeared on Led Zeppelin’s untitled 1971 album; it has since been referred to as “Led Zeppelin IV.”
Led Zeppelin will release an expanded version of “Led Zeppelin IV” (and 1973’s “Houses Of The Holy”) on October 28 as part of their extensive reissue series.
The “Led Zeppelin IV” deluxe edition will include, among others, an unreleased, alternate version of “Stairway To Heaven” on a companion disc of bonus material.