Northern Ireland news

Belfast debuted Stairway to Heaven at centre of plagiarism court battle

Robert Plant pictured in 2014 playing to a sold-out Ulster Hall for the first time since debuting Stairway to Heaven at the venue in 1971. Picture by Cliff Donaldson
Gareth McKeown

LED Zeppelin classic Stairway to Heaven, which contains one of the most famous guitar riffs in rock history, is at the centre of a court case alleging plagiarism.

Guitarist Jimmy Page and singer Robert Plant are named as defendants in a lawsuit in Los Angeles brought by the trustee of late guitarist Randy Wolfe from American rock band Spirit.

It has been claimed Stairway To Heaven copies music from the Spirit song Taurus, which Wolfe wrote in either 1966 or 1967.

Stairway to Heaven was first performed live at Belfast's Ulster Hall in March 1971 after Led Zeppelin had finished writing it just weeks before.

The English band's decision to come to Northern Ireland at the height of The Troubles was significant at a time when other groups pulled out of shows.

Page, Plant and their bandmate John Paul Jones are all expected to give evidence at the trial, though Jones has been dismissed as a defendant in the case.

Wolfe died in 1997, drowning while saving his son in Hawaii.

Led Zeppelin's lawyers have argued that both Stairway To Heaven and Taurus use notes and combinations that have been circulating in music for centuries.

The lawsuit comes after a high-profile case last year when a federal jury found that Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams had copied a Marvin Gaye song to create their 2013 hit Blurred Lines, awarding Gaye's children $7.4 million.

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