A Philadelphia lawyer hopes to block the release of a new Led Zeppelin album that includes a digitally remastered version of "Stairway to Heaven," arguing that the band plucked the song's famous opening notes from another group.
Francis Alexander Malofiy says he will file a copyright infringement lawsuit and seek an injunction against the album, which is scheduled to be released on June 3, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.
"The idea behind this is to make sure that Randy California is given a writing credit for 'Stairway to Heaven,'" Malofiy, who represents California's trust, told Bloomberg. "It's been a long time coming."
California, who died 17 years ago, was the guitarist for a Los Angeles-based band named Spirit who released a self-titled album in 1968 that included an instrumental song named "Taurus," which Spirit band members and Malofiy say inspired the opening lines to "Stairway to Heaven." The two bands played four U.S. gigs together in 1968 and 1969 and "Taurus" was a regular fixture in Spirit's set at the time.
Bloomberg Businessweek reported that Led Zeppelin also played a medley of songs at a Spokane gig that included another Spirit song "Fresh-Garbage" which appeared on the same LP as "Taurus."
The famous song's authorship hasn't been challenged until now because Spirit couldn't afford the legal fees. California's career stalled and he eventually resorted to bartering for food while living near Los Angeles. He drowned in 1997 while rescuing his 12-year-old son from a rip current in Hawaii.
California claimed in a 1997 interview with "Listener" magazine that the song "was a ripoff."
“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," he said at the time. "Maybe someday their conscience will make them do something about it.”
A Warner Music spokesperson told Bloomberg that Led Zeppelin and Warner will not be commenting on this story.
Listen to both songs below.
"Taurus" by Spirit
"Stairway to Heaven" by Led Zeppelin