Jury Could Rewrite History Of Led Zeppelin’s Epic ‘Stairway’

Jurors could rewrite a key chapter of rock ‘n’ roll history as they deliberate whether Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page and Robert Plant lifted a riff from fellow rockers for its epic “Stairway to Heaven.”

Federal court jurors deliberated for several hours in Los Angeles on Wednesday after closing arguments were completed, but they did not reach a verdict. They’re scheduled to resume Thursday.

The trust for Randy Wolfe is seeking millions of dollars and a third of the songwriting credit for “Stairway,” which it claims the band took from “Taurus,” released by Wolfe’s band Spirit in 1968.

A lawyer representing the trust of a deceased songwriter criticized members of Led Zeppelin for selective memories and convenient truths in testifying about the origin of Page’s acoustic guitar opening of the 1971 rock anthem.

“He didn’t tell you where he got the idea for the introduction,” attorney Francis Malofiy said in his closing argument in federal court in Los Angeles. “It was a piece of music lifted from ‘Taurus.’ “

Led Zeppelin’s lawyer, however, said the trust didn’t own the copyright and the passage in question was a common descending chord sequence in the public domain.

Photo: Rusty Kennedy/AP, file
Robert Plant and Jimmy Page perform during “Live Aid” at J.F.K. Stadium in Philadelphia.

Attorney Peter Anderson also said the plaintiff failed to prove a case that should have been brought more than 40 years ago when Wolfe was alive and Page and Plant would have had better memories.

“How can you wait a half century and criticize people … 45 years later for the delay you caused?” Anderson said. “They should have sued in 1972.”