Led Zeppelin: Plagiarism?

One of the most successful groups of all time, Led Zeppelin has often been taken to task for using the work of other artists without citing the source, particularly blues artists. Critics have also drawn attention to Zep’s use of the work of folk and rock artists, as well. This raises an interesting question: when is an artist’s work original and when it is plagiarism? Opinion is divided on Led Zeppelin’s relationship to their influences. On one side are those who express the attitude that Led Zeppelin are simply music thieves.  On the website Perfect Sound Forever Will Shade refers to Jimmy Page and company as “Thieving Magpies,” and cites several instances where Led Zeppelin’s records bear a strong resemblance to earlier recordings.  According to Short, that Led Zeppelin released these records without proper songwriting credits amounts to outright theft.  This sentiment is echoed by rock critic Richard Meltzer, who contends “there is NOTHING original” about Led Zeppelin, but this sort of hyperbole adds little to the discussion of ensuring proper acknowledgement and compensation for creative work.

On the other side are Led Zeppelin’s defenders, such as Chris Welch, author of Led Zeppelin: Dazed and Confused – The Stories Behind Every Song.  According to Welch, “Led Zeppelin were constantly being sniped at by nit-pickers and probed by musicologists.”  Though Welch concedes that Zep were “careless in crediting their sources of inspiration,” he argues that it would be difficult to track down the true creators of the blues songs Led Zeppelin incorporated into their work.  And besides, continues Welch, “if this album [referring specifically to Led Zeppelin II] had sold three copies in a junk shop, nobody would have noticed references to Howlin’ Wolf’s ‘Killing Floor’ during ‘The Lemon Song.'”  And this is OK because “the average record buyer was happy simply to be swept along with the excitement created by this shameless outburst.” Welch’s rationalizations are frustrating and exacerbated by the generally poor writing throughout the book.

Allegations of plagiarism against Led Zeppelin have been around since the early days of the band, but the internet has become an echo chamber for misinformation on this issue. My main purpose in writing “Led Zeppelin: Plagiarism?” was that I wanted to put any and all claims of plagiarism against Led Zeppelin’s music to the test. I listened to the tracks that Led Zeppelin was accused of stealing from and tried to make an impartial assessment of whether or not Led Zeppelin’s music constituted original work. I tried to identify those instances where they borrowed heavily enough from their influences to warrant crediting the source. My general conclusion was that Led Zeppelin drew on an eclectic array of sources to produce a large body of original and vital music, but that in several instances they were so close to their influence that they should have given them songwriting credit. Led Zeppelin did, in fact, give credit where credit was due for some tracks (“You Shook Me”, “I Can’t Quit You Baby”, “When the Levee Breaks”, and a half-hearted attempt with “Boogie with Stu”), but not in all cases. To my ears, 13 of Led Zeppelin’s songs should have some sort of songwriting credit change (that is, eight in addition to the five that have already been changed due to the threat of legal action). Because Led Zeppelin almost always brought a substantial amount of originality to their work, in most cases it would be fair to simply add the influence’s name to Led Zeppelin’s original credits, but “Dazed and Confused” (original by Jake Holmes) and “Boogie with Stu” (“Ooh My Head” by Ritchie Valens) are merely cover versions and the songwriting credits should be changed entirely to reflect that. The list below contains the instances where songwriting credits should be changed, and those that have already been changed on recent Led Zeppelin reissues are marked with an asterisk.

Led Zeppelin Title Year Credit due to Title Year Span
Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You 1969 Anne Bredon Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You 1960 x 9
Dazed and Confused 1969 Jake Holmes Dazed and Confused 1967 x 2
Black Mountain Side 1969 Bert jansch Blackwaterside 1966 3
How Many More Times 1969 Howlin’ Wolf No Place to Go 1959 10
How Many More Times 1969 The Yardbirds Smokestack Lightnin’ 1965 4
Whole Lotta Love 1969 Willie Dixon You Need Love 1962 x 7
The Lemon Song 1969 Howlin’ Wolf Killing Floor 1966 x 3
Bring It On Home 1970 Sonny Boy Williamson Bring It On Home 1963  x 7
Hats Off to (Roy) Harper 1970 Bukka White Shake ‘Em On Down 1937 33
Hats Off to (Roy) Harper 1970 Oscar Woods The Lone Wolf Blues 1936 34
Since I’ve Been loving You 1970 Moby Grape Never 1968 2
Stairway to Heaven 1971 Spirit Taurus 1968 3
Custard Pie 1975 Sleepy John Estes Drop Down Mama 1935 40
Custard Pie 1975 Blind Boy Fuller I Want Some of Your Pie 1940 35
In My Time of Dying 1975 Josh White Jesus Gonna Make Up My Dying Bed 1933 42
Boogie With Stu 1975 Ritchie Valens Ooh My Head 1959 16
x – Songwriting credits have been changed on recent Led Zeppelin reissues

The cover story for the April/May, 2010, issue of Blues Matters magazine showed a picture of Led Zeppelin above the Jimmy Page quote, “It was always the blues.” In a magazine devoted to the blues, I was expecting to find an article about Led Zeppelin’s debt to the blues, particularly after reading the teaser on the table of contents page next to a graphic that reads “The Roots of Led Zeppelin,”

Many of their signature numbers are based on ancient blues riffs, ‘Dazed and Confused’ borrows heavily from Howlin’ Wolf and ‘Whole Lotta Love’ is Willie Dixon’s ‘You Need Love’ on permit.

The article by Richard Thomas, however, was just a brief overview of Led Zeppelin’s career with little information about their influences. The above quote appeared at the end of the article, probably because it was an afterthought, not to mention that it’s almost entirely wrong. I take issue with this statement on a number of points. First of all, the idea that “Dazed and Confused” “borrows heavily from Howlin’ Wolf” is absurd. If you’re going to state that an artist’s work is not original, at least get the source right. Poor Jake Holmes. He wrote one of the most instantly recognizable, iconic songs of his time, but he would seem to be forever doomed to obscurity. And second, “ancient blues riffs”? Even if you allow for poetic license or just write off this sort of language as hyperbole, this statement is way off the mark. The column on the right on the table above shows the number of years between the original recording and Led Zeppelin’s release. In most cases, Led Zeppelin was drawing on recent music, and that includes many of their blues influences. Muddy Waters’s recording of “You Need Love” was released only seven years before “Whole Lotta Love.” Several of these songs did indeed originate before World War II, but here’s the interesting thing: Led Zeppelin’s records are older now than the blues records they were listening to when the band was formed in the late 1960s.  Does that make Led Zeppelin’s riffs “ancient”?  And third, most of Led Zeppelin’s excessive borrowing from the blues was in Robert Plant’s lyrics and not Jimmy Page’s riffs, such as “Whole Lotta Love”. Jimmy Page’s thefts tended to come from contemporary rock and folk performers.

Led Zeppelin certainly owes a debt to the blues, but so much misinformation has been repeated as true that it’s important to separate fact from fiction.  Allegations have been repeated as fact either with no supporting evidence or delivered with little critical restraint, such as Howard Stern’s exercise in outrage.  The most evenhanded observation about this issue came recently from a rather odd source.  Malcolm Gladwell‘s book What the Dog Saw includes a chapter entitled “Something Borrowed: Should a Charge of Plagiarism Ruin Your Life?” After listing a number of examples where one artist borrowed from another, Gladwell pointed out that while allowing artists to simply copy another’s work “inhibited true creativity… it was equally dangerous to be overly vigilant in policing creative expression, because if Led Zeppelin hadn’t been free to mine the blues for inspiration, we wouldn’t have got ‘Whole Lotta Love’….”  Gladwell drew a distinction between borrowing that is transformative and borrowing that is derivative.  For all the borrowing that Led Zeppelin did, they were certainly transformative artists.

114 thoughts on “Led Zeppelin: Plagiarism?

  1. Actually, Jimmy Page was playing Dazed and Confused before Led Zeppelin. There’s a semi-bootleg album called “Live Yardbirds Featuring Jimmy Page” recorded March 30, 1968, though not released until 1971 to take advantage of Zeppelin’s popularity. It has a song called “I’m Confused” which is obviously Dazed and Confused. The record company released it without Page’s authorization, and withdrew it after Page complained. The recording date reduces the time lag after Holmes’s recording to only a year. Obviously Plant had nothing to do with this one! As a side note, the present Yardbirds lineup still plays the song. Last time I saw them, Jim McCarty introduced the song by mentioning that “Jimmy also recorded this song with his other band”.

  2. I notice your list doesn’t include the sings “borrowed” from Blind Willie Johnson, arguably the greatest ever gospel blues singer/guitarist. Listen to his original recordings of “Jesus gonna make up my dying bed” (renamed In my time of dying by Led Zep) & “Nobody’s fault but mine”, both recorded in the 1920’s.
    Led Zep settled a plagiarism suit out of court & paid BWJ a pittance.

    • Yeh its funny to see on youtube ,WEA(Atlantic Records) removing Zep songs for copyright violations !!!!All the blues artists Zep ripped off couldve said the same thing 40 years ago!!
      Another thing how could could Ahmet the head of the ATLANTIC REC.biggest blues/r&b label in usa never hear Zep recycle and take credit for songs he had to have heard years before Zep was on Atlantic???
      Well true BWJ did early versions of these 100 year old songs ,but did he copyright the songs ?? Both are old enough to be considered traditional folk songs ,reworded and recorded by many artists in various versions.(Dylan,Nina Simone,Sister Rosetta )At least their publishing companies labeled it traditional,unlike Page/Plant..
      I keep telling everyone Rock n Roll from Zep 4 is recycled train kept a rollin too……..

    • One rift “borrowed” is an oops. A pattern of stolen material makes this overhyped cover band a bunch of plagiarizing thieves. Millions of dollars these skanks made off unknowns, who got zip.
      Greatest self-declared rock band is just another corp pimp in the sound realm. Even at that, always thought they were blah…

      • agreed had JPJ writen Taurus song he would have received maybe one quarter song credit and therefore one quarter of the money generated by Stairway to Heaven. I mainly blame Atlantic records.

    • yep, and another one is Lead Belly’s “Gallis Pole” that was ripped off into “Gallows Pole.” Zeps music still sounds awesome to me, but I don’t give as much credit to the creativity of Page/Plant, especially Plant.

  3. I am a life long Led Zeppelin fan and musician, and I have been very taken back by all of this, because i feel like music should be created as original or simply credited as a re-make. If someone took my song and changed it up a little and never gave credit, i would fight until MY time of dying to receive credit for the original creation. Other artists created the songs and then Zeppelin made millions off them. Zep will always be on my playlist, but i have come to the conclusion that they were indeed hacks, which has been very upsetting.

    • LZ songs are not hacks. If you listen to all the songs that “they” claim LZ copied, you will very well notice the difference in every song. They are the best examples of what an “influence” is. LZ openly claims that they took influence from Blues. Look at all the brilliant songs that they made by just taking an influence. All those challenging LZ music, go listen to those songs which you think are the “original” ones and lets see how repeatedly you play it

      • I think some people feel if its not exactly the same then its not stealing. The thing about art and creativity is people put a lot of effort into innovating a concept or idea. I think it might be easier to people with creativity or musicians to understand why what LZ did was unfair because people put a lot of emotion and effort into their work, only to see some one else take it and almost effortlessly gain an incredible boost of fame and respect for it.

      • According to you.. every song is stolen.. If someone uses the Words love you in a song then its stolen, they use the word Life in a song its stolen. so we Just go and play guitar.. but wait.. If i play Dm Bb C.. Oh i have stolen a Dm Chord progression.

        Get a handle on your wits and enjoy the great Music

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  9. Guys, with all due respect, this is bullshit. Everybody was “stealing” from everybody all the time. The black blues guys were stealing from each other. And by the way, what gives them preference simply because they were old and black? Wise the fuck up and give up the ghost. You’re insufficiently informed. And fuck the lawyers because all they’re doing is trying to descend on a $$$ making opportunity. Peace out.

    • There is one difference between Zep and other bands.
      Stones, Clapton etc. all borrowed licks and riffs from the masters, but they credited the original artists. Look at the back of Rolling Stones’ first album: The songs are credited to all the old blues masters. Only one song is credited Jagger/Richards. Zep stole other artists material and never credited them – and made a fortune. That’s theft.

        • I agree and “those black dudes” just sounds so callous and dismissive. “Those black dudes” often led horrendous, depressing lives – marred by inhumane racism. Even if they couldn’t enjoy the royalties, their descendents could have.

  10. First, apologies for use of the eff word. I don’t care how incensed I was at the time. Very sorry.

    I have trouble with the word ‘theft’. I agree that in those cases where they did not credit the black blues guys they were 100% guilty of a moral wrong. But whether it’s actual legal thievery I believe is still a stretch. Perhaps it’s a matter of intent. I do not believe that Page/Plant sat down with the sheets for ‘Dazed and Confused’, e.g., and Plant turned to Page and said “see here we can just lift this right here.” and then proceeded to copy the song measure for measure. And then there’s the whole atmosphere of the time when everyone was “stealing” from everyone including the black blues guys from each other. Be that as it may, the Stones were certainly superior in this regard; I believe Zep just blew the permission process off probably out of haste and ignorance. Legal thievery? Not sure, although I do see Zep has compensated the authors quite amply.

  11. I love how no one mentions possibly there most obvious rip off which im guessing is because very few people know the song they ripped off because its from a very underrated legendary Canadian Band. Anyways, listen to “Weeping Widow” by April Wine & Then listen to “No Quarter” By Zeppelin and judge for yourself. to me its so blatant, April Wine is my favourite band of all time and ive always said they are like the canadian led zeppelin, maybe plant/page thought the same thing and could get away with it at the time

    • Joey, I think you are way off base with the Weeping Widow/No Quarter allegation. I listened to them and they sound nothing alike! Not only that, they were released the same year (1973)!

    • No Quarter was on Physical Graffiti released in March 1973. Weeping Widow was on Electric Jewels released in November 1973. So maybe the influence was the reverse.

      • No Quarter was on Houses of the Holy recorded in 72 and what in the name of Bo Diddley leads anyone to think it in any way resembles Weeping Widow?

  12. I think with all this plagiarism stuff going on people forget all the great songs they actually wrote (good times bad times, immagrent song, rock n roll, black dog, over the hills and far away etc..) there were only a couple of songs that were totally ripped off and these are obvious but the comparisons people are making are obssured.

  13. Stairway to heaven in its musical construction is not at the same as Spirits song. Also Custard Pie while related to the earlier versions is stand alone original. same with In My Time of Dying this music all is entirely different. These three should be taken of the list

          • The chorus sounds exactly the same: “He’s so fine” and “My Sweet Lord” are the same notes and stress the same syllables when sung. To me it’s so obvious he copied it and I like George Harrison. John Lennon: “he walked right into that one”.

      • once is an oops. dozens of your tunes stolen, word for word and chord for chord? MILLIONS to these scam ZIPolin skanks, while true artists get zIP & starve as these corporate vultures don’t even toss them a few coppers or credit?
        Pure garbage.

      • They are chordally and rhythmically identical and even the melodies are very similar. George Harrison lost a lot of money over that blatant rip-off

        • I’m not so sure it’s a blatant rip-off. I think it’s more likely accidental. nothing in the lyrical content is the same. if chord changes are the basis of this rip-off then more than half of the blues songs ever written are a rip-off. George had one oops …barely.

  14. They are absolute frauds. They stink and they suck. They have a few good songs, but who knows for sure if they didn’t rip them off somewhere; only page & plant know for sure. To me, they never were in the same league with the Beatles, Stones, Sabbath, Cream, The Who, Floyd and probably at least 10 other US & British bands even while stealing. In the end, probably now and certainly when they’re dead, the first thing people will remember upon hearing led zeppelin will be there plagiarism.

    • What utter garbage, if you have Nothing constructive to say don’t say it at all , the band’s you mentioned, are not even in the same league as Led Zeppelin, they will be remembered for being the greatest rock band the world has ever seen and will ever see , for the record excuse the pun, led did them songs justice.

      • They were never ” the greatest rock band the world has ever seen and will ever see” – they were actually pretty average. There were a lot of bands around in the early 70s who made them look (and sound) dreadful.
        For example: I saw LZ on the same bill as Mountain, and Leslie West made Page look like a rank amateur. It wasn’t a one-off bad night – it was the same thing at the next two gigs as well!

        Zep have been rumbled – they plagiarised and just simply stole songs from other people. Listening again to their discography, I noticed even more blatant rip-offs……

  15. That’s what haters all over the world say… You all seem to care so bad about so many artists you didnt even know at first place, but hey,”why everyone seems to love Led Zeppelin and not my favorite band – let s call it w/e you want – so let us defame them a bit in legal terms, because we cant find any other flaw in music terms”

    My point is this. Let s say that everything you say is correct. I bet you people are all so moral in your lives, that this surprise you right? IMO, as long as they pay anything illegal, they can keep doing this… If i can get on a bus without ticket and each time they catch me i can pay the fee, i see no reason why other people should cry about it…. Just do the same. Aw no wait, you (your bands) do the same thing, you just take “disability leave” so you pay less…or nothing.

    My point for the less intelligent, everyone has been plagiarit. (Rolling stones, deep purple, lynyrd skynyrd, eric clapton and so on…) Your whole point , that makes you so “affective and caring people” is that they didnt give their credits to specific people. So better change the title in this tag and rename it : “LED ZEPPELIN:No Credits?” or something like that. Because even less intelligent people, will understand they were mere copycats.. and by this let me conclude with the “ironically” lyrics of the more “ironic” song remains the same.. :

    “Hear my song. People won’t you listen now? Sing along.
    You don’t know what you’re missing now.
    Any little song that you know
    Everything that’s small has to grow.
    And it has to grow!”

    I hope this will really make sense to you someday, and dont forget to be always grateful to those people that without them you wouldnt be able to know all these people you are fighting for their own rights and credits, at the first place.

  16. JAZZ: have you ever listened to a jazz program on the radio where they compare different versions by various artists of a jazz standard?
    They do not even imagine NOT attributing properply the original authorship. Sometimes the musicians will tip their hat to previous version’s chords or cite a related tune.
    In fact the real problem is in the level of musicianship of the musicians, and the level of musical knowledge of the listeners.

    By the way, why was it so important for Plant to do up his hair, (literally) bear his chest and wear tight-pants?
    Part of the scam was the macho posturing as they catered to the (now eternal) adolescent in many of us.

    Recently, on BBC JImmy Page says in an interview about Stairway to ‘eaven that they were playing with great honesty and authenticity; what a theiving liar! On thing is to be a talented musiciam and another thing is to have original musical and lyrical ideas.

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  18. I think part of the lead riff in No Quarter is borrowed from Hendrix’ Machine Gun. Not worth a credit but it’s a main theme of the song. Jimi borrowed from Jeff Beck on In From the Storm so they all took license now and then!

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  21. I read the following on another website:-

    ‘There was only ONE original song on Led Zeppelin (1969)

    ALL other songs were STOLEN. The album is essentially a cover album of blues and folk songs but the original artists and writers were not given credit. This whole album with the exception of Good Times Bad Times is blatant plagiarism.’

    Although it is certainly true that Zeppelin could have been a bit more generous when crediting their ‘influences’, especially in later years, when the first album was being put together, two of the band were barely 20 years old. Even in their wildest dreams they couldn’t have imagined they would eventually go on to have the success they did. By putting their names to the songs they were probably thinking more about a new set of tyres on the old transit. As time went on, they just carried on doing the same thing.
    How many people could say that when they were in their twenties they would have done any different – I couldn’t.

  22. Okay yes, they should have given credits to those artists, but that does NOT mean that they are bad musicians, quite the opposite actually.
    It seems that people are forgetting all of the other awesome songs that they wrote over the years and focusing on the ones that have flaws (credit wise), which is completely wrong to do.
    Also it’s not like they were the only ones borrowing riffs and lyrics back then so calm down.

  23. Well, then I think we need more plagiarism today. Maybe it will lead to better music. But seriously, I doubt any of those bands/writers could have done to theirs songs what zeppelin did. Legal matters aside.

    • Rodgers and Hammerstein (or anyone else for that matter) couldn’t dream of doing what Coltrane did to My Favorite Things, but it still says “Rodgers and Hammerstein” on the damn record.

  24. Wasn’t going to say anything because it often boils down to lz fan vs non lz fan which isn’t the point. All I’ll say is I keep reading comments stating ‘all the bands were doing it, so relax’. Even if that were true, would it make it ok then? Seems a childish thing to say. ‘Well mom, bobby did it”. “If bobby jumped off of a bridge would you?” I wonder if Page had a grin on his face while being recorded playing the intro to stairway to riches 😉

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  28. Every one listens to music of every genre and then when influenced create and design their own artistic interpretation and use chord progressions and add or take away to create their own masterpiece. Led Zeppelin’s talent is that all members got together at the right time in their lives to to create a mixture of rock blues sexual progression by one of the best vocalists in the known world and the top ten guitarist and one of the best percusssionist in his prime and the piano playing organ synthizer sound all came together to form the best rock band the world will ever know JUST MY OPINION Nicholas…

  29. Wow. I’ve always loved Led Zeppelin when I was growing up. Some great memories. I feel so naive.. I somehow never knew about this. I worked as a writer in the television and film business for years. Ultimately, my work was plagiarized and I was dropped by my agency when I tried to fight the producers and studio – It ended my career. This kind of thing happens constantly in Hollywood by individuals thinking they’re entitled to creative works. Plagiarism comes at a very, very great cost. It so easy to side with the brand name and dismiss the lesser one. The producers that took my work never produced another followup hit. They tried several times until the studio stopped supporting them. As I read off the list of artist who had been victimized, I had to wonder about how their careers were cut short by the betrayal. When something like this happens, it just kills something inside of you. You can (and often do) have some great works in you, but the combination of being alienated by the business (and experience) often stifles the artist from ever functioning again on that level. It’s just evil, plain and simple. I’ve never thought about it this way, but the fans end up losing, too. all the amazing hits we might have missed out on from the list of artist above. How many greats did they have in them still that never got past their personal hell. I’ve came across a number of articles tonight since I discovered this.. many of the musicians in question struggled after it happened. Sad. Not a whole lot of solace comes from the belief that these people will someday be judged. I can’t imagine listening to Zeppelin, again. I couldn’t be more disappointed with the band.

    • Rob, thanks for putting a human face on the act of plagiarism. Too many accept it as a victimless crime but it’s not, as you have shown.
      There are too many comments floating around like Led Zep “made it their own”, it was a “tribute” or they were “influenced” by a particular artist. If you steal the Mona LIsa & paint a moustashe on it, does that make it your own? I think not.
      Mal.

    • It is 13 songs out of all the songs Led Zeppelin recorded. Every band has done this and a lot have been sued for it. It is just inspiration so sad that people get so greedy. I’m sorry that Led Zeppelin made your song better than you but if you think that makes them less talented you have issues. There were actually several people that sued that didn’t write the contend Zeppelin used it was actually age old stuff. Music is a gift meant to be shared. So sad people do not treat it this way. Zeppelin would have been huge regardless…..

  30. Your article does not report “When the Levee Breaks” was written by Elizabeth Douglass (“Memphis Minnie”) and recorded in 1929. The vocals on the track were by “Kansas” Joe McCoy.

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  32. Everyone seems to forget that you can’t really own chord progressions and note sequences. I mean, imagine if the guy that first used the 12 bar progression would be alive today and tried to sue everyone that has ever used the same idea that he had. It’s absurd. I bet most of you never actually composed anything in your life, so you don’t know how it works. You don’t simply just go there and pull an absolutely new thing out of your ass. You take elements of everything you ever listened to and make it, even subconsciously. It’s the way humans work. To create something new, we take previous knowledge of something and work on it. Imagine if Pitagoras would lay claim to the 7 note scale and was alive to sue everyone ever for using his idea. Hahahaha Ridiculous.

    • They outright stole melodies, riffs and lyrics without credit or payment to the original artists and the list above isn’t even comprehensive. What you decribe is writing a song in a certain genre or style. Not the same thing at all.

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  34. I’m a guitar player influenced by Led Zeppelin. The two that caught my eye are the plagiarism claims of Stairway to Heaven = Taurus by Spirit & Since I’ve Been Loving You = Never by Moby Grape. The 5 descending notes on the d-string of both Stairway & Taurus are similar however the chords are distinctly different. The California camp is grasping at straws and seems to be relying on the other valid claims to bolster their case. Regarding Since I’ve Been Loving You & Never, other than both being blues songs the music is not even remotely similar. Regarding a couple lines in the lyrics please get a handle of reality. And just for a reality check, no one seems to be looking at “influences” on the people making claims against Led Zeppelin. I never hear of any other bands getting accused such BS … please! Did Willie Dixon ever plagiarize?

  35. Led Zeppelin is probably the most influential rock band ever. Just go on a musician website like Bandmix and you will see just about every rock musician cites LZ as an influence. They didn’t have a musician talent issue, they had a crediting issue. They were still the best band ever in history (ok, next to the Beatles). Had they properly acknowledged the songwriters on some of their songs, mostly just for the lyrics, the music they created would been just as great. Most of the time the music was original and awesome on its own and had Plant just written his own words, there would be no doubting the genius of LZ. Plants laziness to do so has unnecessarily damaged the bands reputation. That pisses me off. I mean, I get it, Jimmy definitely plagiarized Dazed and Confused to including the main riff, ideas in the bridge, and even some little licks but had they just put the guys name on the stupid sleeve, the LZ version would be worlds better than the original without all the criticism. People who try to diminish LZ’s musical talent by their lack of crediting the writers is ridiculous. In just about every case of plagairism, the LZ version is worlds better. You can’t tell me the annoying Joan Baez Babe I’m Gonna Leave you is better than Zeps version, I can say this same thing about most of the others.

    And….just so everyone who doesn’t know can see, the following is but a small example of epic LZ’ songs that aren’t in question of their originality… Stairway to Heaven (no fucking way is this Spirit), Kashmir, Over the Hills, All My Love, Fool in The Rain, The Rain Song, No Quarter (no way is that April Wine, what a joke, people are really reaching), What is and What Should Never Be, Good Times Bad Times, Ten Years Gone, Hey, Hey What Can I Do, Immigrant Song, Blackdog, The Ocean, The Rover, Houses of the Holy, Going to California, Rock and Roll, In The Light, Heartbreaker, Your Time is Gonna Come, Battle of Evermore, Down By The Seaside, Night Flight, Wanton Song, Ramble On, Dancing Days, Living Loving Maid…ok, you can get the point. All those songs are bad ass and most rock bands would give their first born to have just written one of them.

    Had LZ only published these, they would still be an epic rock band. And frankly, most of the the songs that have been deemed plagiarized are still 80% original with plagiarized lyrics by Plant. I know, someone will come back with Black Mountain Side or something, got it. A practically note for note copy but all in all, LZ is an extremely original, iconic, super influential rock band that transformed music forever and are still huge influences for most aspiring rock musicians 50 years later. Zep music is a right of passage for musicians every bit as important as Jimi Hendrix.

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  37. It really doesn’t matter one way or the other. Many of these blues artists would have never really been rediscovered if not for the blues revival of the late 50’s to the early 70’s. These blues artists are credited with writing these songs, but most if not all of these blues artists from the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s took their ideas out of songs and influences from generations of black plantation workers or musicians from the 1800’s and early 1900’s. Who did they take their song ideas from without giving proper credited, those should all be public domain, because we have no way of documenting their trail. And as for Taurus, it has also been said that Spirit’s version comes from a Grateful Dead song by Jerry Garcia…so the wheel goes round. For people who want social justice, they think thgis is their passage into political correctness heaven.

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  39. I’m surprised that When The Levee Breaks was not mentioned. The lyrics and melody were DIRECTLY ripped off from an old blues song by Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie of the same name. I love Zep, and this has been very upsetting to me.

  40. …another one not mentioned is Moby Dick, which was stolen, note for note from Bobby Parker’s Watch Your Step, and still another was I Can’t Quit You, which was directly stolen from Willie Dixon’s I Can’t Quit You Baby.

    Zeppelin was a great, great band. When they launched it was very much in the vein of Cream, who popularized many standard blues songs, covering them and taking them much further than the originals (spoonful for example), but Cream credited the authors.

    Unlike Cream, Zeppelin didn’t really cover the blues songs. They sprinkled them throughout their own compositions for the most part. Maybe that’s why they didn’t credit the authors.

    But there is another explanation: MONEY. Page is notoriously a miser which was fully confirmed to me several years ago when I visited his personal website and was stunned to find a “contribution” button to “help cover the cost of the site.” Think about it. Page is one of the richest men in Europe, and the cost of a basic website is almost nothing. Think about how stingy you need to be before you ask for “contributions” when you’re filthy rich.

    The chances are that Page just didn’t want to part with the money that would’ve gone to the original authors. I’ve heard Plant speak openly about shamelessly taking from the blues and gospel music he loved, so I don’t think he was trying to conceal a lack of original creativity. Indeed, when I saw Plant touring several years ago, the music that played over the speakers to entertain the audience while they assembled was THE VERY BLUES SONGS ZEPPELIN USED, so he clearly wasn’t trying to hide anything.

    I still love Zeppelin, and always will.

      • Well, many years ago Forbes listed him as one of the richest men in Europe. Several years ago Zeppelin sold their catalog for 25 Million, and I’m sure that Celebration Day netted quite a nice profit. You are correct, based on all of that, and factoring in the many millions they made prior to selling their catalog, I am “assuming” that he is still very well off.

    • Are you being ironic about I Can’t Quit You Baby – they always credited that to Willie Dixon!

      The Moby Dick Intro certainly has similarities to Watch Your Step, but Bobby Parker got that from Manteca by Dizzy Gillespie and has similarities to What’d I Say by Ray Charles. However the key and chord pattern Zeppelin use is different. That being the case, Zeppelin didn’t need to give Parker credit any more than he did Gillespie!

      You Mention Cream, and I agree, Spoonful, Rollin’ and Tumblin’ and I’m so Glad on Fresh Cream were pretty much straight covers, far more so than most of Zeppelin’s alleged plagiarised songs.

      I think the Taurus/Stairway claim is ridiculous, you can find a video of Davy Graham playing Cry Me a River from 1960 or so which is more like Stairway, and even then only the opening few bars.

      The one I don’t get is Dazed and Confused! Jake Holmes got a rough deal on that one.

      • As I understand it, artists were retroactively credited on Zep 1when the music was re-released. I disagree about Moby. It’s spot on, and if they weren’t legally obliged to credit, there were morally – but many successful bands “borrowed” from earlier artists and didn’t credit.
        But that said, “ripped off” or “borrowed” or ” inspired by the originals” Zeppelin took it to a level way above what anyone else did or could’ve, and they wrote many, many great songs without “borrowing” bits and pieces. They were an awesome band.

  41. I just wonder why the folks at Atlantic records didn’t send a memo to Page- while the general public didn’t know these blues artists- surely someone at Atlantic did?

  42. Pingback: The Song Remains Similar – Led Zeppelin and the Stairway to Heaven Lawsuit | LawyerDrummer.com

  43. Great article. Would of been better if the person who wrote it knew anything about what you can and can not copyright where music is concerned. Most of the time people will hear 2 similar rhythms, and start screaming rip-off, rip-off. LOL You can’t copyright a rhythm. You also can’t copyright a chord progression as well. These 2 things are the core for 75% of the song. You also can’t sue somebody if you run a scale , then someone else plays something running the same scale, or something similar. Wow, I don’t think half these people don’t get that ()% of music are the same chords, scale progressions, rhythms. Zeppelin didn’t rip any guy off, who didn’t play anything that he wasn’t influenced playing listening to others. Especially where the blues are concerned. You seriously think that it was only the guys you have heard of that created the blues? There are tons of popular songs played today that have their origins traced back sometimes more then a hundred years, there are variations of songs played, that their origins are unknown. I got a kick out of the writers list though. If they had any clue, they’d know a few people on that list, wouldn’t be the actual original artists.

  44. Zeppelin has been successfully sued for ripping off whole lotta love (original You Need Love) and has been forced to retroactively credit several other blues artists. They are currently litigating Stairway.
    There’s no question that they pushed, and crossed the legal limits of copyright infringement

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  48. To claim to be a music fan of any type and then to say music should be created originally is unrealistic. Music In itself has been copied from one artist to another. Their is no music that can be created from a purest point of view. You cannot avoid what inspires you. Every artist is playing the same 7 notes as every other artist the only thing original from a musician is his or her personality they infuse into it. The copywrite was invented so publishers could make more money. This of course is my opinion. Most musicians know and accept the reality that music is inspirational and as such is subject to be infused Into their works. Reality is the only original artist are the ones that first walked the earth. Everyone else is a copy. See simulacra and simulation. I’m not defending anyone who deliberately does it I am saying that musicians have borrowed from other musicians because those other musicians inspired them in such a way that they either became musician or were inspired to creat a song from the source that affected them. If you want to know what copywrite laws do. Turn on the radio and listen to the music we have now.

  49. Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones were already savvy studio players well befor LZ. Page in particular was ambitious and not afraid to go for his goals. He had the ears to be an effective producer for what they did and as such, he was well aware of what he was doing. He also has a massive vinyl collection that includes these “obscure” recordings. They certainly weren’t obscure to him. Putting massive over production on an old blues song doesn’t make it original. Getting Bonham to poud away like a heard of stampeding wildebeasts and Plant to shriek like he’s accidentally zipped up too quickly also doen’t make for original content by just putting them on an Howlin’ Wolf or Willie Dixon song. Page took the spine out of the Yardbirds, exploited what he could from the name and set sail on a pirate’s course of raiding and stealing material he hoped would go right past the ears of the teen fans and stashed the gold for his old age.

  50. The radio station I was listening to today, 94.9 San Diego, played the beginning of a song that was written 400 and some years ago, that sounded just like the start of Stairway to Heaven. Jimmy Plage took a lot of liberties in claiming writing credits. Did he think nobody would notice or care?

  51. Glad to hear about this. But who are these ‘musicians’ on here who are claiming with such great authority that this so clearly amounts to theft? Do they really have no idea how basic this is? Hopefully they don’t play the guitar. But even if Led Zeppelin deliberately ripped this chord sequence, it shouldn’t even matter in that case. It’s not like this was some kind of special discovery that had a distinct meaning in Taurus. There is nothing here that should be protected by copyright; if this kind of thing was, then the precedent would be stepping into the bounds of ridiculously stifling creativity, not protecting it. It would be taking a step closer to allowing someone to maybe claim ownership of the C major chord.

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