Nearly every artist has been accused of stealing a guitar riff, a portion of lyrics, or the whole song at some point in their career. Especially in the history of rock music, the endless arguments over rip-off tracks happen all the time, and there are times when musicians take it to the court to prevent plagiarism.
There are numerous famous plagiarism cases among rock bands and Led Zeppelin has been exposed to countless accusations during its exceptional career that spans over 12 years. Today, we’re breaking down the top two rip-off cases of the band one of which was admitted to be true by lead singer Robert Plant and the other absolved from guilt by the court.
Robert Plant Admitted The Lyrics Of ‘Whole Lotta Love’ Weren’t Original
Led Zeppelin first released their iconic hit ‘Whole Lotta Love‘ as the opening track on their second album, ‘Led Zeppelin II’ on 22 October 1969. The song became their first hit in the United States and was certified gold. The track is regarded as one of the greatest songs of all time and its riff is often praised by music critics.
The legendary song was accused of being based on Willie Dixon’s ‘You Need Love,’ performed by Muddy Waters in 1962. ‘Whole Lotta Love’ was initially uncredited to Dixon, yet, a lawsuit in 1985 was settled with a payment to Dixon and credit on subsequent releases.
During a 1990 interview, Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant opened up about the plagiarism accusation on the band’s track. The singer admitted that the lyrics weren’t completely original and that he got caught because of the success of the song.
The vocalist’s confession follows:
“Page’s riff was Page’s riff. It was there before anything else. I just thought, ‘Well, what am I going to sing?’ That was it, a nick. Now happily paid for. At the time, there was a lot of conversation about what to do. It was decided that it was so far away in time and influence that… well, you can only get caught when you’re successful. That’s the game.”
The singer didn’t forget to mention Jimmy Page’s guitar riff was entirely original and was created long before the song was out together. The band members’ unapologetic attitude towards plagiarism may seem surprising but it wasn’t the first or the last time Led Zeppelin ripped off other bands’ music and got away with it.
Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway To Heaven’ Was Accused Of Being A Rip-Off
There’s no doubt that Led Zeppelin has countless iconic tracks but ‘Stairway to Heaven‘ is the band’s most well-known track of all time. Released in late 1971, the track was composed by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant for their untitled fourth studio album. The track is oftentimes regarded as the most popular rock song of all time by many respectable music critics as well.
Regardless of the success of the track, the authenticity of it was shadowed by an accusation when another band named Spirit claimed the song to be a ripp-off from their song, ‘Taurus‘ in 2014. The band filed a copyright infringement suit and alleged that Plant and Page copied their tracks while both bands toured together sometime in 1970.
Ironically thanks to the car crash Plant experienced in Greece following the tour, the Led Zeppelin vocalist testified that he has no recollection of the mentioned song. Despite the similarity is uncanny, the decision made by the court in that ‘Stairway To Heaven’ did not infringe the copyright of the Spirit song.
You can listen to all the mentioned tracks down below to decide for yourself.