Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’re aware that the writers of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven”—Jimmy Page and Robert Plant—have been embroiled in a headline-grabbing court case and trial to determine if the song includes a passage from “Taurus” by Spirit.
The jury said the Led Zep members indeed heard “Taurus,” but that there was no substantial similarity in the extrinsic elements of the song and “Stairway.”
But let’s cut to the chase: The chord progression in question—namely the descending acoustic guitar intro to “Stairway”—is an ancient one, an “obvious” one, a natural one, and it has been employed in popular and folk music since long before Page first picked up a guitar in the Fifties.
Below, we present five songs that—over the years (even before the just-ended trial)—people have accused Page and Plant of “ripping off” and incorporating into “Stairway to Heaven.”
As a bonus, we’ve included a 2014 video featuring guitarist named TJR, who breaks down the similarities (and differences) between Spirit’s “Taurus” (1968) and Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” (1971). We’ll start things off with that clip and then hit you with the other five songs. We’re fond of the first one—Davey Graham’s impromptu 1959 acoustic cover of “Cry Me a River.” Should we round up the representatives of Spirit and drag them to court for stealing this song? Of course not. It’s ridiculous.
TJR | “Taurus” Vs. “Stairway to Heaven”
DAVEY GRAHAM | “Cry Me a River”
Twelve years before “Stairway to Heaven” and nine years before “Taurus,” there was Davey Graham‘s acoustic cover of Arthur Hamilton’s torch song, “Cry Me a River.” This clip is from a 1959 BBC documentary called The Guitar Craze.
SPIRIT | “Taurus”
Sorry, we had to include this one. It’s always fun to give it a listen.
GIOVANNI BATTISTA GRANATA | “Sonata di Chittarra, e Violino, con il suo Basso Continuo”
Giovanni Battista Granata uses the “Stairway” chord progression—and nearly the same melody. The work was composed in 1659. The passage, which occurs at the 0:32 mark in the video below, is strikingly similar to the “Stairway to Heaven” intro and has more in common with it than “Taurus.”
DEREK LORIN | “My Funny Valentine”
Here’s a 2015 performance of the classic 1937 Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart tune “My Funny Valentine” by an acoustic jazz artist named Derek Lorin (and his bassist). Even as Lorin is playing the intro, he notes, “That sounds like ‘Stairway to Heaven!'”
“Chim Chim Cher-ee” from “Mary Poppins”
At this point, we could’ve included any song with those same, familiar-sounding descending minor chords, but we thought it would be a hoot to include “Chim Chim Cher-ee” in a GuitarWorld.com story. Other candidates include “Michelle” by the Beatles, “Summer Rain” by Johnny Rivers and … so many more.
Five Songs That Sound Like "Stairway to Heaven"
Source: Guitar World