Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin is considered to be one of the greatest rock anthems of all time.
On the 20th Anniversary of the song’s release, Karen Karbo wrote on the song’s success and legacy for Esquire.
Stairway to Heaven isn’t the greatest rock song of the 1970s; it is the greatest spell of the 1970s. Think about it: we are all sick of the thing, but in some primordial way it is still number one. Everyone knows it… Even our dislike and mockery is ritualistic. The dumb parodies; the Wayne’s World-inspired folklore about guitar shops demanding customers not play it; even Robert Plant’s public disavowal of the song—all of these just prove the rule. “Stairway to Heaven” is not just number one. It is the One, the quintessence, the closest AOR [album oriented rock] will ever get you to the absolute.
Zeppelin guitarist, Jimmy Page, allegedly wrote Stairway to Heaven in 1970, and as Bloomberg Business Week reports:
To Page, who has referred to the song as “my baby,” it was Zeppelin’s crowning achievement. “Stairway crystallized the essence of the band,” he told then-teenage rock writer Cameron Crowe in a March 13, 1975, Rolling Stone interview. “It was a milestone for us. Every musician wants to do something of lasting quality, something which will hold up for a long time, and I guess we did it with Stairway.”
The song has been awarded several accolades over the years and as Bloomberg notes, the financial rewards have been tremendous:
Stairway’s stature—financially, culturally, and musically—is towering. By 2008, when Conde Nast Portfolio magazine published an estimate that included royalties and record sales, the song had earned at least $562 million. It was so profitable in part because Led Zeppelin refused to release the song as a single, forcing fans to shell out for the entire album, which is untitled but known as Led Zeppelin IV.
However, as Rolling Stone reports, Francis Alexander Malofiy, a lawyer representing deceased Spirit guitarist Randy California is claiming the hard-rock legends stole the intro for their 1971 single Stairway to Heaven from Spirit’s 1968 song “Taurus.”
As Time reports, “Malofiy is representing a trust for writer Randy California, the deceased Spirit guitarist who wrote “Taurus,” the instrumental track that appeared on the band’s eponymous 1968 debut album and from which the chord progression is allegedly lifted.”
Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page allegedly wrote Stairway to Heaven in 1970, two years after “Taurus” was released, and a year after the band shared stages at gigs across the United States in 1969. According to the band’s bass player, Spirit always included “Taurus” in their sets.“It was such a pretty moment,” said Mark Andes to Businessweek. “It would typically come after a big forceful number and always got a good response.”
“The idea behind this is to make sure that Randy California is given a writing credit on Stairway to Heaven,” Malofiy told Business Week. “It’s been a long time coming.”
As Malofiy notes, “Of course, there’s millions of dollars at stake here,” and any court proceedings are expected to be both complicated and lengthy.
In any event, the song is incredible as you can see from the video, below.
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