Led Zeppelin will always be known for their hard rock and heavy metal with influences from blues and folk music. With so much significance in the music industry, the band indeed changed the development of stadium rock. Also, the phenomenon surrounding rock music and musicians has always been Led Zeppelin.
Despite being one of the best, they had their own trials and tribulations. As everyone is basically leading life, they indeed had their own ups and downs. Their moment of such matter came when they had to face legal trouble.
Surely, it’s okay to come up and follow the inspirations, be it art, song, book, or anything else. But everyone should be cautious as it could turn into trouble. Big trouble that could end up in a legal court. When it comes to music, these have happened a lot, and the accusations between the two sides end up in a brutal court case.
Led Zeppelin has been found ripping off many blues bands and singers. They have created a lot of masterpieces and hits, but some of their works were not their own. Their most loved song, ‘Stairway To Heaven’ was also not their genuine work. It was heavily dependent on a song called ‘Taurus’ by Spirit. Spirit even filed a lawsuit against the band but the court decided that Zeppelin didn’t copy the music.
That’s one song. And the fact behind the case was that Zeppelin actually found their way around. They changed the lyrics and guitar tunes. They used the song by changing the structure of the whole song. This way they didn’t face any legal problems. There are many other lawsuits against them by many other musicians.
Many other songs which are similar are; ‘Babe I’m Gonna Leave You’ which was a song by Anne Bredon. Also, the songs like ‘You Shook Me’ and ‘Whole Lotta Love’ was taken from Willie Dixon. When they were discovered, they had to give credit.
While talking with Guitar World in 1993, Jimmy was asked about their songs. When asked about the blues songs they had copied, he said, “Do you mean getting sued?” He went on with it, “Well, as far as my end of it goes, I always tried to bring something fresh to anything I used. I always made sure to come up with some variation. In fact, in most cases, you would never know what the original source could be.”
He also said, “Maybe not in every case — but in most cases.” Page and the rest of the band were sure that they would not get caught copying some lyrics and tunes. He said they were very certain. He commented, “So, most of the comparisons rest on the lyrics. And Robert was supposed to change the lyrics, and he didn’t always do that — which is what brought on most of the grief. They couldn’t get us on the guitar parts of the music, but they nailed us on the lyrics. We did, however, take some liberties, I must say. But never mind; we did try to do the right thing, and it blew up in our faces.”
While this was the comment made by Page, Robert didn’t think about it in such terms. Jimmy did try to alter his sounds and tried his best to make their tunes but it was not the case. The guitar accused Plant of not changing the lyrics enough. That’s the reason many of the songs were similar to the original piece. The guitarist surely tried his best to change the sound and made it more Led Zeppelin style but that didn’t help the band.
Page looked back on an incident and said, “When we were up at Headley Grange recording Physical Graffiti, Ian Stewart came by, and we started to jam. The jam turned into Boogie With Stu, which was obviously a variation on ‘Ooh My Head’ by the late Ritchie Valens, which was actually a variation of Little Richard’s ‘Ooh My Soul.’ We tried to give Ritchie’s mother credit because we heard she never received any royalties from her son’s hits, and Robert did lean on that lyric a bit. So, what happens? They tried to sue us for all of the songs! We had to say bugger off. We could not believe it.”
In its response, Page tried his best to secure the fact and started targeting Plant. He said, “So, if there is any plagiarism, blame Robert. But seriously, bluesmen borrowed from each other constantly, and it is the same with jazz. It even happens to us. As a musician, I am only the product of my influences. The fact that I listened to so many various styles of music has a lot to do with how I play. What I think set me apart from so many other guitarists of that time was that I was listening to folk, classical and Indian music in addition to the blues and rock.”
With this, Page argued and said that he totally changed the way the guitar sounded. He tried his best to hide the original inspiration. But Robert didn’t do so. Page believes that Robert didn’t take the lyrics seriously and that’s how they were found.