The above clip aurally sums up a recent plagiarism lawsuit… the case where the estate of Spirit’s guitarist / songwriter, Randy Wolfe (a.k.a. Randy California) had claimed that, in 1971, Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” composers Robert Plant & Jimmy Page had ripped off the guitar riff to Wolfe’s 1968 instrumental song, “Taurus”. Well, yesterday, a jury settled the matter in favour of Led Zeppelin… and I’m not totally convinced they decided correctly.
In this next clip, guitarist TJR, further showcases these two songs, practically “decomposing” them down to their atomic structure. He also demonstrates the similarities between Zeppelin’s “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” and Beatle George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”.
Of course, forty years ago, Harrison, himself, had been found “guilty” of subconscious plagiarism re his 1970 recording, “My Sweet Lord”… that song being deemed a musical clone of Ronnie Mack’s composition, “He’s So Fine” (recorded by the Chiffons in 1963).
There have been other similar sounding tracks, which have caught my ear, as well, over the years… including “Things We Said Today” released by the Beatles in 1964 and the Hollies’ 1966 track, “Bus Stop”.
It was only about a week ago, while I was playing the John Lennon / Paul McCartney composition, “Help”, on my piano, when it suddenly dawned on me that George Harrison had kinda / sorta, “ripped off” his own band mates… had employed the exact same chord progression [A – C#m – F#m – D – G – A] for the bridge to his composition, “Something” (once the key signature shifts from C to A).
So… why does this happen? Well, I’d say with our brains, for the most part, all being wired in a similar fashion… with multiple millions of musicians limited to playing within the confines of western music’s 12-note octave, the possible (pleasing) sequences of these notes are not infinite and, as such, whatever plagiarism issues which arise… well… let’s just say that this should not come as any big surprise.