By Dylan Yep, Braulio Amado, Vernon Silver, and Aaron Rutkoff
May 15, 2014
Stairway to Heaven’s stature—financially, culturally, and musically—is towering. Led Zeppelin’s legendary hit has earned more than a half-billion dollars and propelled the 1971 album on which it appears to more sales in the U.S. than any save Michael Jackson’s Thriller and a greatest hits collection from the Eagles. For generations it has been the 8-minute soundtrack of adolescent romance, and the introductory finger-picked notes have launched a million guitar lessons.
But what if those opening notes weren’t written by Jimmy Page? What if the foundation of Zeppelin’s immortality was lifted from another song—a short instrumental titled Taurus—recorded by a forgotten California band? That’s the contention behind a possible lawsuit on behalf of members of Spirit, which seeks a writing credit on Stairway for the band’s late guitarist.
Play this musical game to see if you can differentiate the famous opening of Stairway from part of the obscure song that might have inspired it. Then read Vernon Silver’s full story on the disputed origins of rock’s great anthem.