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—were recently 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” at some point, but that there was no substantial similarity in the extrinsic elements of "Taurus" and “Stairway.”
But let's get real here: The chord progression in question—as heard in 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 a guitarist who calls himself TJR, who breaks down the similarities (and differences) between "Taurus" (1968) and "Stairway to Heaven" (1971). We'll start things off with that clip, followed by 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"
The guy makes some interesting points.
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, but we had to include this one—especially in light of the recent trial. Hey, 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 used 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, 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 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 ... well, so many more.