Did Led Zeppelin steal the riff for Stairway to Heaven?

The estate of the late Randy California is suing Led Zeppelin. They claim that Jimmy Page stole the opening riff to Stairway to Heaven from a song written by California called Taurus. Did Jimmy steal the riff? I think the simple answer is “yes.”

It’s not simple though. The riff that opens Stairway to Heaven is almost identical to the opening of Spirit’s song Taurus. Led Zeppelin opened for Spirit on their first American tour and wrote Stairway two years later. Perhaps the riff was lifted, but this was how many musicians approached songwriting. Ideas were borrowed and reused all the time! Just watch RiP! A Remix Manifesto to see some more examples of this and why it’s ok!

What’s more interesting and important is the fact that Randy California knew and based on comments he made over the years, didn’t seem to mind. If he was alive today, I don’t think this lawsuit would be happening.

Finally… this reusing of ideas seemed to be all Led Zeppelin could do…

If you listen closely to any music at all you can find ideas and influences that come from other sources. After years of resisting this idea I’ve come to the realization that this is how music evolves – we take old ideas, turn them around, try out new ways of playing them, and eventually something new emerges. In the case of Led Zeppelin, they may have relied heavily on those other sources but performing in their original style did bring something new to old ideas which is what is, perhaps, most important. Don’t get me started on how I feel about the blatant, bald-faced plagiarism in most pop music today. The lifting of this riff seems like nothing compared to the feeding frenzy the pop industry is engaging on the corpses of any other pop song from any era!

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Boy Bands, Some of the Devil’s Finest Work

The Boy Band phenomena isn’t new. Some argue that the concept goes back to theThe-Osmonds Doo-Wop bands of the 50s but I think the concept is different today and should be traced back to the Monkees. Some believe that the Beatles, who the Monkees were based on, were the real innovators, but I disagree. There are some key elements that make up a Boy Band, and a Girl Group for that matter, that the creators of the Monkees pioneered – the concept is the engineering a band. The Beatles were too real.

First, the band is made up of different manufactured personalities that will each appeal to different people, thus extending the audience. The Doo-Wop bands didn’t do this on purpose, if it happened it was real. The personalities created for the Boy Band are usually the heart-throb, the brain, the clown, the introspective artist, and the jock. There are variations, but these are the five I’ve noticed. Kiss did this with their make-up, though I’m not sure their intentions were the same. The boys in the band then need to play these roles whenever they’re out, which has the unfortunate effect of turning their lives into one big performance and increasing the risk of total burn out and breakdown…

Next, they all need to be pretty. Each person in the crowd they’re appealing to is interested first in how good a mate they would be. There is a profound shallowness in relationship between band and fan based on the combination of appearance and false persona. Luckily for the fans, they’ll probably never meet their “love” so it can fade on its own before any kind of soul-crushing disappointment can occur.

Finally, the band will need to be able to perform music and dance… The music is somewhere in the mix, but is less important. Their handlers chose the music for them, and if they have a hand in it creation at all, it’s just suggestions here and there while the real work of music craftsmanship (not composition or artistry, mind you) is handled by the corporately-approved songwriters and psychologists who craft trite, mostly meaningless songs that will get stuck in your poor head and drive sales just far enough to make a few people millionaires before the song is forgotten and replaced by another meaningless piece of garbage. Of course… this is just my well founded and deeply researched opinion…

In the end, the Boy Band isn’t the culprit. The Boy Band is a symptom of the cancer in our society that makes nearly everything stink. Our quest for money, which is really just a form of power and control, is to blame. But that’s for another extremely long post.

The Secret Power of Music?

I just started this book. I bought The Secret Power of Music by David Tame years ago because I’m interested in the power music does have. It can change your mood, change your physiology (ie – get your heart beating faster), and as David Byrne points out in his far superior book, How Music Works (More about this later. I’m not done reading it!), can even drive changes in society. I was hopeful that this book held information about research, perhaps something to confirm my thoughts about music’s power. I was unpleasantly surprised…

In this book are some “facts…” though I can’t verify them. I found that I didn’t even want to, because they were packed deeply The-Secret-Power-of-Music-9780892810567into David Tame’s personal agenda. First, he seems to only value consonant music. Anything containing dissonance is considered by Tame to be destructive, corrupting, immoral, etc. Also, it seems like he hates any music made by black Americans, specifically jazz, blues, and rock. They have apparently, through the employment of cacophony and dissonance, brought us to these troubled times… Blah.

He does, however, seems to love the music of ancient China and India, though any reference to the people making the music sounds racist. Maybe my mind was biased to make that inference because of his apparent prejudice. Maybe he’s a great guy, but when I read his words, every time he says “the Chinese” when referring to the ancient people of China, red flags fly.

I gradually grew more angry, so I started digging to find out who he was. What I found was a little weird. He’s apparently not a musician. At least there is zero information about that. No credentials at all to be writing a book supposedly about music. He’s not a psychologist either, or a historian, or a sociologist… He’s none of these things.

David Tame has no right to write about anything musical. Stay away from his books, unless you enjoy uninformed new age garbage.

Later this month, I’ll write about the importance of dissonance in music and I might entitle the piece, More Reasons that David Tame is an Idiot.