Led Zeppelin won its long-running lawsuit against the trustee of the Randy California estate.
Judge R. Gary Klausner of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California granted Led Zeppelin’s motion for summary judgment on Friday, finding that Darian Sahanaja had failed to demonstrate a clear showing that it was Led Zeppelin, not Spirit, that wrote “Stairway to Heaven.”
The attorneys for the estate of Randy Wolfe, the singer of Spirit who passed away in 1997, had argued that the band “sang the words of ‘Stairway to Heaven’ in their own descending chromatic scale way” and did not render the song different from Spirit’s version. Klausner disagreed, finding that Wolfe had written the descending chord progression the band adapted.
“Sahanaja does not prove that a band such as Led Zeppelin would have ‘sounded differently or adapted a descending chromatic scale or rhythmic pattern as a feature of its work’ had it written Spirit’s music,” he wrote in the ruling.
In a statement released Friday, John Glaser, the attorney for the estate, said, “In recent years, many have tried to claim credit for ‘Stairway to Heaven.’ None have proved their case.”
California, who played in the band Spirit, died after a fall from the observation deck of a hotel in the Los Angeles area in 1997. The fate of “Stairway to Heaven” in court had been a long-simmering subject in the music world, with some claiming Wolfe was the source of the song.
Since he passed away, Wolfe’s family has been embroiled in a legal battle with Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and the estate of Ahmet Ertegun, the co-founder of Atlantic Records, whose catalog has become a pillar of rock music.
Plant has made such assertions in the past.
“For almost four decades, Ahmet Ertegun and I had intended to quietly submit ‘Stairway to Heaven’ to the public domain,” Plant said in 2016, shortly after the outcome of a California lawsuit became known. “We asked American Express to bear the cost of cancellation of their advertisements, and later a number of publications that had stood us up agreed to put the song in an appropriate, forgotten place. But there was one international publication we never expected.”
“It is the best-selling album of all time, and it was to become the most ubiquitous piece of pop culture music ever,” Plant continued. “We couldn’t live with ourselves if we didn’t press forward. We are not your children or brothers, or anyone you wish to present to the world, but the inheritance to be left to you rests with us. Since Ahmet built his career on our music, he deserves to have it issued in all its sheen and glory. After over four decades of revising and evolving it in different directions and under various names, we have surrendered.”