The seemingly endless “Stairway to Heaven” legal battle between Led Zeppelin and Spirit finally came to an end this week when the Supreme Court refused to take the case. This means that the original jury decision that Zeppelin did not rip off Spirit’s “Taurus” now stands forever.
It’s amazing that the highest court in the land had to contemplate this matter even briefly, considering that they’re weeks away from a hearing about the future of Obamacare. Call us crazy, but deciding whether or not millions of people can keep their healthcare feels slightly more important than nailing Jimmy Page for borrowing a tiny section of an obscure instrumental back in 1970.
The decision surely comes as a big relief to Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, and John Paul Jones. The lawsuit not only forced them to cough up years’ worth of pricey lawyer fees, but they also had to schlep over to a California courtroom in 2016 and face hours of hostile questions on the witness stand. “I didn’t remember it then,” an exhausted Plant told attorneys after being asked about the similarities between the two songs over and over, “and I don’t remember it now.”
“Stairway to Heaven” has been a millstone around Plant’s neck for decades. Despite 40 years of “Stairway!” pleas from chuckleheads in the crowd, he’s never once played the song at a solo show. He didn’t even play it when he teamed up with Jimmy Page for a series of Zeppelin-heavy tours in the Nineties. But when Zeppelin reunited for one-off events in 1985, 1988, and 2007, it was impossible for him to avoid it. Here’s video of the band playing “Stairway” at their 2007 Celebration Day show in honor of Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun.
Plant insisted they place it in the middle of the set and not make a big deal out of the whole thing. “Hey, Ahmet!” he said at the end. “We did it!” Barring a miracle, he’ll never do it again.
And barring another miracle, he’ll never be dragged to court over it again, either. It’s too bad we never got to see this matter play out in front of the Supreme Court, though. It had the potential to split the justices among non-ideological lines. Might Clarence Thomas, Sonia Sotomayor, and John Roberts have formed an unlikely block of Spirit fans? Would Samuel Alito, Stephen Breyer, and Brett Kavanaugh have taken the Zeppelin side? Would Neil Gorsuch have spent hours listening to Led Zeppelin IV and Spirit’s 1968 self-titled debut before rendering his verdict? Sadly, we’ll never know.