Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page testifies to Stairway and Mary Poppins' song similarity

Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page has testified in a trial in Los Angeles and stated that he was not familiar with the song his band is accused of stealing when they wrote Stairway to Heaven.

LOS ANGELES (REUTERS) - Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page said on Thursday (June 16) that the riff he is accused of stealing for the band's 1971 hit Stairway To Heaven is in fact a commonly used chord progression similar to a melody from the 1964 movie musical Mary Poppins.

Page, with his ex-bandmate Robert Plant looking on, took the witness stand for a second day in a copyright infringement trial in a Los Angeles federal court.

The civil action, brought by a trustee for Randy Wolfe, the late guitarist for the American band Spirit, contends the British band stole the descending chromatic four-chord progression at the beginning of their signature song from Spirit's 1967 instrumental Taurus.

Page, under questioning by an attorney for the plaintiff, repeatedly said he was not sure whether any similarity exists between Stairway To Heaven and Taurus.

He was quicker to draw a comparison to Chim Chim Cher-ee in Mary Poppins, when asked about a written declaration he gave for the lawsuit where he talked about Stairway and the more uptempo song from the Disney film.

"I may have said the chord sequences are very similar because that chord sequence has been around forever," Page said.

The testimony from Page, whom many consider one of the greatest guitarists in rock history, is in line with similar statements made by attorneys for Led Zeppelin, who argue the chord progression has long been in common use.

In 2008, the business magazine Conde Nast Portfolio estimated that Stairway To Heaven had generated more than US$560 million (S$756 million) in royalties.

More recently, a company to benefit members of Led Zeppelin and their heirs distributed more than £6.6 million (S$12.68) last year, the equivalent of more than US$9 million in current dollars, from royalty payments on the band's songs over the previous 12 months, Page testified.

Michael Skidmore, the trustee for Wolfe's estate, has said Page may have been inspired to write Stairway To Heaven after hearing California-based Spirit perform Taurus while the bands toured together in 1968 and 1969.

The lawsuit seeks a writing credit for Wolfe on the song and damages in an amount to be proven at trial.

Page, 72, on Wednesday testified that he did not recall hearing Taurus until recently, after he had been made aware of comparisons being made between the two songs.

Plant is also expected to testify in the case.