Led Zeppelin singer recalls writing of Stairway

LOS ANGELES • Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant denied on Tuesday having stolen the opening of the rock group's iconic song Stairway To Heaven, telling a jury he had written the anthem in 1970 in the English countryside.

The 67-year-old told a Los Angeles federal court that the song at the centre of a copyright case was clearly his work as well as that of Zeppelin guitarist-songwriter Jimmy Page.

The song was played to jurors as arguments wrapped up on Tuesday.

Plant testified that he wrote the lyrics while sitting by a fire at a recording and rehearsal venue in Britain.

He said he was inspired to write the lines after he heard Page play the opening notes of what would become one of the most famous rock songs of all time.

"That particular evening, I sat with Jimmy by the fire, and I had this first couplet that fit with what he was playing," he testified.

"I was really trying to bring the remote, pastoral Britain... the old, almost unspoken Celtic references into the piece," he added.

Asked by his attorney to remember what the couplet was, he sighed before reciting the famous lines.

"There's a lady who's sure all that glitters is gold and she's buying a stairway to heaven," he said. "When she gets there she knows, if the stores are all closed with a word she can get what she came for."

The genesis of the song is a key element in the case as Page and Plant fight off accusations that they stole the opening chords to Stairway To Heaven from an instrumental by California band Spirit.

Plant also recalled a January 1970 car crash that left him with part of the windshield in the top of his head, but he said he could not remember meeting members of Spirit or seeing them perform at a club where he had spent part of that evening.

Mothers club in Birmingham was a focal point for the local music scene, he said. He told jurors that he lived in a village in the area and that he and his wife would go to the club to meet musicians. The car crash on their way home from the club happened the night Spirit played there.

He got a laugh out of the spectators in the Los Angeles courtroom, admitting he really had no recollection of any bands he saw playing at the club or of anyone whom he might have met there in those days.

"You meet so many people," he said. "In the middle of all the chaos, and the hubbub, how can you remember that more than 40 years later?"

Closing arguments were set for yesterday before the jury of four women and four men begins deliberations.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 23, 2016, with the headline 'Led Zeppelin singer recalls writing of Stairway'. Print Edition | Subscribe