Cover Band? 5 Songs Stolen By Led Zeppelin

You read that right.  Here is a list of songs that the classic band Led Zeppelin lifted from other artists – without credit.  In some cases, they got sued for stealing other people’s music, in some cases, in the less litigious days of the Sixties, they just got away with it.  It’s hard to imagine that some of these songs that have been a staple of popular culture have been credited to a band who didn’t even write them.  Read on to find out the details!



This instrumental tune off of Zeppelin’s 1969 album, Led Zeppelin II was known by a couple of other names during the band’s career – namely “Pat’s Delight” and “Over The Top”.  The credits go to John Bonham, John Paul Jones, and Jimmy Page.  However, what they forget to mention is that it was originally written under the name of “The Girl I Love” by Sleepy John Estes (1899-1977).  It was later covered by musician, Bobby Parker (who gave credit to Estes).  The song would later be re-recorded on Zeppelin’s 1997 album The BBC Sessions.  This time they gave credit where credit was due and used Estes‘ name and song title.  Properly annotated, this song should have been arranged by Zeppelin, not giving them full credit.



This Led Zep song appeared on their 1976 Presence album.  On the album, it is credited to Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, although, unlike the Grateful Dead, who also covered this song, the real person who composed this song – Blind Willie Johnson – was mentioned.  He isn’t stated on the Led Zeppelin version.  Johnson’s version was recorded between 1927-1930, but was never registered and is considered public domain.  Johnson, himself, most likely took this song from a negro spiritual, because the title appears in a 1924 songbook.  Once again, the song was arranged by Led Zeppelin, not written by them.



The original title of this song was a blues number called “You Need Love” by Grammy-Award winner Willie Dixon (1915-1992), who was a founder of the Chicago Blues sound.  Dixon is also a member of the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame (1994).  When Led Zeppelin released their song “Whole Lotta Love” on Led Zeppelin II (1969), they credited the music to themselves.  However, in 1985, Willie Dixon’s son, sued Led Zeppelin for plagiarizing the song from a 1962 recording that was written by his father and sung by Muddy Waters on Chess Records.

The opening verse of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love”:
You need coolin’, baby, I’m not foolin’
I’m gonna send ya back to schoolin’
Way down inside, honey, you need it
I’m gonna give you my love (2x)

Compared to the opening verse of Willie Dixon’s “You Need Love”:
I ain’t foolin’ you need schoolin’
Baby you know you need coolin’
Baby, way down inside, woman you need love

When the lawsuit was filed, Led Zeppelin’s attorney stated that it was strange that someone would wait that long to file a suit.  The case was settled out of court, but Dixon’s name was added to the credits – adding credibility to the claim.  As a side note, at the end of the song, Plant quotes a Howlin’ Wolf song, “Back Door Man” with the lyrics, “Shake for me girl/Wanna be your back door man.” – which was also written for Howlin’ Wolf by Willie Dixon!



How can this great, classic tune have been lifted without anyone taking notice?  The song, originally played by a folk singer named Jake Holmes, on his debut album, The Above Ground Sound.  In 1967, Holmes got a break by opening for the Yardbirds, who, if you recall, had a guitarist by the name of Jimmy Page.  The Yardbirds continued to play the song after Holmes was no longer opening for them and when Led Zeppelin came out with their debut album in 1969. Unlike the other lifted songs that Led Zeppelin used, they at least didn’t take any credit for this song.  The song was attributed to no one on the album notes.  Holmes didn’t say anything, but later sent a letter to Jimmy Page asking to be acknowledged on the song and compensated for his music.  By compensation, Holmes asked Page if he could spare him a little gas money.  There was no response to the letter.



Say it ain’t so! This is the quintessential Led Zeppelin song.  It is the rock ballad of a generation!  How could Stairway to Heaven be a stolen song?  Well, only part of it is.  The opening guitar solo, which is the most recognizable part of this song, was taken, almost note for note, from a band called Spirit and their song, “Taurus”.  Who ever heard of Spirit?  Led Zeppelin did.  Spirit gave Zeppelin the opportunity to open for them on their first American tour.  How lame do you have to be to steal from the band that gave you a break by letting you open for them? Spirit’s lead guitarist, Randy California (I think it just might be a stage name), never wanted anything more from them than a “thank you” which, as far as we know, he never got.