Sunday 14 July 2013

Plagiarism in Rock Music: What? Led Zeppelin?

I missed seeing Led Zeppelin on February 2, 1969, at the Masonic Temple in Toronto during the band's inaugural North American Tour but I did catch them on November 2, 1969 at the O'Keefe Centre (now the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts). Wow. At the time, I was the bass player in a rock band at high school and not only did I buy the albums and devour every song, I learned every riff. Yes, Zepp was guitar, guitar, guitar but those heavy bass lines really gave a solid foundation to those ear-splitting ostinadi. (Wait! I'm talking about rock music using a classical music term like ostinado? Ha!)

The other day, in browsing around YouTube, I ran across a couple of videos about how Led Zeppelin plagiarized some of their music. True? False? Listening to a Zeppelin song back to back with a piece recorded years before certainly makes one wonder where Jimmy Page got his inspiration. When the copy is almost note for note and the lyrics are ninety-nine percent the same, you have a tough time saying that this is a coincidence. Wikipedia's Zepp article explains:

The material on the first two albums was largely constructed out of extended jams of blues standards and folk songs. This method led to the mixing of musical and lyrical elements of different songs and versions, as well as improvised passages, to create new material, but would lead to later accusations of plagiarism and some legal disputes over copyright. Usually the music was developed first, sometimes with improvised lyrics that might then be rewritten for the final version of the song.

When I listened to the two videos below, several times I laughed out loud while adding, "Get outa here!" I'm sorry, but there is no way Page can tell me that he hadn't heard the original song.

Led Zeppelin's song "Dazed and Confused" was derived from a 1967 Jake Holmes song of the same name, which had been performed by Jimmy Page when he was with The Yardbirds. In June 2010, Holmes filed a lawsuit against the guitarist for copyright infringement in a United States District Court, claiming Page knowingly copied his work. The case was dismissed with prejudice in January 2012 following a stipulation filed by both parties. The 2012 Led Zeppelin release Celebration Day credits the song to "Jimmy Page, inspired by Jake Holmes".
-Wikipedia: Musical plagiarism

Uploaded on May 27, 2009 by clashboy1977
Led Zeppelin Plagiarism Part 1

Uploaded on May 27, 2009 by clashboy1977
Led Zeppelin Plagiarism Part 2

Final Word
Is anybody stealing per se? What is the difference between stealing and inspiration? It is curious to note that while any particular person, musician, author, painter, etc. may do things derivative of something else, that person may put their own stamp of creative genius on a work and turn it into a masterpiece. One musicologist discovered that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart lifted parts of The Magic Flute from a lesser work. (Slate Feb 13/2002) Considering the genius of Mozart and the fact the lesser work has disappeared in time, is anybody going to complain?

I remember the 1960s pop song A Lover's Concerto by The Toys. It was based on "Minuet in G major" from J.S. Bach's Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach and I don't remember anybody saying the group stole from Bach. Was it homage? I remember the stink over George Harrison's 1970's song My Sweet Lord being based on the 1963 song He's So Fine. Even if you know one song, can changing the tempo and changing the lyrics turn it into something new in your own head? Harrison admitted he knew of the song but didn't make the connection.

"What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun."
-Ecclesiastes 1:9; New International Version

According to the researchers, borrowing from other composers is a time honoured tradition in both classical music and folk. The point is not the stealing, er, the borrowing, but the creation of something better and unique. While yes, Jake Holmes did write a song called Dazed and Confused, there is no doubt that Dazed and Confused by Led Zeppelin is, at least for me, the de facto standard. When you catch me singing, "Every day I work so hard, bringin' home my hard earned pay", you'll find the eponymous first Led Zeppelin album blasting in my earphones. I'm sorry, Jake who?


Wikipedia: Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin were an English rock band formed in London in 1968. The band consisted of guitarist Jimmy Page, singer Robert Plant, bassist and keyboardist John Paul Jones, and drummer John Bonham. The group's heavy, guitar-driven sound, rooted in blues on their early albums, has drawn them recognition as one of the progenitors of heavy metal, though their unique style drew from a wide variety of influences, including folk music.

Wikipedia: Musical plagiarism
Music plagiarism is the use or close imitation of another author's music while representing it as one's own original work. Plagiarism in music now occurs in two contexts—with a musical idea (that is, a melody or motif) or sampling (taking a portion of one sound recording and reusing it in a different song).

The Independent - July 14/2013
When it comes to songwriting, there's a fine line between inspiration and plagiarism by Spencer Leigh
Songwriters are often asked, "Which comes first, the words or the music?", but, in an increasing number of instances, the answer seems to be "Listening to somebody else's record". The easiest way to write a hit song may be to find someone who has written it first.

Wikipedia: List of popular songs based on classical music
This is a list of examples of popular songs that are arrangements of, or otherwise make use of, works of classical music. ... The practice of adapting classical compositions is associated with various popular genres, including Tin Pan Alley, progressive rock, and heavy metal.

Ha, ha, ha. Smoke On The Water?
Published on Nov 26, 2012 by RitchieBlackm0re (Not that Ritchie Blackmore. This has a zero in the name, not an O.)
YouTube: Deep Purple Plagiarism?
This is hilarious. "Smoke on the Water", probably the most famous rock riff of all time, has been stolen (may have been stolen?) from a 1967 composition called Maria Quiet by Astrud Gilberto (Brazilian samba and bossa nova singer who did the original "The Girl from Ipanema") and Gil Evans (jazz pianist, arranger, composer and bandleader). Ha, ha. Ya gotta hear this!!! (FYI: It's the last example in the video.) Maybe we should rename the song, "Smoke (And Mirrors) On The Water."


Time Magazine - May 19/2014
Led Zeppelin Is Getting Sued Over “Stairway to Heaven” by Melissa Locker
You may have never heard of the band Taurus, but Led Zeppelin has. Not only did they play shows with Zeppelin in 1969, but Taurus has now sued them for allegedly lifting what may be one of the most famous riffs in rock history — the opening notes of “Stairway to Heaven.”


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