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Rock History 101: The Truth about Led Zeppelin

on December 19, 2010, 8:00am
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ledzeppelin Rock History 101: The Truth about Led Zeppelin

There’s a fairly well-known controversy that surrounds the legend of Led Zeppelin, one that has plagued the band since the 70’s and one that will always stick. The age-old debate: Did Led Zeppelin rip off early Blues songs?

If this is a new concept to you, I’m sorry. This issue is not a very well-kept secret. Search for it online, and you can find entire YouTube channels dedicated to this conspiracy. Some go as far as to claim there is only one original song on their debut album, Led Zeppelin I. It’s such a prevalent question, in fact, that the band has been asked to comment on these accusations, and in 1993, Jimmy Page stated to Guitar World magazine that they knew exactly what they were doing all along:

As far as my end of it goes, I always tried to bring something fresh to anything that I used. I always made sure to come up with some variation. In fact, I think in most cases, you would never know what the original source could be. Maybe not in every case — but in most cases. So most of the comparisons rest on the lyrics. And Robert was supposed to change the lyrics, and he didn’t always do that — which is what brought on most of the grief. They couldn’t get us on the guitar parts of the music, but they nailed us on the lyrics. We did, however, take some liberties, I must say [laughs]. But never mind; we did try to do the right thing.”

Musicians have been sourcing each other for as long as music has been recorded. Almost every musician is guilty of lifting music in some way. But sometimes the lift becomes more famous than the original, and that’s when things get dicey. As long as proper credit was given, normally nothing is thought of it. Zeppelin got in trouble for it because they crossed a line. The problem was that they neglected to give that credit at first, and the band earned substantially more off the songs in question than the original writers. Understandably, certain parties weren’t happy.

Not only have the famous riffs come under fire, but so have the lyrics. The allegations have brought several lawsuits as well, most of them settled out of court very discretely. In the case of “Whole Lotta Love”, the song credits were later amended to include Willie Dixon, who claimed Robert Plant used lyrics from his song “You Need Love”. Look at the credits on “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You”, and you’ll notice folk singer Anne Bredon right next to Page. She’s been receiving royalties (back payments included) since 1990.

The examples go on and on. Some are blatant copies, some don’t hold ground. The similarities are just as many as the differences, so the arguments could go on for days. The truth is, Zeppelin’s music is a collection of parts, some original, some borrowed. Trying to conclude whether or not they are rip-offs is left to the listener.

So what do you think of the five songs here?

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rage of bahamut forum index
July 13, 2014 at 3:41 am

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Anonymous
May 3, 2014 at 1:13 am

I have known many music critics who have tried to become musicians. But I have never known a musician who became a music critic.

Ed Tarbush
March 22, 2014 at 6:37 pm

Nothing breeds contempt like success. Witness the bashing here by nobodies…

tonyzepp
July 7, 2013 at 2:49 pm

Sorry, NOBODY in the Who was even close to being a better musician at their respective instrument than the guys in Zeppelin. Moonie may have been rock’s 2nd greatest drummer ever but on alot of Who albums he was uninspired (Who By Numbers, most of Who Are You, etc…) Hell, Moon was about to be fired because he was so bad his last few years, so out of shape he had to scale back to 1 bass drum on Who Are You. As for the arguement that Bonzo didn’t use 2 basses, he didn’t need to. Listen to the triplets at the end of their first song ever “Good Times Bad Times” near the end. Ridiculously fast and more than that it FIT the song.

TONYWHO
May 20, 2014 at 5:00 pm

ha. an intermediate drummer can imitate bonhams beats and a beginning guitarist can play most of pages riffs after a couple months practice. nobody can imitate moon. townshend runs circles around page as a musician and composer though page has him on the self-indulgent guitar wankfests by a mile. entwhistle is easily the best rock bassist in history. no one is even close. plants vocals have always grated to me, but that is more subjective.

tonyzepp
July 7, 2013 at 2:43 pm

Of course Zep ripped off alot of stuff but that’s what rock is :the blues amplified. Their major crime was not giving credit or financial windfalls until they were busted. Still greatest band to ever walk the planet. NO ONE covers all the bases like Page. He could hammer on/ pull off better than Speedy Van What’s His Name (see Stairway) , blues, rock, even jazz (No Quarter). And Bonzo was EASILY the greatest drummer in rock history, Neil Peart wasn’t even close Rush fanz, sorry !

Jeff
June 28, 2013 at 5:22 am

LED ZEPPELIN, Is the BEST “cover band” to ever come around!! And they ripped off more than what’s brought to light in this article.

frr
March 24, 2013 at 12:57 pm

led zep fans trying to defend their heroes, reality is hard thieving cunts

frr
March 24, 2013 at 12:54 pm

when i found about this i was distraught, a bunch of thieves, yes people sample, but the original composer get credited, if they would not have got caught zeppelin would not have said anything

cinqm
November 23, 2012 at 1:32 pm

Everything is a remix! Everyone does it, sometimes even without knowing it. People who knew include Zeppelin, Steve Jobs, Aldous Huxley, Metallica, Walt Disney, etc…

Everything is a remix: google it and see the documentary from Kirby Ferguson. He has got a point!

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