Expert testifies Stairway to Heaven chord progression used 300 years ago

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Former bandmate says Jimmy Page never mentioned American band Spirit, whose song Led Zeppelin is accused of stealing a riff from

Led Zeppelins attorneys on Friday brought in music expert Lawrence Ferrara, who testified that the only similarity between Taurus and Stairway to Heaven was a descending chromatic minor line progression.

Ferrara said that musical element was used 300 years ago, as well as in many pop songs since then.

Also on Friday, Led Zeppelin musician John Paul Jones testified that his former bandmate Jimmy Page had never mentioned American band Spirit, whose song Led Zeppelin is being accused of stealing a riff from its 1971 hit Stairway to Heaven.

Jones, 70, appeared in federal court in Los Angeles on Friday in a copyright infringement trial in which the British rock band is accused of copying the opening riff to Stairway to Heaven from the 1967 instrumental Taurus by Spirit.

When asked if guitarist Page, the co-writer of Stairway, had ever mentioned Spirit, Jones said no.

Jones also said that he himself had never heard of Spirit until the current lawsuit that was brought in 2014 by Michael Skidmore, a trustee for Randy Wolfe, the late guitarist of Spirit and composer of Taurus.

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

Lawyers for Skidmore on Friday called Michael Einhorn, an expert on music royalties, to testify about damages related to the case. Einhorn said Plant and Page have made $58.5m in total as composers of Stairway to Heaven.

The trial has been closely watched this week as Page, 72, and Plant, 67, attended court, both wearing suits with their long silver hair tied into ponytails.

Page took the witness stand on Wednesday and Thursday and was questioned on whether there were any similarities between Stairway to Heaven and Taurus.

The British musician said he did not recall hearing Taurus until recently, after he had been made aware of comparisons being made between the two songs.

He also testified that the descending chromatic structure of the guitar riff at the center of the lawsuit is heard in numerous other songs, including Chim Chim Cher-ee from the 1964 Disney film Mary Poppins.

Earlier in the trial, Skidmores lawyers simultaneously showed the jury two video clips of expert Kevin Hanson playing the openings of both songs. Hanson said the two clips play together as one piece of music. It is not discordant.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2016/jun/17/music-expert-testifies-stairway-to-heaven-led-zeppelin-trial