Ok, if I’m being totally honest this one pains me to even write. Growing up Zeppelin was on of my all time favorite bands. The music still blows me away all these years later but I discovered a rather disturbing fact. A lot of the great songs that I love by this band…aren’t actually BY this band. They are covers or samples of songs from other greats like Willie Dixon, Sonny Boy Williamson II and Howlin’ Wolf. (Give me a moment to gather my thoughts and wipe away my tears…)
Ok, I first stumbled onto this info after listening to Opie and Anthony on Sirius Satellite Radio. Lil Jimmy Norton (one of my favorite comedians and a co-host of the O&A show) is a M-A-S-S-I-V-E Black Sabbath fan and took a lot of crap while he was growing up saying that Black Sabbath was better than Zeppelin. (If he only knew THEN what he knows NOW, his arguments would have been much easier.)
Below is an article by a great music site, Ear Farm that breaks it all down. After that there is a quick video to give you some more side by side comparisons.
Led Zeppelin is one of the greatest and most successful rock bands of all time, everyone knows this. What everyone does not (necessarily) know is just how many of their songs -especially some of their most popular songs- they covered and/or flat out stole from other artists without giving any credit.
In an interview with Trouser Press, Jimmy Page responded to the suggestion that Led Zeppelin used a lot of traditional and blues lyrics and tunes and called them their own:
The thing is they were traditional lyrics and they went back far before a lot of people that one related them to. The riffs we did were totally different, also, from the ones that had come before, apart from something like “You Shook Me” and “I Can’t Quit You,” which were attributed to Willie Dixon. The thing with “Bring It On Home,” Christ, there’s only a tiny bit taken from Sonny Boy Williamson’s version and we threw that in as a tribute to him. People say, “Oh, ‘Bring It On Home’ is stolen.” Well, there’s only a little bit in the song that relates to anything that had gone before it, just the end.
The thing is, it’s not “just the end” of that one song – plagiarism occurs throughout Led Zeppelin’s impressive catalog…
10. “Black Mountain Side” (LISTEN) – originally it was a traditional English folk song that appears on Bert Jansch’s 1966 album Jack Orion as “Blackwaterside” (LISTEN); yet it was credited on Led Zeppelin’s first album as a Jimmy Page composition. This is a common theme.
9. “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” (LISTEN) – a folk song that was written by Anne Bredon in the late ’50s and then recorded by Joan Baez in 1963 (LISTEN). Led Zeppelin included the song on their 1969 debut Led Zeppelin credited as “trad., arr. Page” but then later changed (in the ’90s) to properly given credit to Bredon for writing the song.
8. “Since I’ve Been Lovin’ You” (LISTEN) – released on the album Led Zeppelin III, the song features lyrics taken from the Moby Grape song “Never” (MP3). Perhaps it was coincidence that Moby Grape was one of Robert Plant’s favorite bands…
7. “Moby Dick” (LISTEN) – a fan favorite during Led Zeppelin concerts, the guitar riff is eerily similar to (or, a nearly note-for-note ripoff of) a riff which appears on Bobby Parker’s 1961 single, “Watch Your Step” (LISTEN). Jimmy Page was an admitted fan of Parker’s, at one point even attempting to sign him to Led Zeppelin’s Swan Song Records label.
6. “In My Time Of Dying” (LISTEN) – this is a traditional blues song that has been covered by a LOT of musicians since the early ’60s when Bob Dylan covered it on his debut album (LISTEN). Unlike most musicians who record the song, Led Zeppelin could not admit the song wasn’t their own: Dylan credited the song “trad. arr. Dylan”, Zeppelin’s credits read “Page, Plant, John Paul Jones, John Bonham”.
5. “The Lemon Song” (LISTEN) – from Led Zeppelin II, this song steals heavily from the Howlin’ Wolf song “Killing Floor” (LISTEN), a song Led Zeppelin often played during their first tour of the United States. I say “steal” because the credits on Led Zeppelin II attribute the song solely to Page, Plant, Jones, and Bonham.
4. “Bring It On Home” (LISTEN) – written by Willie Dixon and made famous by Sonny Boy Williamson II, Led Zeppelin’s version from Led Zeppelin II featured an intro and outro that were deliberate homages to the original. However, Willie Dixon was not given a writing credit for the track and Arc Music later filed a lawsuit against Led Zeppelin for copyright infringement. The case was settled out of court.
3. “Whole Lotta Love” (LISTEN) – released on Led Zeppelin II, this song was the band’s first hit single. It was not, however, an original composition as the album credits originally claimed. In fact, the lyrics are heavily taken from “You Need Love” by Willie Dixon (MP3) whose label would later file a lawsuit claiming copyright infringement in 1985.
2. “Stairway To Heaven” (LISTEN) – yes, even this most classic of all Zeppelin songs is based upon another band’s music. Nooo! Not “Stairway”, say it ain’t so! Well, the main guitar riff sounds an awful lot like the song “Taurus” by the band Spirit (LISTEN), doesn’t it? Especially when you consider that Led Zeppelin toured with Spirit in 1969…
1. “Dazed And Confused” (LISTEN) – released on Led Zeppelin’s first album, the song was originally credited as “written by Jimmy Page” and was one of the band’s most signature songs. However, it was NOT written by Jimmy Page. In fact, “Dazed and Confused” was originally penned by folk singer Jake Holmes (LISTEN) who caught Page’s attention one night at the Village Theater in Greenwich Village while opening for The Yardbirds (Page’s band at the time). Jimmy arranged a version of the song for The Yardbirds but didn’t record a studio version until 1969 with Led Zeppelin. “Dazed And Confused” went on to become the highlight of Zeppelin shows for their entire career, Jake Holmes never sought any manner of legal action.
There you have it. A childhood of wonderful memories tainted by the fact that one of my favorite groups of all time is a bunch of thieving bastards! Ok, so that is a bit harsh but all they have to do is ADMIT the truth about these songs and then we can all move on. They STILL rock, Jimmy Page is arguably one of rock’s best guitar players, Robert Plant had an incredible voice and don’t even get me started with how amazing John Bonham was on drums. (I know, I know, what about John Paul Jones….well, what about him?) Anyway, I still cherish their music and will still crank it up whenever it comes on as it takes me down memory lane. To a time where life was simpler and my rock idols were considered rock gods.