Led Zeppelin vs. The World

February 19th, 2013 by

Led Zeppelin vs. The World

“If the lyric hadn’t been stolen, the music would have been lesser for it… It was decided that it was so far away in time and influence that… well, you only get caught when you’re successful. That’s the game.”

-Robert Plant


Editor’s Note:

This has been a hot topic for many years and Ben did an awesome job writing this up. I added some notes and the best images I could find on Google :P

Got anything to add to this list? Add it in the comments below!

Led Zeppelin is certainly no stranger to this site, which to a degree is inevitable with any highly mimicked, vastly popular band. However, most of their coverage thus far has revolved around what others have taken from the group, despite the likelihood that they themselves are one of the most infringing acts in the history of rock. A few glowing moments and an admirable knack for myth-making aside, Jimmy Page & co. borrowed far and wide for both riffs and whole songs, indebting Led Zeppelin not only to their contemporaries but even more substantially to specific old blues tunes — and yet it often went officially unacknowledged by them. Indeed, a cursory glance through old Zeppelin vinyl reveals that even tracks which were later assigned proper songwriting credits in the CD era — after the band was repeatedly taken to task — were initially devoid of any mention of their origins. Hand it to Led Zeppelin: at least they had good taste, borrowing from some of the day’s finest acts past and present.

What follows are samples of tunes that were originally notated as being solely written by the band — delusions since debunked.

Jimmy Page's "zoso" Saturn sigil

Start by considering the back-to-back examples offered in “Your Time Is Gonna Come/Black Mountain Side”, a one-two punch of plagiarism found on their 1969 debut.

The first is pretty straightforward:

Traffic - "Dear Mr. Fantasy" (1967)
Led Zeppelin - "Your Time Is Gonna Come" (1969)
Robert Plant and Steve Winwood on ThatSongSoundsLike.com

Robert Plant and Steve Winwood (Traffic)


John Paul Jones non-interlaced triquetra overlaying circle sigil

The second is slightly more complex. A frequent argument in defense of Zeppelin is that some of the older material they proffered as their own was public domain, but be that as it may, in such cases their arrangements were often highly derivative of other acts who had for all intents and purposes already made the music their own. Perhaps it didn’t strike the band as poor form to take repeated advantage of copyright law grey area in this fashion, but frankly it’s hard to see it any other way. Case-in-point is Bert Jansch‘s “Blackwaterslide”, a traditional Irish folk song to which he gave his indelible stamp with a bracingly original guitar figure. In his rather amicable words, Jimmy Page “ripped me off, didn’t he? Or let’s just say he learned from me.”

For curiosity sake, let’s hear a more standard reading of the song by Altan, followed by Bert Jansch, followed by Led Zeppelin. Gauge the distance for yourself between each of the respective three in terms of instrumental ingenuity:

Altan - "Blackwaterside" (1996)
Bert Jansch - "Blackwaterside" (1966)
Led Zeppelin - "Black Mountain Side" (1969)
Jimmy Page and Bert Jansch

Jimmy Page and Bert Jansch

In fact, Led Zeppelin’s debut was rife with Jimmy Page’s sources of “inspiration” being dubious at best, and as a result he wound up pissing off Jeff Beck and otherwise having to face his accusers, even as recently as several years ago. No wonder the record drew such poor reviews.

Jake Holmes - "Dazed and Confused" (1967)

Led Zeppelin - "Dazed and Confused" (1969)

John Bonham's three intersecting circles sigil

It certainly wasn’t the last time the band would raise ears in such a way, either. Their second album features two infamous instances of the band’s indiscretions while mining top-notch blues songs.

Muddy Waters on ThatSongSoundsLike.com

Muddy Waters

For one, they took “Whole Lotta Love” from Muddy Waters‘ original (written for him by Willie Dixon) by way of the Small Faces‘ own (also uncredited) take on the song, and were successfully sued in 1985.

Here are the three laid out:

Muddy Waters - "You Need Love" (1962)

The Small Faces - "You Need Loving" (1966)

Led Zeppelin - "Whole Lotta Love" (1969)

They were likewise held accountable in 1972 by the copyright holder to Howlin Wolf‘s “Killing Floor”, which they had handily mixed-n-matched along with Robert Johnson‘s “Travelling Riverside Blues” to create “The Lemon Song”:

Howlin' Wolf - "Killing Floor" (1965)
Led Zeppelin - "The Lemon Song (Guitar Solo)" (1969)
Led Zeppelin - "The Lemon Song (Verse)" (1969)

And now for the lemon squeezing bit (a metaphor already borrowed by Johnson himself from a song by Roosevelt Sykes):

Robert Johnson - "Travelling Riverside Blues" (1937)
Led Zeppelin - "The Lemon Song (Coda)" (1969)
Robert Plant Lemon Squeezer


Robert Plant's feather sigil

Jimmy Page

L to R: Jimmy Page, Guitar

By the time Led Zeppelin’s self-titled fourth came around, they began to operate more on their own steam and even ordained to properly credit Memphis Minnie when borrowing from her for “When the Levee Breaks”. Yet, for all that progress, the album’s defining track is not entirely their own. Listen to the similarity between the well-known guitar intro on “Stairway To Heaven” and a song by the brilliant Spirit, who had toured with Zeppelin just a few years prior:

Spirit - "Taurus" (1968)

Led Zeppelin - "Stairway To Heaven" (1971)



And now for artists who have lifted from Zeppelin. These have all been published on the site before. I’ve collected them all in one convenient spot. Of course you might even say that “We Used To” is derived from “Taurus” from above.

Led Zeppelin - "Stairway to Heaven" (1971)

Dolly Parton - "We Used To" (1975)


Led Zeppelin Zoso

Led Zeppelin - "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" (1969)

Chicago - "25 or 6 to 4" (1970)

Green Day - "Brain Stew/Jaded" (1995)

White Stripes - "Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground" (2001)

Led Zeppelin Zoso

Led Zeppelin - "Kashmir" (1975)

Coheed and Cambria - "Welcome Home" (2005)

Led Zeppelin Zoso

Led Zeppelin - "In My Time of Dying" (1975)

Danzig - "Twist of Cain" (1988)

Led Zeppelin Zoso

Led Zeppelin - "Wanton Song" (1975)

Rage Against The Machine - "Vietnow" (1996)


Led Zeppelin Zoso

Led Zeppelin - "Kashmir" (1975)

Rage Against The Machine - "Wake Up" (1992)

Led Zeppelin Zoso

Led Zeppelin - "Misty Mountain Hop" (1971)

Devo - "Uncontrollable Urge" (1978)


And… they’re buying their way… out of lawsuits…

Robert Plant and a Dog Eating an Ice Cream Cone


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19 Responses to “Led Zeppelin vs. The World”

  1. avatar 'End-To-End' Benton says:

    Another for the Kashmir pile: Supremacy by Muse


    Still great though.



    Owen Reply:

    Also for kashmir add:
    -Wake Up by Rage against the
    -Come With me by Puff Daddy feat. Jimmy Page



    Keith Reply:

    Thanks. I had posted “Wake Up” here:

    I try to avoid samples and the Puff Daddy track was a legit sampling (or whatever you want to call it).


  2. avatar James C. says:

    That’s quite a compilation! Some breaking news: Eurovision 2013 entries accused of plagiarism. Germany’s song is under investigation, and they could be disqualified:


    And Russia just released their song, which bears a striking resemblance to a Swedish song:




  3. avatar Lauren says:

    Hey Ben! I have another one for you! Love both songs, but these two songs are so alike!

    This song has Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles” piano in the background of it, only sped up!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jZ8M5EeFk8M “Waiting” -Cheryl Cole



    Haasey Reply:

    Good get Lauren.

    That is massively blatant.


  4. avatar Arthur says:

    There’s another song from Led Zeppelin in a video I did. I also got some examples from this site, but your url is on the video’s credits at the end. You can watch if you want here:


  5. avatar James C. says:

    Trance group Arty & Matt Zo is accusing will.i.am of ripping them off, and it sounds pretty clear-cut. Who was their producer?




    Keith Reply:

    Thanks James! I just posted this one. I’ll try to follow up on the Eurovision one soon:



  6. avatar Mark Adams says:

    Do you realise Babe I’m Gonna Leave You was written by Anne Brendon but somewhere along the line Jimmy Page claimed it as his own and that In My Time of Dying was stolen from Bob Dylan’s cover of Blind Willie Johnson’s Jesus Make My Dying Bed? For other examples, see the three part youtube video: Led Zeppelin Plagiarisms.


  7. avatar jjj says:

    this is sampling, rather than plagarism, but the beat for “Rhymin and Stealin” by the beastie boys is from “When the Levee breaks”


  8. avatar Mark Adams says:

    Another couple for Led Zeppelin/Chicago/Green Day/White Stripes: I Wish Someone Would Build a Bridge (So I Can Get Over Myself) and No Sugar by Thirsty Merc. I would put the lot of them down to coincidence, anyone can come up with a descending chromatic riff like that.



    Mark Adams Reply:

    Also Rhinosaur by Soundgarden (1996). Led Zeppelin was one of Chris Cornell’s main influences.


  9. avatar Nick Cobel says:

    Are you sure this one didn’t start with the Beatles? I always heard the Beatles (1968) “While my Guitar Gently Weeps” in Zepplin’s (1969) “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” and later in Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4″


  10. avatar Mark Adams says:

    In regards to The Lemon Song, Travelling Riverside Blues by Led Zeppelin, which is a tribute to the Robert Johnson song of the same name and to the man in general, also features the lemon squeezing metaphor and includes a reference to Come On in My Kitchen and features a Robert Johnson riff for turnarounds.

    As far as I’m concerned though, this is like writing your own lyrics without having invented the language and we probably often include famous phrases in lyrics.



    Ben Reply:

    A very astute series of comments Mark, thank you. What you say is true, and the language you speak of extends beyond the lyrics. How could it be “wrong” to borrow a phrase when it’s perfectly okay to take a lick, a style, a structure, even a certain chord progression from a predecessor? Words are just more finite and easier to trace. The history of folk and blues traditions, on through rock ‘n roll, is one of repetition in all its forms, built on reference, emulation and fine-tuning.


  11. avatar Sapayo says:

    To me Spirit – “Taurus” is more similar in rhythm and a little bit of the notes are the same to Led Zeppelin – “Stairway To Heaven”.Iwuold like you to listent to to Pink Floyd – “Is There Anybody Out There” that to me sounds more similar to Spirit – “Taurus” than Led Zeppelin – “Stairway To Heaven”



    Keith Reply:

    Nice. Never thought about that Floyd track for this. Just listened to it. Pretty good.


  12. avatar Mark Adams says:

    Here’s another one concerning a different part of Kashmir and the similar descending pattern in Shark Attack by Split Enz (1980).



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