List of Led Zeppelin songs written or inspired by others

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In their career, the British rock band Led Zeppelin recorded many songs that consisted, in whole or part, of pre-existing songs, melodies, or lyrics. They sometimes credited those sources; sometimes not. The band has been sued a number of times over attribution, some cases having concluded with others being awarded writing credit for the song in question.

This is a partial list of songs that contributed to or inspired Led Zeppelin songs or covers. It includes non-controversial ones the band attributed to other writers from the outset.

Led Zeppelin[edit]

"Babe I'm Gonna Leave You"[edit]

The band covered Joan Baez's version of the song written by Anne Bredon; both guitarist Jimmy Page and singer Robert Plant were fans of Baez. Baez's album had originally indicated no writing credit, and Led Zeppelin credited the song as "Trad. arr. Page". In the 1980s, Bredon was made aware of Led Zeppelin's version of the song, and since 1990 the Led Zeppelin version has been credited to Anne Bredon/Jimmy Page & Robert Plant. Bredon received a substantial back-payment of royalties.[1] Music critic Andy Hermann researched and disproved the common accusation that Page copied the guitar riff from either Chicago or George Harrison.[2]

"You Shook Me"[edit]

This song was correctly credited to Willie Dixon, but a similar controversy exists over whether Page got the idea from friend and former bandmate Jeff Beck:

[Beck] had the same sort of taste in music as I did. That's why you'll find on the early LPs we both did a song like "You Shook Me." It was the type of thing we'd both played in bands. Someone told me he'd already recorded it after we'd already put it down on the first Zeppelin album. I thought, "Oh dear, it's going to be identical", but it was nothing like it, fortunately. I just had no idea he'd done it. It was on Truth but I first heard it when I was in Miami after we'd recorded our version. It's a classic example of coming from the same area musically, of having a similar taste.[3]

Major differences between both versions include the prominence afforded Nicky Hopkins's keyboard playing in the Mickie Most mix, and that Rod Stewart sings only two verses in the Jeff Beck recording.[4]

"Dazed and Confused"[edit]

Page was performing his version of this song with the Yardbirds, before forming Led Zeppelin. In 1967, while touring with the Yardbirds, Page saw Jake Holmes perform the song in New York. On the first Led Zeppelin album, the band's version was credited solely to Jimmy Page.[5] A 2010 lawsuit appears to have been settled out of court, the case being dismissed and Holmes being added to the songwriting credit.[6]

"Black Mountain Side"[edit]

Al Stewart learned Bert Jansch's version of the traditional song "Down by Blackwaterside". However, he mistook Jansch's 'drop-D' tuning for DADGAD. At the time, Stewart was recording his own debut record and had engaged Jimmy Page as a session musician. According to Stewart's account, it was he (Stewart) who taught Page 'Blackwaterside' (the DADGAD version) during a tea-break.[7] In spite of this difference, Jansch's record company sought legal advice following the release of Led Zeppelin.[8] Early in 1965, Anne Briggs and Jansch were performing regularly together in folk clubs[9] and spent most of the daytime at a friend's flat, collaborating on new songs and the development of complex guitar accompaniments for traditional songs.[10]

Ultimately, no legal action was ever taken against Led Zeppelin, because it could not be proven that the recording in itself constituted Jansch's own copyright, as the basic melody was traditional.

Nevertheless, Jansch said that Page "ripped me off, didn't he? Or let's just say he learned from me."[8] This is one of two songs where Page may have "learned" from Jansch, the other being "Bron-Y-Aur Stomp", listed below.

"I Can't Quit You Baby"[edit]

This song was published by Willie Dixon only three years earlier, and correctly attributed when Led Zeppelin covered it on their debut album.[11]

"How Many More Times"[edit]

This song's attribution to Howlin' Wolf has never been changed. No lawsuits have been filed. The song also contains components of Albert King's "The Hunter".[12]

Led Zeppelin II[edit]

"Whole Lotta Love"[edit]

The band was sued over this song, settling out of court in Willie Dixon's favor.[1] Plant later said "Page's riff was Page's riff. It was there before anything else. I just thought, 'well, what am I going to sing?' That was it, a nick. Now happily paid for. At the time, there was a lot of conversation about what to do. 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."[13]

"The Lemon Song"[edit]

Led Zeppelin performed "Killing Floor" live in 1968 and 1969,[14] and it became the basis for "The Lemon Song", from 1969's Led Zeppelin II. In some early performances Robert Plant introduced the song as "Killing Floor"; an early UK pressing of Led Zeppelin II showed the title as "Killing Floor" and was credited to Chester Burnett (Howlin' Wolf's legal name). The song evolved into "The Lemon Song", with Plant often improvising lyrics onstage (the opening lyrics to both songs are identical).

Other lyrics, notably "squeeze (my lemon) till the juice runs down my leg," can be traced to Robert Johnson's "Travelling Riverside Blues". It is likely that Johnson borrowed this himself, from a song recorded earlier in the same year (1937) called "She Squeezed My Lemon" (by Arthur McKay).[15] The song also references Albert King's "Cross-Cut Saw"[16] In December 1972, Arc Music, owner of the publishing rights to Howlin' Wolf's songs, sued Led Zeppelin for copyright infringement on "The Lemon Song".[17] The parties settled out of court. Though the amount was not disclosed, Howlin' Wolf received a check for US$45,123 from Arc Music immediately following the suit, and subsequent releases included a co-songwriter credit for him.[17][18]

"Moby Dick"[edit]

The intro and outro were "inspired by" the Bobby Parker song Watch Your Step, the rest of the track being a long drum solo.[19]

"Bring It on Home"[edit]

The intro and outro were deliberate homages to the Sonny Boy Williamson II song, whereas the rest of the track was original.[1][3] however, Dixon was not given a lyric writing credit for the song. In 1972, Chess Records brought a lawsuit against Led Zeppelin for copyright infringement; the case was settled out-of-court.

Led Zeppelin III[edit]

"Since I've Been Loving You"[edit]

The initial and closing lyrics, and some other aspects, are nearly identical to the Moby Grape song "Never", written by Bob Mosley.[20]

"Gallows Pole"[edit]

This song was correctly attributed as traditional, from the beginning. Page credits the Fred Gerlach version as his inspiration, though the song has a much older history as "The Maid Freed from the Gallows".[21]

"Bron-Y-Aur Stomp"[edit]

Jimmy Page repeatedly mentioned Bert Jansch as an influence in interviews. Jansch's album Jack Orion contained two tracks whose components later appeared in Page songs without writing credit. Jansch bandmate Jacqui McShee later said:

Actually, I think it's a very rude thing to do. Pinch somebody else's thing and credit it to yourself. It annoys me. ... In all the English papers at home he's always talking about Bert. Says he's influenced. I mean, why say that and then put something on an LP and say Jimmy Page?[22]

This is one of two songs Page may famously have "pinched" from Jansch, the other being "Black Mountain Side".

"Hats Off to (Roy) Harper"[edit]

The song is a medley of fragments of blues songs and lyrics, including "Shake 'Em On Down" by Bukka White.[1] Therefore, the song is both a tribute to contemporary folk singer Roy Harper and the influential American blues singer who recorded from the 1930s to the 1970s.

Led Zeppelin IV[edit]

"Stairway to Heaven"[edit]

Zeppelin opened for Spirit in an early American tour, and even covered Spirit songs in early shows, leaving little doubt that Led Zeppelin had heard the Spirit song before "Stairway to Heaven" was written. In the liner notes to the 1996 reissue of Spirit's debut album, songwriter Randy California writes:

People always ask me why "Stairway to Heaven" sounds exactly like "Taurus", which was released two years earlier. I know Led Zeppelin also played "Fresh Garbage" in their live set. They opened up for us on their first American tour.[23][24]

After a copyright infringement suit and subsequent appeals, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in favour of Led Zeppelin on 9 March 2020.[25] It upheld the previous jury verdict finding the song did not infringe on "Taurus".[25] The ruling was appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States, who decided not to hear the case and let the Appeals Court decision stand. The Supreme Court's decision precludes further appeals, thus ending the copyright dispute.[26]

"When the Levee Breaks"[edit]

This song used lyrics from the original and was credited to Memphis Minnie along with the band from the beginning, without controversy, although Kansas Joe McCoy did not receive a writer's credit on it. Memphis Minnie biographers have suggested she may have been the main lyricist, especially considering that she and her family were victims of the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 described in the song, whereas McCoy lived in Tennessee at that time.[27] The lyrics sung during the fadeout appear to be borrowed from "Goin' to Chicago Blues" by Joe Williams, Lambert, Hendricks & Ross.

Physical Graffiti[edit]

"Custard Pie"[edit]

The lyrics to the riff-heavy song pay homage to the blues songs of the Robert Johnson era; specifically "Drop Down Mama" by Sleepy John Estes, "Shake 'Em On Down" by Bukka White, and "I Want Some of Your Pie" by Blind Boy Fuller.[1]

"In My Time of Dying"[edit]

First recorded in 1928 by Blind Willie Johnson as "Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed", the lyrics appeared in earlier spirituals and hymns. Numerous artist have recorded it since, including Bob Dylan as "In My Time of Dyin'" with the writing credit listed as "traditional".[28]

"Trampled Under Foot"[edit]

The lyrics were inspired by blues musician Robert Johnson's 1936 "Terraplane Blues".[1] A Terraplane is a classic car, and the song uses car parts as metaphors for sex—"pump your gas", "rev all night", etc. The themes of these songs however differ; "Terraplane Blues" is about infidelity, while "Trampled Under Foot" is about giving in to sexual temptation.[29]

"Boogie with Stu"[edit]

The song is credited to "Page/Plant/Jones/Bonham/Ian Stewart/Mrs. Valens", being heavily based on Ritchie Valens' "Ooh, My Head".[1] Valens's publisher, Kemo Music, filed suit for copyright infringement and an out-of-court settlement was reached.[30] As Page explained:

What we tried to do was give Ritchie's mother credit, because we heard she never received any royalties from any of her son's hits, and Robert did lean on that lyric a bit. So what happens? They tried to sue us for all of the song![31]


"Nobody's Fault but Mine"[edit]

"Nobody's Fault but Mine" is a gospel song that has been recorded by many musicians over the years. The first known recording of this song was by American gospel blues musician Blind Willie Johnson in 1927, titled "It's Nobody's Fault but Mine". In an interview, Jimmy Page explained:

Robert [Plant] came in one day and suggested that we cover it, but the arrangement I came up with was nothing to do with the [Blind Willie Johnson] original. Robert may have wanted to go for the original blues lyrics, but everything else was a totally different kettle of fish.[32]

Led Zeppelin biographer George Case adds "Page was likely more mindful of John Renbourn's 1966 acoustic take (credited to [trad. arr.] Renbourn) than [Blind Willie] Johnson's".[33]

BBC Sessions[edit]

"The Girl I Love She Got Long Black Wavy Hair"[edit]

The lyrics in the first verse are an adaptation of the 1929 blues recording "The Girl I Love She Got Long Curley Hair" by Sleepy John Estes. Snippets of the song appeared in the "Whole Lotta Love" medley until 1971.[citation needed]

"Travelling Riverside Blues"[edit]

"Travelling Riverside Blues" is a blues song written by the bluesman Robert Johnson. He sang it during his last recording session on June 20, 1937, in Dallas, Texas.[citation needed]

How the West Was Won[edit]

"Let's Have a Party"[edit]

The song was correctly attributed to Wanda Jackson.[citation needed]

"Hello Mary Lou"[edit]

In the 2003 release of "How the West Was Won" abbreviated versions of this song and the original by Ricky Nelson are covered in the "Whole Lotta Love (Live)" track. "Let's Have a Party" begins at 8:00 in that track, while "Hello Mary Lou" begins at 9:58.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Lewis, Dave (1994). The Complete Guide to the Music of Led Zeppelin. Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-7119-3528-9.
  2. ^ "You Still Can't Copyright a Riff — and That's a Good Thing". 25 June 2016.
  3. ^ a b Dave Schulps, Interview with Jimmy Page, Trouser Press, October 1977.
  4. ^ Gregg Akkerman, (2014) "You Shook Me", Experiencing Led Zeppelin: A Listener's Companion, p.7, ISBN 978-0-8108-8915-6
  5. ^ Shade, Will. "A Tune's Twisted Tale" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on August 16, 2009. Retrieved March 11, 2009.
  6. ^ "ORDER DISMISSING ACTION WITH PREJUDICE by Judge Dolly M for Jake Holmes v. James Patrick Page et al :: Justia Dockets & Filings". Justia Dockets & Filings. Retrieved 18 January 2015.
  7. ^ Harper p. 200
  8. ^ a b Mick Wall (2008), When Giants Walked the Earth: A Biography Of Led Zeppelin,' London: Orion, p. 56
  9. ^ Harper p. 162
  10. ^ Harper p.161
  11. ^ Shadwick, Keith (2005). Led Zeppelin: The Story of a Band and Their Music 1968–1980, Backbeat Books, ISBN 978-0-87930-871-1
  12. ^ John Mendelsohn Led Zeppelin I Mar 15, 1969
  13. ^ Young, Charles M. (June 1990). "Robert Plant's manic persona". Musician. Amordian Press (140): 45. ISSN 0733-5253.
  14. ^ Lewis, Dan; Pallett, Simon (2005). Led Zeppelin: The Concert File. London: Omnibus Press. pp. 33–40. ISBN 1-84449-659-7.
  15. ^ Australian Broadcasting Corporation - Triple J Music Specials - Led Zeppelin (first broadcast 2000-07-12)
  16. ^ Lewis, Dave (2010). "The Lemon Song". Led Zeppelin: The Complete Guide To Their Music. London: Omnibus Press. eBook. ISBN 978-0857121356.
  17. ^ a b Segrest, James; Hoffman, Mark (2004). Moanin' at Midnight: The Life and Times of Howlin' Wolf. New York City: Pantheon Books. pp. 235, 299. ISBN 0-375-42246-3.
  18. ^ Wall, Mick (2010). When Giants Walked the Earth: A Biography of Led Zeppelin. New York City: St. Martin's Griffin. p. 150. ISBN 978-0-312-59039-0.
  19. ^ "Bobby Parker: Bluesman whose riff from 'Watch Your Step' was borrowed". The Independent. 2013-11-15. Retrieved 2017-02-16.
  20. ^ Lewis, Dave (2012). From a Whisper to a Scream: The Complete Guide to the Music of Led Zeppelin. London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-0-85712-788-4. A self-styled custom blues, though Robert Plant clearly derived some of the lyrics from the Moby Grape track 'Never' which appeared on the Grape Jam bonus disc that came with their 1968 Wow album.
  21. ^ Case, George (1 October 2011). Led Zeppelin FAQ: All That's Left to Know About the Greatest Hard Rock Band of All Time. Backbeat Books. ISBN 9781617130717. Retrieved 7 June 2021 – via Google Books.
  22. ^ "Obituary: Guitarist Bert Jansch dies at 67; influenced Jimmy Page on Led Zeppelin songs". Archived from the original on 2015-09-29. Retrieved 2015-09-21.
  23. ^ Sleeve notes, booklet included with CD EPC 485175
  24. ^ "Led Zeppelin: Stairway to a Plagiarism Lawsuit, and Jimmy Page on a possible reunion". May 21, 2014. Retrieved May 23, 2014.
  25. ^ a b Maddaus, Gene (9 March 2020). "Led Zeppelin Scores Big Win in 'Stairway to Heaven' Copyright Case". Variety. Retrieved 10 March 2020.
  26. ^ "Led Zeppelin's 'Stairway to Heaven' Copyright Battle Is Finally Over". BBC News. 5 October 2020. Retrieved 6 October 2020. The final possible legal challenge to Led Zeppelin's ownership of Stairway To Heaven has been defeated
  27. ^ Garon, Paul; Garon, Beth (2014). Woman with Guitar: Memphis Minnie's Blues. San Francisco: City Lights Books. pp. 49, 361. ISBN 978-0-87286-621-8.
  28. ^ Williams, Stacey (1962). Bob Dylan (Album notes). Bob Dylan. Columbia Records. p. 5. CK 8579.
  29. ^ Godwin, Robert (24 August 1990). "Led Zeppelin: Alchemists of the '70s". Goldmine: 13.
  30. ^ Lehmer, Larry. The Day the Music Died: The Last Tour of Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens (2004): 166
  31. ^ Brad Tolinski and Greg Di Bendetto, "Light and Shade", Guitar World magazine, January 1998.
  32. ^ Tolinski, Brad (2013). Light and Shade: Conversations with Jimmy Page. Broadway Books. ISBN 978-0307985750.
  33. ^ Case, George (2011). > Led Zeppelin FAQ: All That's Left to Know About the Greatest Hard Rock Band of All Time. Backbeat. ISBN 978-1-61713-025-0. Renbourn's version is found on his 1967 album Another Monday (Transatlantic Records TRA 149). Sometimes John Renbourn's albums include a credit to New Orleans jazz musician Bunk Johnson.

External links[edit]