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 Songs Written or Inspired by Others
Album Led Zeppelin song Original Attribution Earlier Version Earlier Artist Current Attribution


Led Zeppelin "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" Trad. arr. Jimmy Page "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" Joan Baez Anne Bredon, Page, Robert Plant
The band covered Baez's version; 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]
"You Shook Me" Willie Dixon "You Shook Me" Muddy Waters Unchanged
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.[2]

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.[3]

"Dazed and Confused" Page "Dazed and Confused" Jake Holmes Jimmy Page, inspired by Jake Holmes
Page was performing his version of this song with the Yardbirds, before forming Led Zeppelin. The Yardbirds had toured with Holmes. A 2010 lawsuit appears to have been settled out of court, the case being dismissed and Holmes being added to the songwriting credit.[4]
"Black Mountain Side" Page "Down by Blackwaterside" Bert Jansch Unchanged
Al Stewart learned Jansch's version of the traditional song "Black Waterside." 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.[5] In spite of this difference, Jansch's record company sought legal advice following the release of Led Zeppelin.[6] Early in 1965, Anne Briggs and Jansch were performing regularly together in folk clubs[7] 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.[8]

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."[6] This is one of two songs where Page may have "learned" from Jansch, the other being Braun-Y-Aur Stomp, listed below.

"I Can't Quit You Baby"[9] Willie Dixon "I Can't Quit You Baby" Otis Rush Unchanged
This song was published by Willie Dixon only three years earlier, and correctly attributed when Led Zeppelin covered it on their debut album.
"How Many More Times" John Bonham, John Paul Jones, Page, Plant "How Many More Years" Howlin' Wolf (Chester Arthur Burnett) Unchanged
This song's attribution has never been changed. No lawsuits have been filed. The song also contains components of Albert King's "The Hunter".[10][11]
Led Zeppelin II "Whole Lotta Love" Bonham, Jones, Page, Plant "You Need Love" Willie Dixon Bonham, Dixon, Jones, Page, Plant
The band was sued over this song, settling out of court in 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."[12]
"The Lemon Song" Bonham, Jones, Page, Plant "Killing Floor" Howlin' Wolf Bonham, Burnett, Jones, Page, Plant
Other lyrics, notably "squeeze (my lemon) till the juice runs down my leg", can be traced to Robert Johnson's "Travelling Riverside Blues", a song Zeppelin later covered with shared writing attribution. It is likely that Johnson borrowed this himself, from a song recorded in the same year (1937) called "She Squeezed My Lemon" (by Arthur McKay).[13] The song also borrowed from Albert King's "Cross-Cut Saw".[1]
"Moby Dick" Bonham, Jones, Page "Watch Your Step" Bobby Parker Unchanged
The intro and outro were "inspired by" the Bobby Parker song, the rest of the track being a long drum solo.[14]
"Bring It On Home" Page, Plant "Bring It On Home" Sonny Boy Williamson Dixon
The intro and outro were deliberate homages to the Sonny Boy Williamson song, whereas the rest of the track was original.[1][2] 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 "Since I've Been Loving You" Jones, Page, Plant "Never" Moby Grape Unchanged
The initial and closing lyrics, and some other aspects, are nearly identical to the Moby Grape song written by Bob Mosley.[15]
"Gallows Pole" Trad. arr. Page, Plant "Gallows Pole" Fred Gerlach Unchanged
This song was correctly attributed as traditional, from the beginning. Page credits the Gerlach version as his inspiration, though the song has a much older history as "The Maid Freed from the Gallows".[16]
"Bron-Y-Aur Stomp" Jones, Page, Plant "The Waggoner's Lad" Bert Jansch Unchanged
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?[17]

This is one of two songs Page may famously have "pinched" from Jansch, the other being "Black Mountain Side," details in its own entry above.
"Hats Off to (Roy) Harper" Trad. arr. Charles Obscure (Page) "Shake 'Em On Down'" Bukka White Unchanged
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.
Untitled
"Led Zeppelin IV"
"Stairway to Heaven" Page, Plant "Taurus" Spirit Unchanged, lawsuit pending

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.[18][19]

In May 2014, Mark Andes, bassist of the group Spirit, and a trust acting on behalf of Randy California, filed a copyright infringement suit against Led Zeppelin and injunction against the "release of the album containing the song" in an attempt to obtain a writing credit for the late California.[20] A lack of sufficient resources is cited as one of the reasons that Spirit’s members and their survivors did not file the suit earlier. A friend of California's mother explained: “Nobody had any money, and they thought the statute of limitations was done”, adding, "It will be nice if Randy got the credit". If the Spirit lawsuit is successful, past royalties earned by the song—estimated at more than US$550 million—will not be part of the settlement, but the publisher and composers may be entitled to a share of the future profits.[21][22]

The lawsuit was initially found by a jury in Led Zeppelin's favor, but this was overturned by an appeals court in June 2019, sending the case back to be tried again. The entire Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that the judge provided multiple instructions misleading to the jury, that may have changed the outcome.[23]

"When the Levee Breaks" Bonham, Jones, Memphis Minnie, Page, Plant "When the Levee Breaks" Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie Unchanged
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.[24] The lyrics sung during the fadeout appear to be borrowed from "Goin' to Chicago Blues" by Joe Williams, Lambert, Hendricks & Ross.
Physical Graffiti "Custard Pie" Page, Plant "Drop Down Mama" Sleepy John Estes Unchanged
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" Bonham, Jones, Page, Plant "In My Time of Dying" Blind Willie Johnson Unchanged
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".[25]
"Trampled Under Foot" Jones, Page, Plant "Terraplane Blues" Robert Johnson Unchanged
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.[26]
"Boogie with Stu" Bonham, Jones, Page, Plant, Ian Stewart, Mrs Valens "Ooh, My Head" Ritchie Valens Unchanged
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.[27] 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![28]

Presence "Nobody's Fault but Mine" Page, Plant "It's Nobody's Fault but Mine" Blind Willie Johnson Unchanged
"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.[29]

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".[30]

BBC Sessions "The Girl I Love She Got Long Black Wavy Hair" Bonham, Sleepy John Estes, Jones, Page, Plant "The Girl I Love She Got Long Curley Hair" Sleepy John Estes Unchanged
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.
"Travelling Riverside Blues" Robert Johnson, Page, Plant "Travelling Riverside Blues" Robert Johnson Unchanged
"Travelling Riverside Blues" is a blues song written by the bluesman Robert Johnson. He recorded during his last recording session on June 20, 1937, in Dallas, Texas.
How the West Was Won "Let's Have a Party" Wanda Jackson "Let's Have a Party" Wanda Jackson Unchanged
"Hello Mary Lou" Ricky Nelson "Hello Mary Lou" Ricky Nelson Unchanged
In the 2003 release of "How the West Was Won" abbreviated versions of these two songs 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.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Lewis, Dave (1994). The Complete Guide to the Music of Led Zeppelin. Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-7119-3528-9.
  2. ^ a b Dave Schulps, Interview with Jimmy Page, Trouser Press, October 1977.
  3. ^ Gregg Akkerman, (2014) "You Shook Me", Experiencing Led Zeppelin: A Listener's Companion, p.7, ISBN 978-0-8108-8915-6
  4. ^ "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.
  5. ^ Harper p. 200
  6. ^ a b Mick Wall (2008), When Giants Walked the Earth: A Biography Of Led Zeppelin,' London: Orion, p. 56
  7. ^ Harper p. 162
  8. ^ Harper p.161
  9. ^ Shadwick, Keith (2005). Led Zeppelin: The Story of a Band and Their Music 1968–1980, Backbeat Books, ISBN 978-0-87930-871-1
  10. ^ Albert King Biography musiciansguide.com
  11. ^ John Mendelsohn Led Zeppelin I rollingstone.com Mar 15, 1969
  12. ^ Young, Charles M. (June 1990). "Robert Plant's manic persona". Musician. Amordian Press (140): 45. ISSN 0733-5253.
  13. ^ Australian Broadcasting Corporation Archived 2010-01-13 at the Wayback Machine – Triple J Music Specials – Led Zeppelin (first broadcast 2000-07-12)
  14. ^ "Bobby Parker: Bluesman whose riff from 'Watch Your Step' was borrowed". The Independent. 2013-11-15. Retrieved 2017-02-16.
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ Led Zeppelin FAQ: All That's Left to Know About the Greatest Hard Rock Band
  17. ^ "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.
  18. ^ Sleeve notes, booklet included with CD EPC 485175
  19. ^ "Led Zeppelin: Stairway to a Plagiarism Lawsuit, and Jimmy Page on a possible reunion". May 21, 2014. Retrieved May 23, 2014.
  20. ^ BBC News, "Copyright row over Led Zeppelin classic Stairway to Heaven", 21 May 2014
  21. ^ Vernon Silver (15 May 2014). "Stairway to Heaven: The Song Remains Pretty Similar". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved 29 May 2014.
  22. ^ Nicolas Suzor; Eleanor Angel (26 May 2014). "Borrowing a Stairway to Heaven: did Led Zeppelin rip off a riff?". The Conversation. Retrieved 29 May 2014.
  23. ^ Stairway to court: US judges order new Led Zeppelin plagiarism trial
  24. ^ 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.
  25. ^ Williams, Stacey (1962). Bob Dylan (Album notes). Bob Dylan. Columbia Records. p. 5. CK 8579.
  26. ^ Godwin, Robert (24 August 1990). "Led Zeppelin: Alchemists of the '70s". Goldmine: 13.
  27. ^ Lehmer, Larry. The Day the Music Died: The Last Tour of Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens (2004): 166
  28. ^ Brad Tolinski and Greg Di Bendetto, "Light and Shade", Guitar World magazine, January 1998.
  29. ^ Tolinski, Brad (2013). Light and Shade: Conversations with Jimmy Page. Broadway Books. ISBN 978-0307985750.
  30. ^ 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]