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ThreeSticks

Led Zeppelin and the Plagiarism Charges

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Posted (edited)

I am sure this topic has been covered before.......but all you need to do is go over to youtube.com and listen to a Zep song or bootleg concert, and some guy will have written a 33,000 word essay in the comments section about how Zep ripped off blues artists (and other songwriters) left and right and never gave them proper writing credits. It seems to be almost like some sort of movement, driven by people who are very jealous of Zep's popularity and immense influence. I'm not just talking about a few songs off of the first two records.....some of these people even dissect every verse on "In Through The Out Door." Never mind that the record is awash in keyboards and synths and is the furthest thing from delta blues or whatever.

 

How does everyone feel about this when you are confronted with the accusations and are put into a position of defending the band we all love. This is not to say that we have to love everything they did. Artists make mistakes, and artists often acknowledge their mistakes. I suspect that some of these songs should've have included some co-writing credits. But I also don't feel when Robert sings "Shake 'Em All Down" during "Custard Pie" that Bukka White deserves compensation either. Songwriters refer to other songs all the time in their own songs.

Edited by ThreeSticks

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imo the "inspired by" credit that now applies to D&C is a good way of resolving the issue. "Dazed" as played on the first album may not be 100% original, but if you listen to Jake Holmes' track, can you honestly say it has anything in common beyond the first four words and the descending bassline? So "inspired by" is a good way of putting it. As in, no credit doesn't feel right but nor does a co credit, if you see what I mean. 

 

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It's a complicated issue that the "haters" sift down to simply "they're thieves!!!" But really, where does one draw the line between inspiration and plagiarism? Between homage and plagiarism?

For starters, copyright as it's perceived and applied these days is ridiculous. If today's standards for what constitutes plagiarism were in effect throughout history, music would have literally amounted to nothing more than one caveman banging on a drum, because the second caveman who tried banging on a drum would've been sued for plagiarism. The very existence of music today is based on thousands of years of people taking what had been done before them and evolving it into something new. It's absurd that the standard today, as shown by both the "Stairway to Heaven" and the "Blurred Lines" cases, appears to be "your song sounds kinda sorta similar to my song!!!" Which, again, is a ridiculous standard.

That aside, I don't think Zeppelin ever really tried to steal other people's music and pass it off as their own. I mean, for example, are we really supposed to believe that Zeppelin figured nobody would notice that "The Lemon Song" is "Killing Floor?" Everyone did covers of "Killing Floor." It's not like people weren't familiar with the song. It would be like someone playing "Back in Black" and trying to claim it's their own. Nobody's that stupid. Besides that, it's not as if Plant wasn't out there introducing these songs with a sometimes lengthy history lesson on them. If they were trying to hide the fact that these were other people's songs, they did a horrible job of it.

The issue, in most of these cases, is with their lack of proper crediting. Which I'm going to guess probably had more to do with Grant than with the band itself, though I could be wrong there. Either way, the lack of proper credit was an issue. But you know what, that's all been resolved. Decades ago. The people who should have been credited have been credited. The people who should have been paid have been paid. That people still bellyache about it says more about them than it does about Led Zeppelin. Mostly that they're just jealous fanboys of some other band, upset that their favorite band wasn't as good or as successful as Zeppelin.

They were big and successful and that makes them a target. You never hear anyone whining about Small Faces ripping off Willie Dixon for "You Need Love," but the torches and pitchforks come out over "Whole Lotta Love."

And as far as ripping off the blues is concerned, I still contend that these blues musicians would have slipped into total obscurity were it not for Zeppelin and others using their stuff. I think Willie Dixon would have sold far, far fewer records had it not been for Zeppelin and others exposing that material to new audiences. I'd bet that if you took a poll asking "Who is Robert Johnson" probably 99% of respondents would say "hey, isn't that the blues guy that Zeppelin ripped off?" Without Zeppelin, probably the same number of people would respond "is that a porn star? Kinda sounds like a porn star."

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4 hours ago, Balthazor said:

It's a complicated issue that the "haters" sift down to simply "they're thieves!!!" But really, where does one draw the line between inspiration and plagiarism? Between homage and plagiarism?

For starters, copyright as it's perceived and applied these days is ridiculous. If today's standards for what constitutes plagiarism were in effect throughout history, music would have literally amounted to nothing more than one caveman banging on a drum, because the second caveman who tried banging on a drum would've been sued for plagiarism. The very existence of music today is based on thousands of years of people taking what had been done before them and evolving it into something new. It's absurd that the standard today, as shown by both the "Stairway to Heaven" and the "Blurred Lines" cases, appears to be "your song sounds kinda sorta similar to my song!!!" Which, again, is a ridiculous standard.

That aside, I don't think Zeppelin ever really tried to steal other people's music and pass it off as their own. I mean, for example, are we really supposed to believe that Zeppelin figured nobody would notice that "The Lemon Song" is "Killing Floor?" Everyone did covers of "Killing Floor." It's not like people weren't familiar with the song. It would be like someone playing "Back in Black" and trying to claim it's their own. Nobody's that stupid. Besides that, it's not as if Plant wasn't out there introducing these songs with a sometimes lengthy history lesson on them. If they were trying to hide the fact that these were other people's songs, they did a horrible job of it.

The issue, in most of these cases, is with their lack of proper crediting. Which I'm going to guess probably had more to do with Grant than with the band itself, though I could be wrong there. Either way, the lack of proper credit was an issue. But you know what, that's all been resolved. Decades ago. The people who should have been credited have been credited. The people who should have been paid have been paid. That people still bellyache about it says more about them than it does about Led Zeppelin. Mostly that they're just jealous fanboys of some other band, upset that their favorite band wasn't as good or as successful as Zeppelin.

They were big and successful and that makes them a target. You never hear anyone whining about Small Faces ripping off Willie Dixon for "You Need Love," but the torches and pitchforks come out over "Whole Lotta Love."

And as far as ripping off the blues is concerned, I still contend that these blues musicians would have slipped into total obscurity were it not for Zeppelin and others using their stuff. I think Willie Dixon would have sold far, far fewer records had it not been for Zeppelin and others exposing that material to new audiences. I'd bet that if you took a poll asking "Who is Robert Johnson" probably 99% of respondents would say "hey, isn't that the blues guy that Zeppelin ripped off?" Without Zeppelin, probably the same number of people would respond "is that a porn star? Kinda sounds like a porn star."

Well, RJ was kinda a porn star too, which is what got him killed. It's all well and good to crow about being a Back Door Man until the front door man doses your ass with poison.

As you said above, Zeppelin's D&C sound NOTHING like Jake Holmes song, nothing. The only thing they have in common is the title, first four words and part of the descending bass line. Whole Lotta Love sounds nothing like WD You Need Love, however Robert did nick much of the lyrics. 

The whole plagiarism thing with Zeppelin is horseshit, plain and simple. Another way to put it is like this: If I invent the chocolate cake, but do not use sugar so everyone says, "meh, that tastes like shit," but then someone else uses the exact same recipe but uses sugar and everyone goes, "Holy shit, this is goddamned delicious mate, you are a culinary genius" guess what, the guy who added sugar is a culinary genius and I am the wanker who was too stupid to use sugar. So, F Jake Holmes and F Willie Dixon, they should have used sugar.

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1 hour ago, IpMan said:

 So, F Jake Holmes and F Willie Dixon, they should have used sugar.

Come man I hope you are joking saying that, they were greatly appreciate musicians as well.

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18 hours ago, IpMan said:

So, F Jake Holmes and F Willie Dixon, they should have used sugar.

Come on, Ip...you're no newbie. That comment is beneath you.

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19 hours ago, Klape said:

Come man I hope you are joking saying that, they were greatly appreciate musicians as well.

Of course I was just being silly. I actually tacked that on at the end because it sounded so ridiculous. Everyone knows Dixon had plenty of sugar and Holmes was a greatly under appreciated, and almost forgotten folksinger who was quite pioneering in his own right.

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