Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, and John Bonham formed the rock band Led Zeppelin in 1968. They became one of the most influential rock groups of all time. Despite the band’s influence, Led Zeppelin has been accused of ripping off and stealing songs, leading to copyright infringement lawsuits.
1. ‘The Lemon Song’
Led Zeppelin released “The Lemon Song” on their second studio album, Led Zeppelin II. The song took heavy inspiration from Howlin’ Wolf’s song “Killing Floor” and contains lyrical references to Robert Johnson’s “Travelling Riverside Blues.”
The band had been playing “Killing Floor” live for a time, which resulted in the incorporation of the song to make “The Lemon Song.”
In 1972, Led Zeppelin was sued for copyright infringement. According to LAist, Howlin’ Wolf “reportedly received a royalty check for $45,123” after the case was settled out of court. Howlin’ Wolf is also now listed as a co-writer on “The Lemon Song” under his real name, Chester Arthur Burnett.
2. ‘Dazed and Confused’
Jake Holmes originally released “Dazed and Confused” in 1967. During part of the 1960s, Led Zeppelin guitarist Page performed with another group called the Yardbirds.
The Yardbirds went on to make their own version of “Dazed and Confused” for live performances. After Led Zeppelin was formed, Page pushed for a new version of “Dazed and Confused” to be recorded by the band.
According to Rolling Stone, “Holmes declined to sue for authorship; as he put it, ‘I said, “What the hell, let him have it.”‘ In 2010, however, Holmes finally filed suit; the case was settled out of court and the 2012 Zeppelin live album Celebration Day credits the song as written by ‘Page; inspired by Jake Holmes.'”
3. ‘Whole Lotta Love’
Led Zeppelin released the song “Whole Lotta Love” in 1969 on the album Led Zeppelin II. The song is regarded as the band’s first major hit in the U.S., and nowadays is still considered to be one of the band’s greatest songs.
In 1985, Led Zeppelin was sued by Willie Dixon, who wrote the lyrics to Muddy Waters’ song “You Need Love.”
As a result of the lawsuit, a settlement in Dixon’s favor was granted, and he also received a songwriting credit for “Whole Lotta Love.”
In an interview with the magazine Musician, which released its final issue in 1999, Plant gave his view of the lawsuit, saying,
“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.”
4. ‘Babe I’m Gonna Leave You’
Anne Bredon released the song “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” in the 1950s, and there are multiple covers of the song by different artists and groups.
Led Zeppelin found inspiration from Joan Baez’s 1962 version of the song and made their own version for their debut album Led Zeppelin. Sometime in the 1980s, Bredon found out that Led Zeppelin released a version of “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You.”
According to Rolling Stone, the singer “agreed to split the royalties with the band, and is now listed as co-author” on the track.