Taurus

Songfacts®:

  • This guitar instrumental is famous for its association with the Led Zeppelin song "Stairway To Heaven." The beginning of the Led Zeppelin song contains many musical elements found in "Taurus," which was released three years earlier.

    When Led Zeppelin toured the US for the first time in 1968, it was with Spirit and Vanilla Fudge. "Taurus" was part of Spirit's set, and Jimmy Page likely heard the song at some point - he admitted to owning the album.

    "Taurus" was written by the group's guitarist, Randy California (birth name: Randy Wolfe), so he is the only member who could make a claim against Led Zeppelin, but he never did. California died in 1997 at age 45 when he drowned in Hawaii, but in 2009, Michael Skidmore, described by the New York Times as a "customs consultant and former music journalist," came into control of California's trust and in 2014 filed a lawsuit against Led Zeppelin. The case went to trial, and in 2016 Jimmy Page took the stand, testifying that he never heard the song "Taurus."
  • According to the lawsuit, Randy California wrote this song in tribute to his bandmates, and he chose the title because some of them had the astrological sign Taurus. The members who did were percussionist Jay Ferguson and drummer Ed Cassidy, who was also California's stepfather.

    At the trial, Randy's sister, Janet Wolfe, testified that he wrote the song for his girlfriend (and later wife) Robin. She was a Taurus.
  • More information from the lawsuit: "Spirit played 'Taurus' at almost all of their concerts in the late 1960s and at many of their concerts in the early 1970s, where the song played a key role in the band's set list. The song often followed an upbeat and heavier tune, and this allowed the fans an emotional and expressive break in the set." Here's a timeline of the lawsuit, which Led Zeppelin ultimately won.
  • Randy California was just 16 when he wrote this song. An exceptional guitarist at a very young age, he played in Jimi Hendrix' 1966 group Jimmy James and the Blue Flames at age 15, and wrote "Taurus" the following year.

Comments: 4

  • Joe from TexasNo way Randy’s estate wins that one if I’m on that jury. In fact, I probably give Led Zeppelin the right to kick the estate’s lawyer in the groin.
  • Howie from TennesseeThe overall ambience, the guitar sound and timbre of Taurus and the intro to Stairway suggest...to me at least...that Page was possibly inspired by Taurus; but (IMO) it falls short of plagiarism.
  • Rhonda from GeorgiaIt is sooo obvious that Led Zeppelin ripped off part of the music on the song "Taurus" by Spirit. Lot's of musicians do it. Just own what you did. Admit you did it.
  • John from Wildwood NjTwo songs are not the same I don't know where they came up with this crap. I listen to it and definitely I've been a zeppelin fan for over 20 years. So what there's a few chords that are the same that doesn't mean it's the same song it's totally different. What the hell is going on here?
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders

Chrissie Hynde of The PretendersSongwriter Interviews

The rock revolutionist on songwriting, quitting smoking, and what she thinks of Rush Limbaugh using her song.

Yacht Rock Quiz

Yacht Rock QuizFact or Fiction

Christopher Cross with Deep Purple? Kenny Loggins in Caddyshack? A Fact or Fiction all about yacht rock and those who made it.

"Private Eyes" - The Story Behind the Song

"Private Eyes" - The Story Behind the SongSong Writing

How a goofy detective movie, a disenchanted director and an unlikely songwriter led to one of the biggest hits in pop history.

Director Nick Morris ("The Final Countdown")

Director Nick Morris ("The Final Countdown")Song Writing

Nick made some of the biggest videos on MTV, including "The Final Countdown," "Heaven" and "Don't Know What You Got (Till It's Gone)."

Sub Pop Founder Bruce Pavitt On How To Create A Music Scene

Sub Pop Founder Bruce Pavitt On How To Create A Music SceneSong Writing

With $50 and a glue stick, Bruce Pavitt created Sub Pop, a fanzine-turned-label that gave the world Nirvana and grunge. He explains how motivated individuals can shift culture.

Chris Robinson of The Black Crowes

Chris Robinson of The Black CrowesSongwriter Interviews

"Great songwriters don't necessarily have hit songs," says Chris. He's written a bunch, but his fans are more interested in the intricate jams.