Stairway to Heaven

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Stairway to Heaven
Led Zeppelin
publication November 8, 1971
length 8:02
Genre (s) Folk rock , hard rock
Author (s) Jimmy Page / Robert Plant
Label Atlantic Records
album Zoso.svg
( Led Zeppelin IV )

Stairway to Heaven [ 'stɛəwei tu' hɛvn ] ( listen ? / I ) ( English for "stairs to heaven") is a song by the British rock band Led Zeppelin . Audio file / audio sample


The piece is a rock ballad with a length of eight minutes. According to Jimmy Page, it was composed at Headly Grange Studio in Hampshire. It was recorded in December 1970 and premiered in March 1971. It was released on record on November 8, 1971. Although originally only released as part of the Led Zeppelin IV album, it quickly became one of the most famous songs in recent music history, inspiring many artists to make cover versions . In the list of the 500 best songs of all time compiled by the music magazine Rolling Stone in 2004, the song ranks 31st.

Contrary to the announcement that the song would never be performed again after it was played (without the late John Bonham ) at Atlantic Records' birthday party in 1988 , the rest of the band played it at a revival concert on December 10, 2007 at the O2 Arena , in which the band was accompanied on drums by Jason Bonham , the son of John Bonham. The concert was dedicated to the late Ahmet Ertegün , founder of Atlantic Records.

The 1985 version of Frank Farian under the Far Corporation project with Robin McAuley as singer was another release of the song as a single; it reached number 8 on the British charts.

Musical details

Beginning of Stairway to Heaven

The first chords of the song are reminiscent of the song Taurus by the band Spirit , with whom Led Zeppelin played concerts on their first US tour.

The song begins very calmly with an acoustic guitar and recorder arrangement (replaced by a keyboard played by John Paul Jones at live concerts ). It has a climax in the middle section and culminates in one of Jimmy Page's most famous guitar solos , which is followed by a short vocal section.

In the middle section, Jones plays an electric Hohner piano.

The guitar solo was played on a 1958 Fender Telecaster on a Supro amplifier. A total of three solos were recorded, from which Page then chose the most suitable.

On the right Jimmy Page with his Gibson EDS-1275

The acoustic parts at the beginning were played on a guitar made by Harmony , from bar 41 a Fender Electric XII 12-string guitar is added. When performing, Page later used a Gibson EDS-1275 "Doubleneck" - a guitar with two necks - with the upper neck being 12 strings; the EDS-1275 is a custom-made product from the “Custom Shop” line of high-priced models from the manufacturer Gibson . The singing begins in bar 17.

Up to bar 40 the guitar chords are played almost exclusively flatpicking , from bar 41 to bar 108 9 bars predominantly alternate with 8 bars struck chords, after bar 109 only struck guitar chords follow, the solo and finally a riff with a fade . The drums start late, after more than four minutes in bar 82.


The lyrics to the song by the singer Robert Plant are said to have been written around a campfire, according to the memoir of the road manager, but at a fireplace in Bron-Yr-Aur , a mountain hut in Wales. He is influenced by his search for spiritual perfection. Books Plant had read also flowed in, especially Magic Arts in Celtic Britain by Lewis Spence . According to an interview from 1998, the text should also be understood as a cynical aside to a woman who demanded everything but showed no willingness to give anything back. The sense of the original text is difficult to understand because of its imagery, the associative emergence and the hidden allusions to rather little-known literary passages. Translation attempts are correspondingly difficult.


The American music magazine Guitar World voted Pages Solo from Stairway to Heaven 2009 as the best guitar solo of all time.

At the initiative of the then Fürth home clerk Alexander Mayer , bars 8 to 16, transposed to C minor and revised for the bell, have been heard every day at 12:04 p.m. from the glockenspiel in the tower of the Fürth town hall (mainly notes of the vocal part) since November 2, 2007 .

Backward messages

There were conspiracy theories that there was a satanic message in the recording when the piece was played backwards; several versions of the alleged wording of this message circulated. Among other things, it is alluded to in Frank Miller's 1986 Batman comic The Return of the Dark Knight . Robert Plant expressed in interviews that such techniques did not correspond to his idea of ​​making music.

Copyright process

Randy California , guitarist of the band Spirit , alleged in an interview shortly before his death in 1997 that Page and Plant had taken over the beginning of the title from the instrumental piece Taurus , which he wrote for Spirit in 1967. In 2014, a trust company filed a copyright infringement lawsuit on behalf of Randy California by Michael Skidmore. One goal of the lawsuit was that California should be named as a co-author of Stairway to Heaven . In June 2016, the "sufficient similarity" legal procedure was opened before a jury in Los Angeles . Plant stated that he did not know the title Taurus , although the LP in question was in his collection. He only heard him after rumors about the copy became known. Musicologists argued for the prosecution that the falling A minor chord was very similar in both pieces, but scholars led by the defense argued that this chord progression had been common for centuries and also in other pieces of music such as Chim Chim Cher-ee from the Find Musical Mary Poppins . On June 23, 2016, the court dismissed the lawsuit.

In July 2016, Skidmore's attorney appealed. On March 9, 2020, a California appeals court dismissed the lawsuit; no copyright infringement was found.

Popular culture

  • Neil Sedaka had a hit in 1960 with a song of the same name.
  • The American alternative rock band Butthole Surfers satirized the title of the piece of music with the name of their 1988 album Hairway to Steven .
  • In the 1992 film Wayne's World, there is a sign reading No Stairway to Heaven in front of a staircase in a guitar shop ; the protagonist who plays the opening riff in the store is also promptly interrupted. Such practices (including eviction or other penalties) are said to have been the practice in some British music houses in the 1970s.
  • The comedian rock formation Tenacious D hinted in their 2001 song Tribute (to the best song in the world) that Stairway to Heaven could be the best song in the world by adding various hidden quotes and ending in Tribute incorporates a chord similar to the striking beginning of Stairway to Heaven .
  • Dolly Parton 2002 published this - unusual for them - Units in their country - bluegrass album Halos & Horns . Parton admitted that he entered "holy ground" with the recording of Stairway to Heaven and that some fans would love to crucify her for it. The music magazine Musikexpress couldn't do much with Parton's interpretation. However, the country star had Jimmy Page rehearse the piece before it was released. He expressed himself positively and admitted that he liked Parton's idea of ​​embellishing the end of the piece with a gospel choir and that he had already had the idea of ​​doing this himself.
  • In the spring of 2010, in the run-up to the final of the television casting show Deutschland sucht den Superstar, the Internet called on to boycott the winning song of that show and instead a. Stairway to Heaven available for download. As a result, the title briefly reached number one in the German download charts and number 15 in the German single charts .
  • The song was covered by Ann and Nancy Wilson ( Heart ) as part of the Kennedy Center Honors 2012 .


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  6. Supro was a brand of the manufacturer Valco .
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  11. ^ Guitar World Magazine ; January 29, 2009: 50 Greatest Guitar Solos ( Memento from November 3, 2013 in the Internet Archive )
  12. Alexander Mayer: Glockenspiel on the Fürth town hall (PDF; 68 kB)
    Johannes Goecke: Bells as an attraction. The audience streamed into the town hall courtyard for the premiere ( Memento from May 11, 2009 in the Internet Archive ); in: Fürther Nachrichten, issue of November 3, 2007
    Glockenspiel as an mp3 file
  13. Frank Miller: The Return of the Dark Knight. Hamburg 1989 3 ; Part 2 The Triumph , sheet 33; ISBN 3-551-02835-4 .
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  17. Robert Plant and Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin in court (June 15, 2016), from:, accessed on: June 20, 2016.
  18. Led Zeppelin wins plagiarism case at: on June 23, 2016
  19. Led Zeppelin Copyright Trial, Round 2: Band's Accuser Files for Appeal (en-US) . In: TheWrap , July 25, 2016. Retrieved October 17, 2016. 
  20. Led Zeppelin: Stairway to Heaven verdict appealed (en-GB) . In: BBC News , July 27, 2016. Retrieved October 17, 2016. 
  21. ^ Appeal Filed in Copyright Case of Led Zeppelin's 'Stairway' . In: NBC News . Retrieved October 17, 2016. 
  22. Led Zeppelin win legal battle over “Stairway to Heaven” . In: FAZ , March 11, 2020. 
  23. Trivia on Wayne's World
  24. ^ Robert Plant on Yahoo! [1]
  25. RP-online for number one placement in 2010 ( Memento from April 27, 2010 in the Internet Archive )
  26. Stairway to Heaven (Led Zeppelin Tribute): Heart's Ann and Nancy Wilson - 2012 Kennedy Center Honors

Web links