In 1997, Randy California, the deceased guitarist of the 1960s band Spirit, accused Led Zeppelin of plagiarizing Spirit’s “Taurus,” video above, for the opening notes of the band’s most iconic song, “Stairway to Heaven,” according to Time magazine.
Now, Rolling Stone reports California’s trust is suing the band, right before reissues of Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin II and Led Zeppelin II go on sale in stores on June 3.
Here’s what you need to know about California:
1. He Got His Stage Name From Jimi Hendrix
According to California’s website, he played with Jimi Hendrix as part of his band, Jimmy James and the Blue Flames, at the legendary Cafe Wha in New York. Hendrix gave California his stage name in order to distinguish him from another Randy in the band.
2. California Drowned While Rescuing His 12-Year-Old Son
According to The Independent, California drowned on Jan. 2, 1997 after rescuing his 12-year-old son from a rip current in Hawaii. California had taken his son, Quinn, swimming off the coast of Hawaii to celebrate the new year when both of them got caught in a rip current. California was able to push his son out of the way before he got dragged under by the current, The Independent reports. He was 45-years-old.
3. California Played Guitar and Sang
California joined The Red Roosters, which later became Spirit, as a singer and guitar player. The band got its name from a book by Kahil Gibran.
4. He Grew up Surrounded by Music
Randy California grew up surrounded by music as his uncle, Ed Pearl, owned The Ash Grove, a music venue in Los Angeles.
5. California Called “Stairway to Heaven” a Ripoff
According to Bloomberg Businessweek, California told Listener Magazine in it’s winter 1997 issue that Led Zeppelin copied “Taurus.” Bloomberg Businessweek reports:
“I’d say it was a ripoff,” California said. “And the guys made millions of bucks on it and never said ‘Thank you,’ never said, ‘Can we pay you some money for it?’ It’s kind of a sore point with me. Maybe someday their conscience will make them do something about it.”