Today We Learn About: Led Zeppelin & the Blues

Baby, baby, I’m gonna bring it on home to you

I done bought my ticket, I got my load
Conductor done hollered, “All, aboard”
I’m-a take my seat, ride way back
and watch this train roll down the track

Baby, baby, I’m gonna bring it on home to you

-Willie Dixon “Bring It on Home” (1963)

Baby, baby, gon’ bring it on home to you

I’ve got that ticket, I got that load
Join up, gone higher, all aboard
I’m-a take my seat, ride way back
and watch this train roll down the track

Gonna bring it on home, bring it on home to you

-Led Zeppelin “Bring It on Home” (1969)

The popular English rock band Led Zeppelin has been brought to court for their multiple instances of copyright infringement. These cases have settled out of court, but are outnumbered by the startling similarities that reside in the remainder of the band’s catalog. Through an examination of the blues as an art form and contemporary copyright law as it stood at the time of Led Zeppelin’s fame, it will be shown that the band went far beyond the tradition of shared concepts, rhythms, and structure that is present in the blues. Led Zeppelin has committed the unforgivable; they have not only taken ideas, lyrics, arrangements, melodies, and rhythms without any credit, but they have taken these musical elements from a population that has been historically exploited. Led Zeppelin is yet another in a long line of western light skinned appropriators that have taken what they deemed just from African-American culture without fair compensation. This practice has not been isolated to labor and culture, but expanded to creative works that are protected under internationally recognized laws. Called into question is the African-American community’s ability to combat such appropriation. Often the artists themselves are not responsible for litigation, but their record label or other representative who act of the musician’s behalf. We will examine this tendency and its implication for what can be seen as a broad, unrecognized cultural theft.

The blues come from within. The blues come from pain, strife, and struggle. Howlin’ Wolf has been quoted as saying, “There was a lot of music around there [Mississippi plantations in the 1920’s] – work songs. Some of the fellows was making songs like ‘I worked old Maude, and I worked old Belle’ – things like that. They’d just get out there and sing as they worked – plowing songs, songs to call mules by. They’d get out there mornings and get to plowing and get to hollering and singing. They’d make these songs up as they go along … See, people make their music just like you think about what you want to do. They make their sound and their music just like they feel, and they sing like they feel. They made up the work songs as they felt. If they felt … somebody had taken something from them, that’s what they sang about – however they felt.”1 This is the essence of the blues, an art form born of how a songwriter feels and what a songwriter has been through. Due to the nature of the southern United States during the time period in question, it stands to reason that various artists may share an experience. This continuation of the oral tradition is a cornerstone in blues music, as musicians of meager financial standing had only performance and their colleagues to preserve their works. Thus was born the shared tradition in the blues.

In Delta Blues, author Ted Gioia speaks of a gentleman named David Evans who completed a senior thesis on Homeric Epics while at Harvard University and focused his master’s thesis on Blues musician Tommy Johnson while studying at UCLA. This research is particularly interesting because Mr. Evans’ research represented a continuation of his long-standing interest in the way oral traditions are shaped and preserved. In Delta Blues, Ted Gioia likens the blues to the oral traditions of Homeric epics. He argues that both were developed by a large number of forgotten individuals working within the confines of shared traditions, perhaps even in informal settings not entirely different from the junkhouses and small-scale entertainments where the Delta blues had first flourished. The borrowings of themes and material, their refinement during years of performance, the learning of novices at the feet of the masters – all the peculiarities of the Delta situation seemed to echo timeless practices from ancient cultures.2 This similarity between ancient cultures and modern blues musicianship is relevant because it shows that blues music, although a largely original art form does share telling and foundational aspects with art forms of civilizations past. Ancient cultures repeated stories and legends for a particular purpose. To share with younger generations, convey a meaningful message, etc. The difference with blues music lies in the fact that these musicians aim to share in one another’s anguish. Instead of merely retelling a legend, these men were conveying their own stories through the words and emotions of others that had similar experiences. While it could be easy to place Led Zeppelin within this same framework, it should be noted that Led Zeppelin not only borrowed lyrics, melodies, guitar riffs, and arrangements from other musicians, but they claimed them as their own while making a significant profit. Led Zeppelin oversteps the line of shared tradition and begins to encroach upon copyright infringement.

Intellectual Property is an area of law that refers to creations of the mind: inventions, literary and artistic works, symbols, names, images, and designs used in commerce. Intellectual Property is divided into two categories: Industrial property, which includes inventions (patents), trademarks, industrial designs, and geographic indications of source; and Copyright, which includes literary and artistic works such as novels, poems and plays, films, musical works, artistic works such as drawings, paintings, photographs and sculptures, and architectural designs. Rights related to copyright include those of performing artists in their performances, producers of phonograms in their recordings, and those of broadcasters in their radio and television programs.3 These rights are applied to works created by musicians, and are enjoyed by those who go through the process of registration with the federal government. Technically, a composer, songwriter, or musician owns their works copyright the moment it is produced in any sort of tangible form like a recording, sheet music, etc. This ownership is hard to prove, and registration is advised.

Cases involving unauthorized appropriations of music usually fall under the jurisdiction of copyright law.4 Unauthorized appropriations are called copyright infringement, or plagiarism. Although not in effect when many of the songs by Led Zeppelin and the blues artists in question were written, the Copyright Act of 1976 gives an outline of “fair use,” or what constitutes a lack of finding for infringement. The act is useful in showing that Led Zeppelin has gone far and above fair use, as transformative appropriation is legal under fair use. Led Zeppelin goes beyond these guidelines. The Copyright Act of 1976 requires that four factors be considered when deciding whether a borrowing qualifies as fair use:

      1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
      2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
      3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
      4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work5

Led Zeppelin used the music of Willie Dixon, Bukka White, Bling Willie Johnson, Sleepy John Estes, and others to a degree that surpasses the fair use outline. Led Zeppelin’s use was commercial, did not credit the original writer, and cited the members of Led Zeppelin as authors of works that were substantially similar to the original work. Furthermore, the potential market for the original work was harmed greatly as there was no mention or nod to the artists that influenced Led Zeppelin.

Trouble arises when we consider the fact that the original artists for many of these songs did not copyright their works. This is because these men were not educated in the practice of copyright law, nor music business as a whole. In a 1973 interview with a couple fans after a show in Boston, Howlin’ Wolf said, “Now, you take me when I started out with it, I’d sit up and play all night long for a fish sandwich. I didn’t know no better. Have a packed house, and people be makin’ money off of us, give us a fish sandwich and a drink of whiskey and I thought, ‘That was it!’ I didn’t want nothin’ else.”6 This changed as time passed, with Wolf later having a suit filed on his behalf by the law firm Abeles, Clark, & Osterberg in United States District Court in the Southern District of New York on May 6, 1974. This suit describes Wolf as “a renowned black performer and composer of rhythm and blues music … He lacks the personal knowledge, experience and sophistication necessary to fully appreciate and comprehend the nature, character, and significance of certain legal rights in intellectual property and contracts.”7 Howlin’ Wolf is emblematic of Blues musicians from his era and region. There was a drive to perform, for a sense of community, and a love for music while ignoring all other aspects of the music industry. These qualities proved harmful as many musicians were exploited by other artists, labels, and publishers.

Chess Records out of Chicago, IL was a major player in the Blues. On their roster can be counted Willie Dixon and Muddy Waters, among others. While the label treated the musicians well, paying their car payments and medical bills, there was a complete lack of transparency. Muddy Waters enjoyed the family atmosphere and didn’t ask any questions even as he was signing away most of his publishing rights in exchange for a check representing six months of royalties.8 In a way, labels kept their musicians afloat and acted as a safeguard, if only in the label’s best interest. As we will examine later, record labels of the time have gone to court on behalf of blues artists, bringing suit against Led Zeppelin; suits that were later settled out of court.

In 1993, Alan F. Moore published one of the first academic books that attempts to define rock music and attribute cultural significance to the art form. On the two and a half pages that Moore devotes to Led Zeppelin, he draws the conclusion that “extensive discussions” of the music “show how little their music relates to the blues.”9 The motivations for this claim aside, a clear connection can be made between the music of Led Zeppelin and American blues. Throughout their career Led Zeppelin have cited blues music as an inspiration, while covering blues musicians and borrowing verses, rhythms, and themes. Blues music was tremendously important to the songwriting team of Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, and to Led Zeppelin as a band. In fact, there is a twelve-bar blues song on every single Led Zeppelin album except for Houses of the Holy. In addition, Robert Plant’s vocals lean heavily on blues songs. The claim that Led Zeppelin’s music does not relate to the blues is a farce. The band members, especially Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, cite the blues as an inspiration and their personal contributions to the music show this, as a startling portion of the band’s catalog can be traced directly to American Blues.

Ritchie Yorke’s Led Zeppelin: The Definitive Biography combines research and extensive interviews into a narrative that describes the course of Led Zeppelin’s career. Yorke describes a fifteen year old Robert Plant stating, “My dad used to drop me off at the Seven Stars Blues Club in Stourbridge and we used to wail away on ‘Got My Mojo Workin’ and stuff like that.”10 Plant’s love affair with the blues began at a formative time for the young man. He speaks of gaining a residency position at the club mentioned, where he would play on a regular basis. Plant says, “The Seven Stars Blues Club was really my initiation; our group was called the Delta Blues Band.” Plant proceeds to describe his affinity for Bob Dylan’s folk music and his experience performing in other clubs. He says, “When you look deeper into that kind of music, you find that it has a lot of the feelings that exist in blues. Then, of course, you realize that the blues field is a very wide one.”11 In demonstrating his understanding for the art form, Plant shows that he is aware of the intricacies of the blues. This should be taken to include the idea of transformative prose, and the limitations that one should place on himself when employing such a tool in song writing.

Soon after Plant began playing in clubs on a regular basis, he made the decision to leave school and home to join a band called the Crawling King Snakes. He dedicated himself to finding out more about the blues and its origins, and attending any UK music festivals featuring American blues performers. “I always got a shiver every time I saw Sonny Boy Williams – the way he would strut out onto stage … I used to seek out tales about him … He was everything I wanted to be at the age of seventy.”12 Plant later goes on to describe his influences precisely, speaking of a few men who were later victims of his uncredited appropriation. He says, “My own influences were more blues people like Snoots Elgin, Robert Johnson, Tommy McClellan, and even Bukka White. Bukka had a really nasal thing. His records from the late 1930’s, like Fixing to Die and Bukka’s Jitterbug has a nasal vocal approach which I sometimes use.”13 It should be clear that there are no legal implications to emulating a vocal style, but this statement from Plant does somewhat call into question the originality of his work at the very least. His use of Bukka White’s vocal style shines a light on the claims made in this article that there are implications to white appropriation of American Blues. The case is difficult to make because of Plant’s candor, and the argument against white appropriation will be made using more concrete and indisputable evidence. A sufficient foundation has been laid to support the claim the Robert Plant was not only familiar with the blues, but also an inspired fan who was educated about the art form and its intricacies.

Unlike Plant, Jimmy Page was not in love with the blues from a young age but he was familiar with the art form and many of the artists that Led Zeppelin will be accused of plagiarizing. Around 1963, Page was a well-known guitar player in London who was asked to join a group called Blues Incorporated. The band specialized in Chicago-based, Chess-label style of City Blues which was very well received by London audiences.14 Chess Records would later file an infringement suit against Led Zeppelin, a case that was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum. While Page participated in the regular jam sessions that Blues Incorporated conducted, he never formally joined the group. A young Eric Clapton remarked to Page after one of these jam sessions, “You play like Matthew Murphy, Memphis Slim’s guitarist.” Page admits, “I had been following Murphy quite heavily.”15 Long before Page was a member of The Yardbirds or even Led Zeppelin other musicians noticed how similar his playing style was to that of prominent blues musicians that Page himself admits to following. Page curiously says, “It was a good scene then because most of us had the same upbringing. We’d been locked away with our blues records and then we came out with something really new to offer Britain. It just exploded from there.” Although Page’s claim that “we came out with something really new to offer” is true in the realest sense of the phrase, it was also negligently derivative of the music with which Page claims to have been locked away.16

The Yardbirds formed in late 1963, and have been described as having “blazed a pioneering path in British music circles with their fierce renditions of raw and earthy blues music.”17 From their start they were a blues band, but they quickly shifted towards singles with the release of “For Your Love” in 1965. In response to this shift in direction, Eric Clapton quit the band and Jimmy Page was offered a position as his replacement. Page declined because he did not appreciate the manner in which the position was offered. Instead he suggested his friend Jeff Beck for the role. After a period of great tumult, The Yardbirds suffered from an interior rift that left them without a bass player. This is when Jimmy Page joined the band on bass before switching to guitar. Two years of lackluster success with The Yardbirds culminated in the band calling it quits in 1968. This left Page in a position to begin a new project.

Jimmy Page and Robert Plant were introduced and spent time getting to know one another. Their time was spent listening to music by noted blues guitarist Muddy Waters, and Joan Baez amongst others.18 Incidentally, they are described as both being fans of Joan Baez’s version of Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You, which would later appear on the first Led Zeppelin album with no credit given to Joan Baez. This was later addressed, with subsequent pressings of the album baring the proper songwriting credits. Page and Plant were joined by hard-hitting drummer John Bonham and noted London-based arranger John Paul Johns. Once the band had established that this line up would stick, they began rehearsing for their first record. In recalling this era, Page states, “I had it in my mind exactly what I wanted to try and get together. Then it was just a matter of searching around for the right personnel that could pull it off. By that I mean for the sort of work that I’d managed to expand around the Yardbirds’ material … there were a lot of areas in there for improvisation and I’d come up with a lot of riffs of my own. And ideas and passages and movements and things. Along with the incorporation of the acoustic work – and the blues, etc. – that was the idea of it.”19 In this quote we have Page stating in certain terms that his intention for the musical direction was to be inspired by the blues. Add to this the fact that Muddy Waters was an artist that was used as common ground for Page and Plant, it comes as no surprise that Led Zeppelin would find influence and inspiration in the art form.

Two of the tracks on Led Zeppelin’s first album were credited to legendary session bass player, Chicago Bluesman Willie Dixon. These two tracks are the standouts You Shook Me and I Can’t Quit You Baby. With the release of this album Led Zeppelin began their whirlwind to the top, achieving a long running stay on the Billboard Top 100 chart. The band ushered in a new era of rock n’ roll, influencing most Hard Rock acts that came after them. To properly display their influence and popularity is nearly impossible. They sold platinum records in the United States before The Doors, sold out arenas, changed the face of AM radio, gave FM radio its sound, and essentially changed music forever. Unfortunately Led Zeppelin’s career will be forever marred by accusations of copyright infringement and songwriting of questionable originality. Surely this is not to detract from their prowess as musicians or performers, but to ignore the clear and and in some cases disturbing similarities between their music and that of early 20th Century blues musicians would be a fallacy, and a lie of omission.

The following information, while controversial, displays in chronological order the questionable influence and infringement that takes place on the records of Led Zeppelin. It should be noted that no accusations are being made, and that it is the role of the copyright holder to bring suit against an artist that may have infringed upon one’s intellectual property. It is the goal of this exposition to merely spotlight the similarities of Led Zeppelin’s music to that of blues musicians past. The band’s music also bares a startling resemblance to that of many artists that are not early 20th Century bluesmen such as Jake Holmes, Anne Brenden, Bobby Parker, and Spirit. For the purposes of this writing, blues musicians will be the focus, and all others will be ignored.

Led Zeppelin’s first album credits two songs to Willie Dixon, and closes with the track How Many More Times which was originally credited to Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, and John Bonham. The track bears a striking resemblance to Howlin’ Wolf’s 1951 song entitled How Many More Years, and it has been reported that all pressings of the record created after 1993 credit Howlin’ Wolf as forming the arrangement of the song.20 The original track and the Led Zeppelin track share similar lyrics, and rhythm section arrangements. The structure of the song is also similar. How Many More Times by Led Zeppelin is a song that reaches beyond the eight-minute mark and there are other portions of the song that bare similarities to blues musicians. Albert King released a song in 1967 called, The Hunter. Led Zeppelin’s How Many More Times contains a section that is an exact replica of the lyrics in the Albert King song. The two songs are not exactly similar stylistically, but the two songs share an entire verse. As Led Zeppelin’s album was released two years after King’s, it can be reliably claimed that the band has over stepped the boundaries of similarity and into the realm of infringement. This is but one instance of the band releasing an album with no additional songwriting or arranging credits given, only to give these credits at a later date when forced by the courts.

With the release of their second album, Led Zeppelin saw their fame rise. The band also continued to release music that was disturbingly derivative. Led Zeppelin II opens with what is arguably the band’s biggest hit, Whole Lotta Love. This song won the band much radio play, and brought on a lawsuit from Willie Dixon because the song bore an astonishing resemblance to a Muddy Waters song that he had written entitled You Need Love.21 In a case that was eventually settled out of court, Dixon claimed that the band committed copyright infringement in the release of their song. Whole Lotta Love‘s music is completely original, but the lyrics are taken directly from Willie Dixon’s song. Even still, the band credited the songwriting on the track to Plant/Page/Jones/Bonham. It is odd that the only man who Led Zeppelin covered on their records is also a man who filed suit against them for infringement.

Led Zeppelin II also contains a track entitled, The Lemon Song, claimed to have been written by Page/Plant/Jones/Bonham. The song displays the influence of Howlin’ Wolf, as one of the song’s guitar riffs and an entire verse are directly lifted from Howlin’ Wolf’s Killing Floor. As The Life and Times of Howlin’ Wolf states, “imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but carried too far, it’ll land you in court.” Led Zeppelin paid a large sum in 1972 to settle the infringement with ARC Music, Howlin’ Wolf’s publisher.22 In 1937, Robert Johnson recorded Traveling Riverside Blues. Led Zeppelin’s The Lemon Song also contains a lyrical similarity to the Johnson track that goes beyond inspiration.

In 1961 Bobby Parker wrote a song called, Watch Your Step. The Led Zeppelin song Moby Dick bears an uncanny resemblance. The intro to Moby Dick is dissimilar enough to escape the designation as infringing, but is also similar enough to warrant mention here. Both riffs are the twelve-bar blues structure, and are picked in equal measure. The similarity is somewhat amusing because the Led Zeppelin track is so iconic, to hear another song written eight years earlier that is so similar leaves the listener perplexed.

The album closes with the track Bring it on Home, credited to Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. Robert Plant is said to have stated that this track was a dedication to Sonny Boy Williamson,23 which is odd because Willie Dixon wrote a song by the same title that Sonny Boy Williamson recorded in 1963. The Led Zeppelin track and the Williamson track are similar musically and lyrically. Willie Dixon took legal action in the 1970’s in a ruling that was settled out of court. It is odd that the band would openly admit that the song was a tribute to a man who, upon recording nearly the same song, credited the proper songwriter. Why Led Zeppelin would fail to do the same while acknowledging the inspiration for the track is beyond this writer’s apprehension. The band was certainly familiar with the proper procedure for assigning songwriting credit, as they were experienced session musicians who had been actively working in the music industry for many years.

Led Zeppelin III was released on October 5th, 1970. The album closer Hats Off to (Roy) Harper had started out as a Robert Johnson-like improvisation on Bukka White’s Shake ‘Em on Down.24 The song is very similar in structure and rhythm to the White track, and while the band openly admits to the influence, the credits in the album are listed as “Traditional.”

The 1975 Led Zeppelin album Physical Graffiti opens with a song called Custard Pie which shares an entire verse with the 1935 Sleepy John Estes track Drop Down Mama. The Led Zeppelin song was credited to Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. No credit has ever been given to Sleepy John Estes, nor is there any record of a suit being filed in his behalf.

Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed was written and performed by Blind Willie Johnson in 1927. Bob Dylan released a rendition in 1962 that he called, In My Time of Dying, and credited as a “Traditional” piece. No mention was made of Blind Willie Johnson on this recording, or the version that later became Led Zeppelin’s In My Time of Dying. This case is unique in that Led Zeppelin performed a rendition of a song that Bob Dylan incorrectly credited, without even crediting Dylan. Instead the credits read Bonham/Jones/Page/Plant, with not even a mention of the track being sourced from “Traditional” material.

Blind Willie Johnson recorded and released another song in 1929, called It’s Nobody’s Fault But Mine. The first track on the second side of Led Zeppelin’s 1976 LP Presence is a song credited to Jimmy Page and Robert Plant called, Nobody’s Fault But Mine. Both songs contain the same lyrics during the chorus portion, as well as the same delivery despite the fact that Led Zeppelin’s song was released nearly fifty years later. Again, no reference has been made to Blind Willie Johnson.

The sheer amount of questionably infringing material, along with the actual lawsuits brought against the band by African-American blues artists should be noted in the career of Led Zeppelin. Add to this the songs that were attributed to other African-American blues artists, songs like When the Levee Breaks, You Shook Me, and I Can’t Quit You Baby, and we have a substantial portion of Led Zeppelin’s catalog. When we consider that I have not touched on folk, country, and early rock music that bear a striking resemblances to Led Zeppelin, it becomes clear that the songwriting credibility of the band can easily be called into question.

The name most frequently spoken when discussions of Led Zeppelin’s infringement arise is that of Willie Dixon. It serves as no surprise, considering the fact that Dixon not only brought suit against the band, but was also credited by the band as a songwriter on their first record. In addition, Dixon’s music has been recorded by acts such as The Rolling Stones, Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton, and The Doors making him one of the blues best known songwriters. Dixon’s autobiography, I Am the Blues, delivers invaluable information about the artist and his attitudes towards the infringement that took place. It also helps to set the stage for an understanding of the impact that copyright infringement has on blues musicians, a topic about which Dixon was very passionate. The following biographical information, drawing heavily and in many cases directly from his autobiography, illustrates the troubled youth, and successful musical career of Willie Dixon. His story is uncommon in many respects, but at the same time serves as an example of an uneducated, extremely talented man who was taken advantage of before he realized where he went wrong.

Willie Dixon was born on July 1, 1915 in Vicksburg, Mississippi. At the time, Vicksburg was the second largest city in Mississippi and sat on the southwestern edge of the Mississippi Delta region that spawned many major blues performers. Dixon was large for his age and entered the school in his integrated neighborhood a full two years ahead of schedule. Regardless of the integration in his neighborhood, Dixon began to feel the pressures of an early-twentieth century Mississippi as he began getting harassed for his skin color. At the age of eleven he ran away from home to a place called Bovina, Mississippi that he had heard about from the country people that frequented his mother’s restaurant in Vicksburg. He was not impressed with the country life, and found the work very difficult. Eventually, his mother’s customers alerted her to his whereabouts and she retrieved him. He states that he was very glad, as he “didn’t know there was so much hard work in the world.”25

This initial foray into a traveling lifestyle would not be the last for Willie Dixon. Vicksburg would remain his home until he moved to Chicago, but he states that between 1926 and 1936 he made frequent trips through “hobo jungles” to New York City and all over the South. But not all of his traveling was by his own accord. Dixon was arrested for stealing plumbing fixtures from an abandoned house in Vicksburg when he was twelve and sent to the Ball Ground County Farm north of the city. In 1929, he was arrested for hoboing near Clarksdale, Mississippi and sentenced to thirty days at the Harvey Allen County Farm before escaping and making his way north by mule and train to his sister’s home in Chicago. Following a New York excursion, it was back to Vicksburg and other occasional side trips – from inadvertently winding up on a boat headed to Hawaii to a more planned stint with the Civilian Conservation Corps at camps in Morton, Mississippi and Pensacola, Florida.26 Continuous travel was the product of the economy at the time. Work was in short supply during the Great Depression, and travel was necessary in order to make a living. Dixon was almost certainly supplied with valuable life experience that he would later incorporate into his music.

At this point in his life, Dixon was taking his first steps into the music business while at home in Vicksburg by converting his poems into songs and selling them to hillbilly/country & western groups there. Later, a printer printed up paper slips with his words to The Signifying Monkey and he began selling those around town. Dixon acquired his first formal musical experience singing bass with a local gospel quartet named the Union Jubilee Singers. The group was popular enough to tour in Mississippi outside the Vicksburg city limits and broadcast a fifteen-minute radio show every Friday from the WQBC studios on the eighth floor of the Vicksburg Hotel during the early and middle 1930’s.27

Dixon was a solid 200-pounds at this time and had received a bit of boxing training during his late teens. He began to seriously consider a career as a fighter, and moved north to Chicago when the South presented limited opportunities. In 1936 Dixon headed upriver towards the city that would be his home for the next forty-five years. Dixon won the Illinois heavyweight Golden Gloves championship (novice division), sparred with Joe Louis, and eventually turned pro. Not a terrible start to a boxing career. Unfortunately his career came to a quick end after four fights when he was suspended for a brawl in the boxing commissioner’s office. Dixon had continued to sing in various groups, however. One of these groups even sang weekly on a WSBC radio show that was hosted by Jack L. Cooper, the first major black deejay in Chicago.28

During this same period Dixon met Leonard “Baby Doo” Caston, who convinced him to abandon boxing in favor of music and made Dixon his first instrument – a one string, tin-can bass. The two then began to immerse themselves in the Chicago music scene, going into clubs, performing and passing the hat. Dixon got his first recording experience with the Bumpin’ Boys, serving as an unofficial vocal coach around 1938. Nothing came of these sessions, but Dixon did eventually make it onto wax with the first serious group he formed with Caston circa 1939, the Five Breezes. In November of 1940, the Five Breezes cut eight tracks that were released on RCA’s race records subsidiary,Bluebird.29

Several companies developed race record subsidiary labels for their black artists. Race records – also known as sepia or ebony – usually sold for half the price of releases on the mainline pop labels, meaning that a seventy-eight went for thirty-five cents, with a corresponding decrease in artist or songwriting royalties, if royalties were even paid for a recording, and many times they were not. Producers and record companies operated on a strict cash basis for sessions, and those one-shot payments became the foundation for the continuing charges of exploitation that would surface in the later years. Most black artists had no knowledge of the intricacies of copyrighting their material and producers and record companies often didn’t see any long-range value for those songs.30

From 1942-1944 the American Federation of Musicians Union declared a ban on recording in an effort to keep the jukebox business from putting live musicians out of work by demanding a royalty payment from record labels. Coupled with the wartime rationing of shellac, an essential ingredient in seventy-eights, studio action ceased almost completely. Dixon’s musical career had already been derailed late in 1941 when Chicago police arrested him onstage for evading the draft. Apparently, after several months’ worth of trials and imprisonment, Dixon was released, classified 5-F and barred from any sort of defense work in 1942. Shortly after his release, Dixon formed the Four Jumps of Jive, played around Chicago, and eventually made it into the studio in 1945 to record four sides for Mercury Records. Dixon’s army troubles prevented him from joining his friend and band mate Baby Doo Caston when Caston backed vocalist Alberta Hunter on a USO tour overseas. When Caston returned, he and Dixon formed the Big Three Trio.31

Caston and Dixon were met with a vastly different music industry. The inattention of major labels to the black listening audience began a shift towards smaller, independently owned labels that realized that there was a substantial audience to be gained. Likewise, the blues itself had changed drastically. The West Coast jump style – an outgrowth of economic factors which forced the territorial big bands popular during the war years to scale down to rhythm section plus horns supporting a singer belting the blues – was the popular style in the mid-1940s. The independent labels stepped in when the major labels failed to notice this shift in consumer preference. The new independent labels included Atlantic Records in New York and Chess Records in Chicago.32

Even with the popularity, black artists remained largely shut out of the larger musical picture. The American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP), the dominant performance rights organization monitoring payments in the music world, was still a closed door society that only accepted legitimized composers, artists, and publishers working in mainstream popular music. ASCAP’s rival, Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI), founded in 1939, made it a policy to sign the creative talents ignored by ASCAP, so long as they were making valid, profitable music.33

The Big Three Trio were neither a hard Chicago blues band nor representative of the jump blues sound. The models were the popular black vocal groups of the time and their repertoire consisted of pops standards and blues sung in harmony instead of deep down-home blues. Their sound was light, swinging, and jazz-tinged, their stage presentation slick and rooted in the tradition of the professional entertainer.34

Soon after the formation of the Big Three Trio, Caston and Dixon began working as session musicians under famed producer Lester Melrose. Eventually Melrose recorded the Big Three Trio and released the records on Nashville’s Bullet Records. Lonely Roamin was a regional hit in the South, and Signifying Monkey hit the national race records chart in 1946. In 1947, the Big Three signed with Columbia and earned another chart hit with their treatment of a song written by Art Tatum and Big Joe Turner, Wee Wee Baby, You Sure Look Good to Me. The winds of change were blowing, however, as a more raw blues sound began to emerge from South Side Chicago. This did not initially affect the Big Three and other blues performers who were frequently booked into the downtown Chicago clubs that catered to white audiences.35

As the Big Three were being booked nationally to play venues that would seat 300-500 people for weeks at a time, artists like Muddy Waters and Little Walter were working largely black audiences at hole-in-the-wall neighborhood joints. As the group continued touring, Dixon continued writing on his own music, even as the other members of the Big Three turned down songs that he had written that would later become hits on Chess Records. Dixon had grown to three hundred and thirty pounds, met his future wife at a Big Three gig in Chicago, and would have a family before the end of the decade. His studio experience with the Big Three Trio attracted the interest of the brass at Chess Records, who saw Dixon play at jam sessions on the South Side of the city. They began calling him in off the road to play on sessions for their fledgling label whenever his schedule with the Big Three permitted. That studio work – the first one on a Robert Nighthawk session in November 1948 – began moving Dixon towards the day he became the linchpin of the Chess operation.36

Leonard and Phil Chess have been called visionaries who recognized the potential in the visceral blues of post-World War II Chicago. Many more times, they have been called exploiters who systematically took advantage of the artists who created that music, but they were indisputably instrumental figures in the development of Chicago blues. The Chess brothers founded the label Aristocrat in 1947, and put out a few moderately successful records. Muddy Waters was also featured on some of Aristocrats earliest sessions and with his second release for the label the Chess brothers stumbled across the sound that became their bread and butter for the next twenty years. The Chess brothers were the first to gamble on recording the new style and classic Chicago blues became so thoroughly identified with the label bearing their name that it was often described as “the Chess sound.” It was a rough-and-tumble roar of guitars, harmonica and drums, rooted in the country blues of the Mississippi Delta but heavily amplified.37

In 1950, the Chess brothers bought out their partners at Aristocrat, folded that label, and began distributing records as the company that bore their name. The brothers worked hard to keep their label afloat – distributing records from the trunk of a car to the porters and conductors, barber shop and beauty parlor owners who made up their sales network on the South Side. The label saw initial success from their relationship with Sam Phillips, the man who introduced the world to Elvis Presley, who leased the Chess brothers a song by Jackie Brentson in May 1951. Later in 1951 the label saw their second hit with a gentleman named Howlin’ Wolf, who would become a staple at the label when he moved from Memphis to Chicago in 1953. Muddy Waters enjoyed the position as the label’s most consistent hit-maker with four Top Ten R&B chart entries in these early years of Chess Records.38

Following the dissolution of the Big Three Trio, Willie Dixon became an integral part of the Chess operation, the in-house music man who helped whip the material of the label’s artists into shape. Dixon was a full-time employee after 1951 – producing, arranging, running the studio band and playing bass on “everybody’s everything.” His role was so crucial that Leonard Chess would later describe him as “my right arm.” His breakthrough was in January of 1954 when Muddy Waters recorded Dixon’s Hoochie Coochie Man. The success of that song convinced Chess that Dixon’s material would pay off commercially and for the next three years Dixon was indispensable, writing songs for Waters, Little Walter, and Howlin’ Wolf amongst others.39

In 1955, Little Walter’s My Babe became the first Dixon song to top the R&B charts but his contributions weren’t limited to the blues sphere. The El-Rays did their first Chess session in 1954 backed by the Willie Dixon Orchestra; he was also in the studio for several Moonglows sessions, including their hit Sincerely. With the Maybellene session, Dixon began an association playing behind Chuck Berry in the studio that would last virtually uninterrupted until the 1960s. All was not well, however. Dixon’s move to Chess meant that he all but ceased to record and perform on his own. He recorded a few songs for Chess under his name, but only one, Walking the Blues, received any exposure. The demands of providing for a growing family and the reluctance of the Chess brothers to fork out money or let their artists record more of the songs he had stockpiled left Dixon increasingly frustrated and financially pressed. Near the end of 1956, he parted ways with Chess Records.40

Dixon moved over to another Chicago independent, Cobra Records, after his departure from Chess. The label saw great success when their first single was a hit on the R&B charts, as Otis Rush performed Dixon’s I Can’t Quit You, Baby. Cobra Records had limited success from that point forward, until 1959 when the label had all but folded. During this period Dixon was still playing bass behind Chuck Berry on tracks like Johnny B. Goode, Rock n’ Roll Music, and Sweet Little Sixteen. Between 1957 and 1958, he also recorded with Bo Diddley, Little Walter and Sonny Boy Williamson. By early 1959, he was back with Chess full-time.41

While with Cobra, Dixon became more involved in other aspects of the music industry while running a booking agency called Ghana and a publishing company of the same name, which was registered with BMI. Around this time, Rock n’ Roll had exploded and began cutting into the sales of the blues. In response Dixon and Memphis Slim teamed up for a series of duo concerts that took advantage the coming folk music boom. They performed at the Newport Folk Festival in 1957 and 1958 and the period of performance also saw Dixon’s first album as a band leader, Willie’s Blues. Slim and Dixon went overseas for the first time when they went to England in 1959. Upon their return, they met an Israeli woman who wanted the duo to play at her club in Haifa, Israel. With that, the blues had entered the international arena.42

This exposure to an international audience was not the first that the blues had experienced as Muddy Waters had played for European audiences, but Slim and Dixon played to a much larger population throughout the world. With the advent of the American Folk Blues Festivals that began touring Europe, an entire new generation was introduced to the blues. Nowhere was the impact of those shows felt more thoroughly than in England. The folk blues festivals triggered a whole new phase in Anglo/American music as the British rock n’ roll bands who soaked up the licks and attitudes on the rare Chicago blues records that made the Atlantic crossing began making the return trip overseas. Among them were the Rolling Stones and Yardbirds. Willie Dixon, never a shy man when it came to pushing his own songs, took advantage of every opportunity to leave behind his material with those younger musicians. Within a few years, that proved to be the avenue by which Dixon acquired his reputation as a great blues songwriter.43

As his European stints only took up a month of the year, Dixon had plenty of time to spend in the studio during this period. His energies were devoted to Chess Records artists, and his proven skills allowed him to fully implement his vision in the studio. The period from 1959-64 would see Dixon record songs brought to life by Howlin’ Wolf – that would later bring him fame and notoriety courtesy of the blues-loving rock brigade: Back Door Man, Spoonful, The Red Rooster, I Ain’t Superstitious, Wang Dang Doodle, You Shook Me, You Need Love, and You Can’t Judge a Book By Its Cover. So influential was “the Chess sound” that Dixon helped create, that The Rolling Stones came to Chicago in 1964 and put out their first American album on Chess Records.44

The Chess brothers operated their label on a handshake basis, handing money out directly to artists or employees rather than sign written contracts. A scenario such as this is could easily be exploited and this is exactly what occurred. The chief bone of contention among Chess artists concerned the symbiotic relationship with Arc Music, the label’s in-house publishing company formed in 1953 with the brothers of artist Benny Goodman. This is ironic, as there were innumerable court claims filed against Arc Music by black blues artists, while Benny Goodman effectively broke the color barrier in jazz in 1936.45

It was common practice for the early independent record companies to start up their own publishing wings – and sometimes placing the rights to their songs with the in-house publishing company was a condition of an artist getting recorded. Label owners could, with the stroke of a pen, split songwriting credits by adding names or pseudonyms to the copyright. The most famous example at Chess was Maybellene, credited to Chuck Berry, deejay Alan Freed, and Russ Fratto, the man who was printing the record labels for Chess at the time. It was a situation ripe for exploitation since an artist was completely dependent on the publisher and record company to supply accurate information that would let the performer know what was going on. Blues artists were particularly vulnerable since many were marginally literate and trapped in a situation where any deal was better than no deal – getting a record out on the market meant the chance to pick up some money through live performances.46

Although Dixon had started his own publishing company in 1957, he didn’t join the organization as a songwriter until the following year. He wound up transferring administration rights to Arc Music in the mid-1960s because of the time involved and contacts required to keep tabs on his songs around the world. Any earlier material was registered to Dixon but the copyright itself was owned by Arc. The one recourse was the courts, and a suit initiated against Arc Music resulted in an out-of-court settlement in 1977 which provided for the return of Dixon’s copyrights as they came up for renewal, the return of the Ghana catalog, and other benefits.47

Leonard Chess died in 1969, and Chess Records essentially died with him. This loss was hard on Willie Dixon, but it allowed him to begin performing again. He now enjoyed a distinction as a rock legend because of many leading rock bands of the 1960s had covered his songs. Based off of this fame, he put together a new version of the Chicago Blues All-Stars in 1969. His name recognition earned him a deal with Columbia Records, which released I Am the Blues, a nine-song collection featuring his versions of some of the most popular songs that rock artists had re-worked. Dixon continued touring and songwriting well into the 1980s, when he and his family moved from Chicago to Southern California.48

By the late 1980s the majority of Dixon’s time was devoted to establishing the Blues Heaven Foundation, a non-profit corporation designed to increase awareness of the blues through scholarship awards and donations of musical instruments to schools. A long-range goal is to provide assistance for blues artists and/or their heirs who suffered from the lack of financial safeguards in writing and recording their music. Willie Dixon himself was not yet through with matters of proper credit and adequate compensation. The year 1987 saw an out-of-court settlement of a suit filed in 1985 regarding the similarity of Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love to Dixon’s You Need Love. The original version of the latter was recorded by Muddy Waters in 1962 and released on an obscure Chess single but never on an album in America. But in England, the song had been a favorite rave-up tune for aspiring groups to cut their teeth on during the British blues boom of the mid and late 1960s.49

The history of Willie Dixon is at the same time typical and atypical. He, like many other blues artists, enjoyed success and fame without monetary compensation. He was also exploited due to his lack of business acumen like so many artists of the genre. Unlike the others, he was eventually compensated because he had the knowledge enough to hire lawyers to look after his catalog. Willie Dixon serves as the shining example of what can go wrong in the music industry, what fame can bring, and what can be done to correct past wrongs. The story of bluesmen like Howlin’ Wolf, Robert Johnson, Bukka White, and Sonny Boy Williamson would be told with similar mention of hardships, touring, international acclaim, exploitation, and influence. The blues comes from a place that these men shared. Be it the Mississippi Delta or Chicago, there were hardships that existed when these men were growing up that lit a flame in their souls and presented them with the opportunity write music that touched lives the world over.

In researching this project, I have taken the time to speak with Led Zeppelin fans. One in particular presented me with some interesting questions that should be addressed in a straightforward manner. My father, the largest influence in my life, grew up riding around in his Opel convertible listening to Led Zeppelin. They were an institution for him and his friends. When I told him that I was working on this project, he was up in arms. He said that all music was derivative, that things are copied all of the time and usually by coincidence, and that Led Zeppelin could have had no idea that they were infringing on another individual’s copyright. His points were delivered with passion, and he provided me with a glimpse of the resistance that I would surely encounter should I choose to proceed with this research. Likewise, he provided me with a few solid points that I should refute in my research.

All music is derivative. In fact, a melody need only be changed very slightly in order to qualify as an entirely new work. The miniscule alteration necessary is actually quite laughable. This point magnifies the fact that Led Zeppelin’s music was not derivative, but was explicitly copied in some cases. The fact that the band was sued and settled many suits out of court for substantial sums strongly indicates that there was infringement in their music. The derivative nature of music is often cited in cases of similarity, but there are qualities present in the music of Led Zeppelin that cross the line into infringement. The main argument in favor of the songs being merely derivative lies in the fact that musically, there is often little that ties a Led Zeppelin song to that of a blues artist. This is fact in almost all cases. There are similarities in rhythm, but one cannot copyright a rhythm, or a chord progression. Led Zeppelin ran into trouble with their use of copyrighted lyrics. Many songs by Led Zeppelin use lyrics that are direct from blues classics, word-for-word, with little if any change. Lyrics are a black and white issue in music. If the words are the same, delivered in the same manner, there is a case for copyright infringement.

The point was made that pieces of music are copied all the time, and often without knowledge by the offending artist. This is a valid point, but with some deconstruction of copyright law and a particular case study it can be seen that Led Zeppelin does not qualify for this argument. Copyright law states that it must be proven that an artist could have heard the original work before they can be found liable for copyright infringement. Therefore, if a coffee shop performer in Budapest with no international exposure wrote a song in 1983 and a Top 40 musician records a similar song in 2010, the Top 40 musician could easily claim to have no knowledge of the previous song. If the Top 40 artist was living in Budapest in 1983, the case for the original artist is strengthened. Cases like this occur. Instances also arise where an artist develops a melody, believes it sound familiar, but cannot place the origin. The burden is on the artist to discover the source. Sometimes they do not bother. For example, Busta Rhymes released the song Dangerous in 1997. The chorus of the song (This is serious/We could make you delirious/You should have a healthy fear of us/’Cause too much of us is dangerous) was taken from a 1983 Public Service Announcement in Long Island that spoke out against the use of prescription drugs. Rhymes does not recall ever hearing the song, but considering the fact that he was living in the area when it aired it is reasonable to think that he was inspired by the ad.50

While an artist could unknowingly plagiarize a song, the evidence that has been presented points to the fact that Led Zeppelin was very familiar with the blues. Willie Dixon was one of the most renowned artists of the genre, he traveled to England to perform many times, Led Zeppelin covered his songs and gave him appropriate credit, and they cite his music as an influence in their only authorized biography published to date. The band knew that they were infringing on copyrights, but it apparently did not occur to them that they could be damaging the artists that influenced them.

It is nearly impossible to calculate the amount of money that Led Zeppelin deprived of their influences. The amount is tremendous by all standards, but especially so considering the poverty that many blues musician lived with until their deaths. Surely, those who influence will also make less than those who commercialize, but as Willie Dixon says, “Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Clara Carter – nobody knows who the heck they are unless you have been in research with records. Blind Tom, Victoria Spivey, Jimmy Yancey, Mama Yancey, all of them. Nobody knows them, very little’s been written on them, damn few people heard ’em and no one seems to care but still they use their ideas in their music up until today.”51 This is the problem with the blues. It is arguably the most influential American art form, created by some of the poorest citizens, and named for the hurt in their hearts and the pain in their souls.

Willie Dixon expresses the sentiments of the community perfectly in his autobiography:

When a person knows what his background is, it gives him a chance to be proud. The majority of things that America has damn near came from black people themselves but, regardless of what a man makes or what a man does, there was no way for him to expose his project. The one who controls him is the one who’s the owner. Naturally, the white man has control of everything that the black man had made in America, so that makes him the owner. Naturally, they didn’t write the history of the guy who made it – they wrote the history of the guy who got it. We weren’t taught to read and write and understand. Nine times out of ten, you have a high school education before you learn the knowledge of copyrights. They got it so complicated today where you have to go through a long series of different questions to copyright a song and the people without proper knowledge don’t know. I remember great blues artists that never had a future, that have made many great songs that blues artists from all over the world have recorded. These people were popular as blues artists and no one knows their names. No one knows their picture. They have no history of it.

With that Willie Dixon summarizes the frustration present in those who know of the appropriation of black music in America. The disservice that has been paid to the most influential artists in our nation, and the world at large will never be rectified through money. Only through education and appropriate credit can we hope to preserve the memory of those who created an art form, and contributed to the creation of so many more.

Despite the fact that Led Zeppelin and other rock groups engaged in the same type of borrowing that early blues artists did, the power dynamics in the two cases are quite different. There is an obvious contrast between blacks borrowing from common cultural texts developed by other American blacks and a white English group (backed by a powerful record label and its lawyers) slightly reworking a rural black man’s song without giving credit or financial compensation.52 Led Zeppelin are but one example in a long-standing tradition of white appropriation. From Elvis to Eminem, there are many instances in music alone.

Elvis Presley is regarded as a landmark entertainer, who pioneered rock n’ roll and paved the way for those after him. Those that paved the way for Elvis, like those who paved the way for Led Zeppelin, remain largely unknown. Rock n’ Roll has been called a marketing term for rhythm and blues played by white musicians.53 This designation holds up under close inspection, and is further evidence of the consistent appropriation that has occurred throughout the history of music. For theorists of the Black Arts Movement during the initial popularity of Elvis Presley, the situation required careful analysis of what was happening, and a plan for how to maintain control of African-American cultural imperatives. Reading the literature of the day demonstrates that the situation was looked upon as a crisis.54

The questions that arise in discussing Led Zeppelin, Elvis, and Eminem eventually lead to a discussion of authenticity and its place in music. As a music lover, the discussion is nearly moot as all music created with passion and heart is considered authentic. At the same time, the roots of music should be considered and recognized by both the music lover and creator of the work in question. Those who love Led Zeppelin should appreciate the blues for its contributions to the music. Likewise, Elvis fans should appreciate Chuck Berry, and Eminem fans should appreciate X-Clan. The truth is, most music fans are casual listeners not devotees who are interested in the art form at its most basic level. This is where a problem arises. Originating artists should be recognized by fans and artists alike, but are not because of a perceived and very real disinterest. Igniting interest in the music of the past is no easy task, but making sure that originators are credited properly is a step in the right direction.

Led Zeppelin has gone far beyond the tradition of shared concepts, rhythms, and structure that are present in the blues tradition. They have not only taken ideas, lyrics, arrangements, melodies, and rhythms without any credit but they have taken these musical elements from a population that has been historically exploited. Led Zeppelin is yet another in a long line of Western light-skinned appropriators that have taken what they deemed fair from African-American culture without fair compensation. Upon the completion of my research my opinion stands more firm than at the outset. Not only did Led Zeppelin participate in the activities of which I have accused them, but they were influenced by the blues much more than I could have anticipated. The infringement that took place was not incidental; I believe it to be deliberate and disturbingly common throughout their catalog. Provided with the time and resources, I could show that the band’s music draws heavily on many other artists, not just African-American blues musicians of the early to middle twentieth century. Folk musicians, funk musicians, ragtime, country & western; no genre is excluded by the band.

Continued Research

If I were to continue my research, I would like to provide greater detail of the lives of the artists that influences Led Zeppelin. I would also like to go more in-depth about the career of Led Zeppelin to display the luxury and carefree attitude that they experienced while those that they took from essentially lived in squalor. There is room in this discussion for an examination of the music of Led Zeppelin and those they took from at its most basic level, revealing exactly how similar the music actually is, a side-by-side comparison of melody, structure, and lyrics. I believe it would be beneficial to give more information about the lives of other blues musicians upon whom Led Zeppelin infringed. Artists like Howlin’ Wolf, Robert Johnson, and Bukka White were touched upon in this project, but more attention could surely be paid to them. Going further, a substantial amount can be written about the development of music, as Led Zeppelin were not involved in the hip-hop tradition, an art form based entirely on derivatives. A comparison can be drawn between the actions of Led Zeppelin and those of hip-hop producers (one of whom, Diddy, has sampled a Led Zeppelin song heavily) and emcees. Lastly, I believe it would be interesting to draw this comparison and discuss the implications it may have on the idea of appropriation.

A Note on Sources

Finally, I would like to make a note on my sources for this project. The book that I drew much of my information about Led Zeppelin from is the only authorized biography of the band. This is the reason for my extensive use of quotes and direct excerpts from the book. The band was cooperative in its creation, and thus I regard it as an authoritative source for their thoughts on the band’s influences, thoughts on infringement, and history. Likewise, the Willie Dixon autobiography was drawn on heavily in this project. The perspective that Dixon offers is unique and invaluable in the discussion. This is the reason for the copious use of passages from the book. No other source offers the information in a concise manner like Dixon’s book. I have been very lucky to gain access to the thoughts of this man, and I do not believe that this topic could be written about with any dependable accuracy if not for the words that he wrote.


Demers, Joanna Teresa. Steal This Music: How Intellectual Property Law Affects Musical Creativity. Athens: University of Georgia, 2006. Print.

Dixon, Willie, and Don Snowden. I Am the Blues: the Willie Dixon Story. New York, N.Y.: Da Capo, 1989. Print.

Fast, Susan. In the Houses of the Holy: Led Zeppelin and the Power of Rock Music. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2001. Print.

Gioia, Ted. Delta Blues: the Life and times of the Mississippi Masters Who Revolutionized American Music. New York: W.W. Norton, 2008. Print.

McLeod, Kembrew. Owning Culture: Authorship, Ownership, and Intellectual Property Law. New York, N.Y.: Peter Lang, 2007. Print.

Segrest, James, and Mark Hoffman. Moanin’ at Midnight: the Life and times of Howlin’ Wolf. New York: Pantheon, 2004. Print.

Thomas, Lorenzo, and Aldon Lynn. Nielsen. Don’t Deny My Name: Words and Music and the Black Intellectual Tradition. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 2008. Print.

Weitner, Sean. “Cover Tunes – Dangerous.” Flak Magazine. 29 Jan. 2001. Web. 8 May 2010. <>.

“What Is Intellectual Property?” WIPO – World Intellectual Property Organization. Web. 15 Apr. 2010. <>.


Yorke, Ritchie. Led Zeppelin: the Definitive Biography. Novato, Calif.: Underwood-Miller, 1993. Print.

1James Segrest and Mark Hoffman, Moanin’ at Midnight, 17

2Ted Gioia, Delta Blues, 380-81

3What is Intellectual Property?, World Intellectual Property Organization, <>. April 15, 2010.

4Joanna Demers. Steal This Music: How Intellectual Property Law Affects Musical Creativity. University of Georgia Press (Athens and London). 2006. Print. 3.

5Demers, 26

6Segrest & Hoffman, 300

7Segrest & Hoffman, 301

8Gioia, 228-29

9Fast, Susan. Houses of the Holy: Led Zeppelin and the Power of Rock Music. Oxford University Press: New York. 2001. Print. 7.

10Yorke, Ritchie. Led Zeppelin: The Definitive Biography. Underwood-Miller: Novato California. 1993. Print. 17

11Yorke, 17

12Yorke, 18

13Yorke, 19

14Yorke, 30

15Yorke, 31

16Yorke, 31

17Yorke, 41

18Yorke, 60

19Yorke, 62

20Wikipedia: How Many More Times. <> While this source is clearly not academic, the similarities between the songs makes the claim credible. Additionally, this arrangement between Led Zeppelin and the original songwriter is standard for infringement cases. With more time to research, I am certain that I can find the court ruling in question.


22Segrest & Hoffman, 392

23Yorke, 91

24Yorke, 116

25Dixon, Willie and Don Snowden. I Am the Blues: The Willie Dixon Story. Da Capo Press. 1989. Print. 7, 20-1

26Dixon, 23-4

27Dixon, 24

28Dixon, 24, 43

29Dixon, 43

30Dixon, 43-4

31Dixon, 44

32Dixon, 58

33Dixon, 58

34Dixon, 59

35Dixon, 59

36Dixon, 59-60

37Dixon, 79

38Dixon, 80

39Dixon, 81

40Dixon, 82

41Dixon, 104

42Dixon, 104-5

43Dixon, 121-2

44Dixon, 143-4

45Dixon, 185

46Dixon, 185

47Dixon, 186

48Dixon, 206, 218

49Dixon, 218

50Weitner, Sean. Flak Magazine: Cover Tunes – “Dangerous,” 1-29-01. <>. Web. Accessed May 8, 2010.

51Dixon, 225

52McLeod, Kembrew. Owning Culture: Authorship, Ownership, & Intellectual Property Law. Peter Lang Publishing: New York. 2001. Print. 45.

53Thomas, Lorenzo. Don’t Deny My Name: Words and Music and the Black Intellectual Tradition. The University of Michigan Press: Ann Arbor. 2008. Print. 142.

54Thomas, 154

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