A lawsuit filed by a surviving member of the 60's rock band Spirit against Led Zeppelin over alleged musical plagiarism claims the famous guitar riff opening "Stairway To Heaven," is purportedly lifted from the 1968 Spirit instrumental "Taurus." The legal ins and outs of how this must be proven or disproven can be read in this article from Forbes.
Either way, it's just the latest chapter in something that's gone on for decades in American popular music, in blues, jazz, country and yes, rock. In November 2010, at the suggestion of my podcast producer Adrian McCoy, I put together an extensive segment of examples of songs that were, for lack of a more gracious term, "borrowed" for my "Believe Your Ears" PG music podcast.
Scott Mervis has an interview with Ben Folds at the beginning. I start at 5:00. and it runs about 20 minutes. The names involved: George Harrison, Chuck Berry, John Lennon, Glenn Miller, Johnny Cash ("Folsom Prison Blues"), the Beach Boys and quite a few others complete with 30 second clips that you can compare. Click here to listen.
On a somewhat related note, we did a second podcast in 2012 with a similar theme. In honor of Black History Month, I looked at African-American songs (some blues, some not) that were not well known in their original form but through recordings by others, became major popular songs. It's available at this link.