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 The Story Behind Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven
Kathy Unruh

Stairway to Heaven was the song that everyone wanted to learn when I first started playing the guitar. It was the one song that could define you as a good guitarist among your peers.

Stairway to Heaven was written by Robert Plant and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin. They began recording in 1970 and the project was slowly brought to completion one year later in 1971 (after the lyrics were added.) Here are some interesting facts about Stairway to Heaven...

  • It was performed by Led Zeppelin for the very first time in conjunction with the first concert they gave in Northern Ireland at Belfast's Ulster Hall.
  • It is cited as the most played song on FM radio stations in the United States, despite never being released as a single there.
  • Stairway to Heaven is one of the most well-known popular songs in rock and roll history, despite the fact that it was never released as a single.
  • It is the biggest-selling single piece of sheet music clocking up an average of 15,000 copies yearly.
  • It is considered by many to be one of the greatest rock and roll songs of all time.
  • The opening chord progression in Stairway to Heaven is nearly identical to the 1968 instrumental "Taurus" by the group Spirit.

Some critics have accused Led Zeppelin of recording a hidden Satanic message in Stairway To Heaven that can be heard when it's played backward. The band has ignored such claims for the most part. Singer/composer Robert Plant replied to a question on this subject by saying:

"To me it's very sad, because 'Stairway To Heaven' was written with every best intention, and as far as reversing tapes and putting messages on the end, that's not my idea of making music."

Swan Song Records also issued the statement at the time which said:

"Our turntables only play in one direction—forwards".

I personally don't believe there is anything sinister at all about the song Stairway to Heaven . The words are really quite thought provoking. It begins with words about living a life that is only satisfied with material things...

"There's a lady is sure,
all that glitters is gold,
and she's buying a stairway to heaven.
When she gets there she knows,
if the stores are all closed,
with a word she can get what she came for."

As the song progresses it becomes more reflective and even somewhat spiritual...

"Your head is hummin' and it won't go, in case you don't know,
the piper's calling you to join him.
Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run,
there's still time to change the road you're on."

I guess everyone must decide for themselves how they feel about this song. As a guitar teacher, I definitley think it's worth learning because it is a true rock and roll classic.

If you're just beginning to learn guitar, you might find Stairway to Heaven a bit of a challenge to play, but it's not impossible. Those of you who have been playing for awhile shouldn't have any problem. Of course, if your in a band, then this song is a must to know as it is a great crowd pleaser. You will definitely gain recognition and a good response if you can play it well.

About the Author: Kathy Unruh is a singer/songwriter and webmaster of ABC Learn Guitar. She has been writing songs and providing guitar lessons to students of all ages for over 25 years. For free guitar lessons, plus tips and resources on songwriting, recording and creating a music career, please visit:

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