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Led Zeppelin vs. Pearl Jam – Song Parallels

Led Zeppelin Pearl Jam
Rick Diamond / Gareth Cattermole, Getty Images

As one of the most classic rock-friendly bands to spring from the grunge revolution, Pearl Jam have always been clearly indebted to Led Zeppelin — but that inspiration soared to painfully obvious new heights with ‘Given to Fly,’ a single from Pearl Jam’s 1998 album ‘Yield.’

A Top 40 hit on the Billboard charts, ‘Given to Fly’ also topped the Mainstream Rock tally and broke the Top 5 at Modern Rock — but to rock fans with long memories, the song bore a strong resemblance to ‘Going to California,’ one of the more enduring cuts from 1971′s ‘Led Zeppelin IV.’ It’s hard not to notice the songs’ shared DNA; the gently cascading chord progression and vocal melody of ‘California’ is echoed from the opening moments of ‘Fly.’

The similarities between the songs were pointed out early and often — in his review of the song, Entertainment Weekly‘s Tom Lanham said ‘Given to Fly’ “blatantly nicks the entire melody line” from ‘Going to California,’ saying the only difference between the two is “a clickety-clack martinet drumbeat and Eddie Vedder’s gargling garble.”

Murray Engleheart of Massive! Magazine raised the subject during a 1998 interview with Pearl Jam guitarist and ‘Fly’ composer Mike McCready, who readily copped to his song’s obvious inspiration. “It’s probably some sort of ripoff of it, I’m sure,” McCready admitted. “Whether it’s conscious or unconscious, but that was definitely one of the songs I was listening to for sure. Zeppelin was definitely an influence on that.”

Led Zeppelin’s surviving members haven’t made any comment — at least not directly. But when Zep singer Robert Plant appeared as a special guest with Pearl Jam for a 2005 benefit concert, the two bands made what would seem to be the definitive statement on the matter, performing ‘Given to Fly’ and ‘Going to California’ as a medley.

Listen to Led Zeppelin, ‘Going to California’

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Listen to Pearl Jam, ‘Given to Fly’

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Next: Pixies vs. Weezer

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