I was more than a little sad when reports of Dave Brubeck’s death started to surface yesterday afternoon. It’s weird, mourning the death of someone you never met and likely never would, but Brubeck’s music was very important to my parents when they first started dating, and it was especially important to my father, who himself died a few years ago.
Dad’s record collection, which still occupies several shelves in my mom’s living room, had a generous number of Brubeck titles, and these were among the first items I snagged from the massive trove when I started collecting records myself. Jazz Impressions of New York was one, and over the years, it’s become a favorite – so much so that it was part of a core group of albums that automatically warranted hard disk space when I moved to a new iPod or iPhone, BiTM (Before iTunes Match). That’s the album I was, with bittersweet anticipation, looking forward to putting on the turntable while last night’s dinner preparations were underway.
Yesterday also happened to be the day Plan 9 opened the doors to its new location (just across the street from their old one), so I decided to stop in on my way home. While I was there, I couldn’t resist checking out their Brubeck selection, and despite the fact that I never allow myself to buy Dave Brubeck records – there are still a number of them on those shelves in my mom’s living room – I couldn’t resist the one pictured above – Jazz Impressions of Japan. Released in 1964, the album represents something of a musical diary, chronicling the pianist’s spring tour of Japan from that same year, complete with descriptions of the inspiration for each track on the back cover.
I decided to put it on first when I got home, and one track jumped out – side 1 closer “Fujiyama.” It’s a beautiful song, but there’s something really curious going on. Listen here and see if it reminds you of anything. Go ahead, I’ll wait…
Did you hear it?!? It basically is the first part of “Stairway To Heaven,” right? Does everyone already know about this? I could be late to the party here (though some cursory googling came up dry), but hearing “Fujiyama” while chopping garlic in the kitchen was like looking into the Matrix – spooky and revealing and even a little uncomfortable. “Stairway” was written in 1970, so it’s certainly plausible that the melody and chord structure of “Fujiyama” wormed its way into the back of Jimmy Page and Robert Plant’s brains in the 6 years between the two songs’ compositions. Who knows, maybe it’s a stretch. And there’s certainly a lot more to “Stairway” than that one section. But the more I think about it, the more fun I’m having with the idea that, among his many other accomplishments, Dave Brubeck could be partly responsible for one of the greatest rock songs of all time.
Check both out below and decide for yourself.
Dave Brubeck — “Fujiyama” [Spotify/iTunes]
Led Zeppelin — “Stairway To Heaven” [iTunes]
6 thoughts on “Dave Brubeck”
You have sharp ears, my friend. The descending motif in the bass is especially close to Stairway. Who knows if it was deliberate – By the fourth album, Led Zeppelin were far less dependent on using bits of other’s material than they were on the first two. But Jimmy Page is an omnivorous guy – it would not surprise me if he heard Fujiyama and filed part of it away for future use.
I noticed that as well, and didn’t find any Google results two years ago. I am glad it’s not just me ;).
You nailed it my friend!!! Absolutely no question Jimmy ripped that intro.
the question is, did Spirit rip off Brubeck?? 😉 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xd8AVbwB_6E
Oh my gosh—I was listening to “Fujiyama” on a Brubeck playlist tonight and I first thought “who is the Jazz artist covering “Stairway”? (bear in mind the playlists on streaming services mix in other artists, but you knew that). I then began to sing “Stairway” as it played” and it worked very well…hmm. Frankly, it’s uncanny as I listen to it again. They have already faced another plagiarism accusation about this song (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/music/news/led-zeppelin-wins-stairway-heaven-plagiarism-case/#:~:text=Led%20Zeppelin%20on%20Monday%20persuaded,song%20written%20four%20years%20earlier.) maybe the Estate of Brubeck should sue them both!