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“Bali Ha’i” and “The Immigrant Song”

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The musical “appropriating” habits of Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page are no big secret. And although pop music depends on and celebrates such practice, the apparent unwillingness of Page and co. to consistently give credit where it was due casts a bit of a pall over their safely monolithic legacy. A Perfect Sound Forever article called “The Thieving Magpies” catalogs the most egregious examples.

The article doesn’t mention the case of “The Immigrant Song,” though, which finds the band turning to “Bali Ha’i” from the Rodgers and Hammerstein South Pacific soundtrack for that exotic, iconic opening caterwaul.  Or, depending on the actual release date of the self-titled debut album by Lucifer’s Friend, Led Zeppelin perhaps nicked that group’s use of “Bali Ha’i” for their album-opener, “Ride in the Sky.”  The Lucifer’s Friend album came out sometime in 1970 on the Vertigo label, and it’s a release LZ would surely have been hip to.  “The Immigrant Song” showed up on Led Zeppelin III in October 1970…

None of this is in the category of “egregious,” but it’s amusing to think about.  That fun club called Abba, after all, paid tribute to the whole lot of ’em in 1975.

Update: This write-up of mysterious origin says the following:  “The self-titled Lucifer’s Friend 1970 debut album, released by Vertigo Records in Europe and Billingsgate Records in the USA, sparked controversy through the track ‘Ride The Sky’, as critics voiced concern that the song was too close to Led Zeppelin’s ‘Immigrant Song’ for comfort. However, these assertions were quashed when it was revealed [that] ‘Ride The Sky’ had been composed much earlier.” Again, the LF album’s actual release date is important here if anyone can actually find it…

Clips:
South Pacific soundtrack – “Bali Ha’i” (1949)
Led Zeppelin – “The Immigrant Song” (1970)
Lucifer’s Friend – “Ride in the Sky” (1970)
Abba – “So Long” (1975)

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Another Update: I’ve realized that Rodgers and Hammerstein may well have borrowed from Harold Arlen.

2 Responses to ““Bali Ha’i” and “The Immigrant Song””

  1. randy lewis Says:

    amazing comparisons on led zep’s borrowings… very nicely done.

  2. Boneyard Media » Blog Archive » Borrowed Tunes: Bali Ha’i edition pt. 2 Says:

    […] while back I posted some thoughts on the influence of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Bali Ha’i” (from South […]

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