One of the reasons Jimmy Page liked the name “Led Zeppelin” was that it suggested music that was both light and heavy. Jimmy Page’s vision for the group was to mix heavy, blues-based rock with acoustic, folk-influenced music. In their initial meeting, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant played a number of songs to introduce their musical tastes to each other. One of the songs Jimmy Page chose was an acoustic folk song Joan Baez had performed called “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You”. Jimmy Page knew from the start that he wanted to rework this song in a style that would become characteristic of Led Zeppelin, contrasting heavy rock with the lighter acoustic sections. “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You” was included on Led Zeppelin I with the songwriting credits “Traditional, arr. Page”. On recent reissues, however, this song is now also credited to Anne Bredon. What happened?
It’s no secret Led Zeppelin borrowed from blues and folk musicians in what it said was part of an organic tradition that created new, original works. Songwriters from whom Led Zeppelin drew inspiration, or more, have brought legal challenges for decades, often successfully. Since its 1969 debut album, the band had to alter the credits and redirect portions of the royalties for some of its biggest songs
Among those cases is then 53-years-old Anne Bredon who stepped forward In the mid-’80s, claiming she wrote the original “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You”. By the way, she was not a fan of hard rock.
Anne Bredon wrote Babe around 1960 as a student at the University of California at Berkeley. Anne Bredon is the daughter of physicist Leonard Benedict Loeb and granddaughter of physiologist Jacques Loeb. She majored in art at Humboldt State University and completed her master's degree in mathematics at Berkeley, California. Also, she was known as a folk singer. Some time around 1960, while attending Berkeley, she appeared on a live folk-music radio show, The Midnight Special, on radio station KPFA singing "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You".
Janet Smith, another folk singer, became interested in learning the songs the she sang, particularly “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You”. Janet Smith assumed that this song was a traditional folk song, but she was surprised to learn that Anne Bredon had written the song herself. Upon learning the authorship of “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You”, Janet Smith had Anne Bredon sing the song to her and she jotted down the words and the chords to the song. Janet Smith then developed her own version of the song, which she sang at hootenanny folk-singing events at Oberlin College and popularized it there.
In 1962, Joan Baez came through the Ohio campus where she attended a performance, heard Janet Smith singing Babe and requested to send her a tape recording of her songs, including "Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You", added it to her repertoire and subsequently began performing herself. It was included it on the live album Joan Baez in Concert, Part 1 (1963) credited as "Traditional, arr. Baez". After Smith contacted Bredon, who confirmed her authorship, later in 1964 it was included in Joan Baez songbook properly credited to Anne Bredon and also further pressings of ...In Concert gave the writing credit to Bredon
Jimmy Page must have assumed it was a folk song and In 1969, Led Zeppelin’s first album included a version of the song based on the Baez recording, listed as “Trad. arr. Jimmy Page.” Anne Bredon in the meantime, had no idea that her song was in the pantheon of classic rock.
In 1981, Bredon’s old college friend, Smith, was strumming the tune at home when her 12-year-old son popped into the room. “Gee, Mom, I didn’t know you did Led Zeppelin songs,” he said, according to Smith. It wasn’t until the mid-1980s that Smith happened to look at a copy of the debut Led Zeppelin album in a Tower Records store and realized her friend hadn’t gotten credit. She contacted Bredon with a proposal to hire a lawyer, and the two agreed to split any money they could recover.
To resolve the dispute, Led Zeppelin’s publisher made an offer: Because the band had made the song famous, the authorship of the Zeppelin version should be split 50-50, with half going to Bredon and the other half to Page and Plant. ”. Once she stepped forward the songwriting credits were changed without legal action and since then, future editions of the song would be credited, “Words and music by Anne Bredon, Jimmy Page, and Robert Plant.” Bredon, got what she says was a small amount for back royalties and has collected royalty checks regularly since.