Robert Plant was the lead singer of Led Zeppelin for twelve years (1968-1980). He created the rock god persona with his stage performance - flamboyant clothing, bare chest, long blonde hair, swooning voice, and his body movements.
Robert Anthony Plant was born to parents Robert C. Plant (a civil engineer) and Annie Cain Plant on August 20, 1948 in West Bromwich, Staffordshire, England. He grew up in Kidderminster, Worcestershire. At just a young age, Plant began to have an interest in music. He would, as he quoted, "Hide behind the curtains at home at Christmas and I used to try to be Elvis."
He left school in Stourbridge when he was a teenager, falling in love with the blues sound of Willie Dixon and Robert Johnson. He may have been interested in his stamp collections and Romano-British history, but Plant was destined to a whole different life than grammar school, where he attended King Edward VI Grammar School For Boys.
Plant attended college to gain more GCE passes and to become part of the English Midlands blue scene. Leaving home at age sixteen, Plant "started my real education musically, moving from group to group, furthering my knowledge of the blues and of other music which had weight and was worth listening to." He was influenced by Robert Johnson, Bukka White, Skip James, Jerry Miller, and Sleepy John Estes.
Plant managed to get three singles on CBS Records, singing with various bands, such as The Crawling King Snakes, where Plant would later play in the biggest rock and roll band in the world with the drummer, John Bonham. The two of them began to play in the Band of Joy, where Plant got a quick reputation of having such a voice - "young man with the powerful voice."
Forming Led Zeppelin
Plant was currently in a band called The Hobbstweddle, performing at a show at a teach training college in Birmingham, when a cool guitar player in search of a lead singer for his new band showed up. This guitar player was Jimmy Page. After hearing Plant perform, Page was amazed, as he explains: "When I auditioned him and heard him sing, I immediately thought there must be something wrong with him personality-wise or that he had to be impossible to work with, because I just could not understand why, after he told me he'd been singing for a few years already, he hadn't become a big name yet. So I had him down to my place for a little while, just to sort of check him out, and we got along great. No problems." According to Plant: "I was appearing at this college when Peter and Jimmy turned up and asked me if I'd like to join The Yardbirds. I knew The Yardbirds had done a lot of work in America – which to me meant audiences who would want to know what I might have to offer – so naturally I was very interested." The two musicians began writing collaborations together, hitting it off perfectly. Plant brought along friend John Bonham as the drummer and soon afterward John Paul Jones, who had worked with Page previously. Page had hired Jones immediately to join their band.
Early Days - The New Yardbirds
The four musicians first played together at a record store on Gerrard Street in London. They played "Train Kept A-Rollin," suggested by Page, where Jones knew they were going to be a hit as soon as he heard Bonham play the drums. The first studio track Led Zeppelin did was "Jim's Blues," a Three Week Hero album for P.J. Proby.
The band had done a Scandinavian Tour in September of 1968. Page had used every penny he had to make the tour work, Plant had recalled, and they made no money at all. They continued on to make a first album, based upon their live set. Page covered the costs himself. After the album was complete, the band was forced to change their name due to a cease and desist letter via Chris Dreja. The story behind the name Led Zeppelin was that some people in the band stated that they would all go down like a "lead balloon,
" which was a British idiom for disastrous results. And that was it. "Lead was changed to "Led," and "Balloon" was changed to "Zeppelin."
Gaining $200,000 from Atlantic Records that November, Led Zeppelin was now under a contract, having been signed without even auditioning for the record company. Their contract stated that the band would have to release albums, tour, and design the album and its contents. They would also have to promote each release and decide which tracks to release as singles. So Led Zeppelin formed their own company, Superhype, to handle all publishing rights. Jimmy Page decided to produce all of it.
With Led Zeppelin
The band announced their new name on October 14, 1968 and played their first show at the University of Surrey in Guildford on October 25. They then played a short British tour. Afterwards, Richard Cole organized their first North American Tour from December to February. They first played in Denver on the 26th followed by East Coast dates before moving to California to play in Los Angeles and San Francisco. The band completed four US and four UK tours during their first year.
Led Zeppelin I, the band's eponymous debut, was released on January 12, 1969 during the US tour and on March 31, 1969 in the UK. Even thought Plant wrote the lyrics with Page, he received no credit. The album itself was number 10 on the Billboard chart and number 6 in the UK.
Led Zeppelin II, their second album, was released on October 22, 1969 to the US and UK. In both countries the album reached number 1. On November 15, the album received a 12x Platinum by the RIAA for selling over 12 million copies. Steve Waksman has said that Led Zeppelin II was "the musical starting point for heavy metal."
Led Zeppelin III was released on October 5, 1970. Page and Plant had originally gone to a cottage in Wales called Bron-Yr-Aur to write the songs on the album. The acoustic sound was due to the influenced folk and Celtic music. Critics and fans were surprised at the turn of electric arrangements from the first two albums to the now third album. "Immigrant Song" was released in November of 1970 against the band's wishes as a single, reaching the top twenty on the Billboard chart.
By now Led Zeppelin had reached to the top and were critically a success. The band members began to change up their image to more flamboyant clothing. They began to travel in a private jet called The Starship. They would rent out entire sections of hotels. They became the subject of repeated stories of debauchery. Bonham even rode a motorcycle through a rented floor of the Riot House, or the Continental Hyatt House. They were even banned from the Tokyo Hilton for trashing a room they were staying in.
Led Zeppelin IV was released on November 8, 1971. It was a blank album cover as they band wished to be anonymous. It was called Untitled, IV, and Led Zeppelin IV to fans because of the Four Symbols on the sides. Led Zeppelin IV is one of the best-selling albums in history, selling over 23 million copies by 2006.
Houses of the Holy was released on March 28, 1973. It used more experimented sounds, such as the mellotron orchestration and synthesizers. The song "Houses of the Holy" did not appear on the album, but on Physical Graffiti, as it had been being recorded at the same time. The cover of the album was very controversial as it had nude children climbing the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland. It was even banned in some parts of the world, like the Bible Belt. The album, though, topped the charts.
At Tampa Stadium, Florida, they played to 56, 800 fans, grossing $309, 000. The film [[The Son
g Remains The Same]] was filmed at Madison Square Garden where they performed three sold out shows. The movie was delayed until 1976 though. $180, 000 of the band's money was stolen from a safe deposit box at the Drake Hotel, causing a huge problem for the band, and striking tons of news.
In 1974, Led Zeppelin took a small break and formed their own record label, Swan Song. named after their unreleased song. Their logo was based off of a drawing called Evening: Fall of Day by William Rimmer. The drawing can be found on Led Zeppelin memorabilia, especially tee shirts. Besides using Swan Song to promote their own albums, they promoted other artists such as Bad Company, The Pretty Things, and Maggie Bell. The label lasted only three years after the band disbanded.
Physical Graffiti was released on February 24, 1975, as the band's sixth studio and double album. Recording the songs were put on hold as Jones debated whether or not to leave the band. But they eventually reunited at Headley Grange to finish recording. Rolling Stone magazine referred to the album as Led Zeppelin's "bid for artistic respectability." Not to mentioned they had to compete with The Rolling Stones and The Who for "The World's Best Rock Band."
In May 1975, Led Zeppelin played five sold-out nights at the Earls Court Arena in London, at the time the largest arena in Britain. Afterwards, they took off and planned a fall tour in America. Unfortunately that August, Plant and his wife, Maureen, were involved in a car crash whole on holiday in Rhodes, Greece. Plant suffered a broken ankle. Maureen was badly injury. A blood transfusion saved her life. Plant stayed in the Channel Island of Jersey that fall to recuperate. They later reconvened in Malibu, California, where they began to write their next album.
Presence was released on March 31, 1976. Many ideas for the album came from the hiatus concerning the cancelled album due to Plant's car accident. During the recording of the album, Page had begun to use heroin, which may have affected their live shows and studio recordings, although Page denies this. The album, however, was a platinum record, but critics suggested that the band's excesses may have caught up with them.
The band did not tour because of Plant's injuries, but instead, they completed the concert film, The Song Remains The Same, and the soundtrack album. Because they had not toured since 1975, the film was not popular in the UK. Led Zeppelin was forced to face an uphill battle to recapture the public's affection.
In 1977, Led Zeppelin toured North America. They set another attendance record of an audience of 76, 229 at Pontiac Silverdome on April 30. According to the Guinness Book of Records, it was the largest attendance to date for a single act show. On April 19, over 70 people were arrested as about 1,000 fans tried to gatecrash the Cincinnati Riverfront Coliseum for two sold out concerts. Others tried to enter by throwing rocks and bottles through glass doors. On June 3, a riot broke out at the Tampa Stadium because of a severe thunderstorm causing the concert to be cut short. Arrests were made and people were seriously injured.
On July 23, Led Zeppelin held a show at the Days on the Green festival at the Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, California. Unfortunately, Bonham and members of the band's support staff were arrested after a promoter from Bill Graham's staff had been badly beaten during the band's performance. The following day's second Oakland concert was the band's final live apperance in the United States.
Two days later, on July 26, as the band checked into a French Quarter hotel, Plant received news that his five year old son, Karac Pendragon, had died from a stomach Infection. The rest of the tour was immediately cancelled. Plant retreated to his home in the Midlands, reflecting on his future, mourning the death of his son.
In Through The Out Door was released August 15, 1979, the band's eighth album, and the last album before the death of Bonham. The album reached number 1 on both US and UK sales charts. The song "All My Love" was written by Plant, inspired by the death of Karac.
On October 17, 1980, the band was scheduled for a North American Tour. On September 24, Bonham was picked up by Led Zeppelin assistant Rex King to attend rehearsals at Bray Studio. They stopped for breakfast where Bonham drank four vodkas (450ml/15 oz) with a ham roll, which he simply said to King, "Breakfast." He drank heavily at the studio and was later taken to Page's house - The Old Mill House in Clewer, Windsor. Bonham had fallen asleep after midnight and was taken to his bed, being placed on his side.
At 1:45PM the next day, Led Zeppelin's new tour manager Benji LeFevre and Jones found Bonham dead. The cause of death was asphyxiation from vomit, accidental death. The verdict was found on October 27. An autopsy found no drugs in his system. Bonham was cremated on October 10, 1980, and his ashes were buried at
Rishock parish church in Droitwich, Worcestershire.
The tour was cancelled and despite rumors that others would join the group to replace him, the remaining members - Plant, Page, and Jones - decided to disband. A December 5, 1980 press statement stated that, "We wish it to be known that the loss of our dear friend and the deep sense of undivided harmony felt by ourselves and our manager have led us to decide that we could not continue as we were," and was signed, "Led Zeppelin."
Life After Zeppelin
Page and Plant as well as some friends created a post-Led Zeppelin project called The Honeydrippers, formed in 1981. Plant focused more on R&B style rather that how he did in Led Zeppelin. They covered "Sea of Love" which peaked at number three on the Billboard charts in 1985.
Coda was released on November 18, 1982. It was a collection of outtakes and unused tracks from the band's career fro 1970-1978. One of the songs from 1976 was a drum instrumental with electronic effects added by Jimmy Page called "Bonzo's Montreux."
On July 13, 1985, Page, Plant, and Jones reunited for the Live Aid concernt at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia. Drummers Tony Thompson and Phil Collins and bassist Paul Martinez played with them. The peformance was marred by the lack of rehearsal with the two drummers. Page struggled with an out-of-tune guitar and Plant's voice was hoarse. Plant said it was an "atrocity." Page said that the whole performance was "pretty shambolic."
However, they reunited again at the Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary on May 14, 1988 with Bonham's son, Jason Bonham, who played drums. The performance was again disjointed. Plant and Page had previously argued whether or not to play "Stairway To Heaven," and Jones's keyboards on the live television feed were a complee loss. Page said the performance was, "one big disappointment." Plant had said, "the gig was foul."
Page and Plant reunited in 1994 to play for a 90 minute "Unledded: MTV project. They later released an album called ''No Quarter: Jimmy Page and Robert Plant Unledded''. It featured Led Zeppelin songs that were
reworked. They went on to do a world tour the next year, creating a rift between the three band members as Jones not even asked. All Plant could say when asked where Jones was, was that he was out "parking the car."
In 1995, Led Zeppelin was inducted into the United States Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by Steven Tyler and Joe Perry. Bonham's chuldren, Jason and Zoe, attended, representing their late father. Jones was able to joke around when he accepted the award, saying, "Thank you, my friends, for finally remembering my phone number." Plant and Page could only look awkwardly at him. They played some sets with the Aerosmith members, Jason Bonham, Neil Young, and Michael Lee.
Priory of Brion (1999–2000)
Starting in mid-1999, Plant performed until the end of 2000 at several small venues with his folk-rock band, named Priory of Brion.
Plant also sang on the tribute album for Moby Grape co-founder Skip Spence, who was terminally ill. The album title, More Oar: A Tribute to the Skip Spence Album, refered to Spence's only solo album, Oar. Plant sang "Little Hand," one of Spence's songs. Plant had been an admirer of Spence and Moby Grape since their 1967 debut album.
In 2001, Plant appeared on Afro Celt Sound System's album Volume 3: Further in Time. The song "Life Begin Again" features a duet with Welsh folksinger Julie Murphy, emphasizing Plant's recurring interest in Welsh culture (Murphy would also tour in support of Plant).
The Strange Sensation (2001–2007)
In 2002, Plant formed Strange Sensation, which lasted until 2007. He released a collection of blues and folk remakes on the album, ''Dreamland''. The second album, released in 2005, was ''Mighty ReArranger''. It contained new and original songs. Plant received four Grammy nominations for the two albums - two in 2003 and two in 2006.
The Led Zeppelin members had received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement award in 2005 and the Polar Music Prize in 2006.
Plant toured with The Strange Sensation in the US and Europe. He not only played solo material, but Led Zeppelin favorites. ''Soundstage: Robert Plant and the Strange Sensation'' was released, a DVD, featuring his Soundstage performance. It was filmed at the Soundstage Studios in Chicago on September 16, 2005, and was released in October of 2006.
On June 23, 2006, Plant headlined at the Benefit for Arthur Lee concert at Beacon Theatre in New York. The show was to raise medical expenses for his bout with leukemia. Plant had performed thirteen songs - five by Arthur Lee & Love, five Led Zeppelin songs, and three others. Plant had told the audience at the show of his great admiration for Lee from back in the mid-sixties. Lee died six weeks after the concert.
Nine Lives, a box set of Plant's solo work, was released in November 2006. It expanded all of his albums with b-sides, demos, and live cuts. A DVD was included.
In 2007, Plant contributed two tracks to the Fats Domino tribute album, Goin' Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino. The tracks were "It Keeps Ranin" and "Valley of Tears."
With Alison Krauss (2007-2008)
From 2007–2008, Plant recorded and performed with bluegrass singer Alison Krauss. They released a duet album on October 23, 2007 called ''Raising Sand''. Their song "Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On)" won a Grammy for Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals in 2008. The album won Album of the Year at the 51st Grammy Awards. It was also certified a platinum on March 4, 2008.
Plant and Krauss toured the US and Europe in April 2008 playing songs from Raising Sand and reworked Led Zeppelin numbers. The album was nominated for a Mercury Prize in July of 2008.
In 2008, Plant performed with bluegrass musicians at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festial. He even appeared as a surprise guest during Fairport Convention's set at the 2008 Cropredy Festival, where he performed "Battle of Evermore" with Kristina Donahue as a tribute to S
In October of 2008, Plant and Judy Dyble were reportedly working on a collaboration album, but nothing has materialized.
On February 8, 2008, Plant and Krauss won Grammy Awards for Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Pop Collaboration with Vocals, Country Collaboration with Vocals, and Contemporary Folk/ Americana Album.
On 8 February 2009, Plant and Krauss won Grammy Awards for Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Pop Collaboration with Vocals, Country Collaboration with Vocals, and Contemporary Folk/Americana Album.
In 2010, Plant realised a lifelong ambition by playing live at the Molineux Stadium, home of the Wolverhampton Wanderers F.C. Plant performed with the amateur cover band No Rezerve.
Band of Joy (2010)
In July on 2010, Plant began a summer tour of the US with Band of Joy, reprising his first band from the 1960's. After a September 12th show at the Bowery Ballroom in New York, the band were scheduled to do an eleven-date tour in Europe that fall, lasting from November to December. Their North American tour dates were announced that November with their first show being on January 18, 2011 in Asheville, North Carolina.
''Band of Joy'' was released on September 13, 2010.
The band played their final show together at the Big Chill Festival at Eastnor Castle Deer Park in Herefordshire on August 7, 2011. The show ended with Plant bidding his band mates "a fond farewell."
On September 30, 2011, Plant and Band of Joy played in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, as part of the 11th Hardly Strickly Bluegrass festival.