Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant’s voice has been one of the most powerful and distinctive sounds in popular music over the past half-century. While countless singers have been influenced by his trademark howl—from Freddie Mercury to Axl Rose—one could easily argue that the voice of Robert Plant is among the most unique and recognizable in the history of rock and roll.
While many music fans know that Zeppelin evolved out of The Yardbirds, a group that, at times, featured such notable names as Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page, it was not until Page was blown away watching Plant sing Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody To Love” in Birmingham, England (at the suggestion of Page’s first-choice vocalist Terry Reid) that the Led Zeppelin we know today began to come together in earnest.
As Page explained in a 1977 interview with the Trouser Press, “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.”
The two, however, bonded over their passion for American blues music, began a songwriting and performing partnership that would last for years to come. Plant brought on his friend John Bonham on the drums while Page looped in John Paul Jones who he’d known from his days as a session studio musician, and the band was off and running—first as the New Yardbirds and, eventually as Led Zeppelin–blazing a new, heavier trail for rock and roll.
Over the years, many of Page’s initial inclinations about Plant having a big, boisterous personality proved to be true—he cultivated an on-stage persona of bravado that, coupled with his distinctive vocals and chest-bearing sex appeal, made him the focal point of Zeppelin’s live shows and boosted their rapidly growing appeal in the early 70s. While it also frequently caused tensions to erupt within the band, Plant’s swagger became a calling card for Led Zeppelin, and is undoubtedly a significant aspect of the enduring legacy of the band’s live performances.
Watch Plant strut his stuff in this rousing rendition of “Whole Lotta Love” (Led Zeppelin II) live at Madison Square Garden in 1973:
Led Zeppelin – “Whole Lotta Love” – Madison Square Garden – 1973
[Video: Led Zeppelin]
Other than a handful of anniversaries and ill-fated reunion shows over the years–their latest being their acclaimed Celebration Day performance in December 2007–Led Zeppelin was finished after Bonham’s death in 1980, but Robert Plant has continued to lend his one-of-a-kind vocals to various solo projects and new bands since then, including a stint with Page as Page and Plant, Strange Sensation, and, most recently The Sensational Space Shifters, who have toured consistently since 2012.
Fans can watch the band’s full performance at the Brooklyn Academy of Music from 9/28/14 below courtesy of NPR:
Robert Plant and The Sensational Space Shifters – BAM – 9/28/14
Wishing very happy birthday to one of the most sensational vocalists of all time, Mr. Robert Plant!
[Originally published 8/20/17]