|Hard rock, Blues rock, Folk rock
Robert Anthony Plant, CBE (born 20 August 1948, West Bromwich, England) as lead singer of Led Zeppelin and composer of Stairway to Heaven, is regarded as one of the most influential hard rock vocalist of all time.
By the time Plant was fifteen, his disapproving father would drive him to the Seven Stars Blues Club in Stourbridge every week, where Plant jammed with two of the bands he was in at the time Delta Blues Band, and Sounds of Blue. Some of the other various forgotten Birmingham blues combos he jammed with at night were the New Memphis Bluesbreakers, Black Snake Moan (named after a Blind Lemon Jefferson song), and the Banned. In 1965 Sonny Boy Williamson played in Birmingham and plant went backstage and borrowed one of his harps, which put him in physical contact with one of his idols. Years later he was quoted: 'I always got a shiver every time I saw Sonny Boy Williamson ... the way he would strut on stage.'
By the time he was eighteen he had graduated with A levels in English, history, and mathematics and some ability to play violin, piano, organ, and guitar. Another noted band Plant formed were, the Crawling King Snakes, (named for the John Lee Hooker boogie tune). Prior to attaining fame with that band Plant had his first vinyl release as vocalist for Listen in the shape of the 1966 CBS single 'You'd Better Run'/'Everybody's Gotta Say'. In fact, Plant stayed with the label to release two solo singles 'Our Song' and 'Long Time Coming' before uniting with drummer John Bonham to form Band of Joy. During this unsuccessful period, Plant tried different clothing and fashion styles, briefly changed his name for the press to the rebel sounding Rob3ert Lee (He was the third member of the Plant family named Robert), was involved in a publicized marijuana possession court case, and offered to perform anywhere in the cause of world peace. He joined Obs-Tweedle in 1968, before hooking up again with Bonham, with Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones, as Led Zeppelin.
Post-Led Zeppelin career
Following the untimely demise of Led Zeppelin in 1980 after Bonham's accidental death it took the singer a lengthy period to consider his options. He would break the silence with an ad hoc R&B club band billed as the Honeydrippers which, although deliberately performing low key pubs and clubs without venturing to London, did encourage fans that his absence from the public eye was over.
Plant finally re-emerged as a solo artist in 1982 touting a laid back and sophisticated debut solo album, Pictures at Eleven. Featured in the recording sessions would be Genesis drummer Phil Collins, Whitesnake drummer Cozy Powell, ex-Bronco guitarist Robbie Blunt, bassist Paul Martinez and keyboard player Jezz Woodroffe. His first live showing came at the July 1982 Prince's Trust benefit show in London with a band made up of Collins on drums, Blunt on guitar, Midge Ure on guitar and keyboards, Mick Kharn on bass performing 'Worse Than Detroit'.
The album easily broke platinum sales status in America where anticipation of Plant's return to the fore had been riding high. In his homeland Pictures at Eleven narrowly missed out on the no. 1 spot. More impromptu gigs by the Honeydrippers kept fans on their toes during the latter half of the year and news would leak that Plant had also put in a batch of gigs in Ibiza with a guesting Chris Squire of Yes. Plant's band by now included drummer Barriemore Barlow.
In June of 1983, in order to promote the about to be released The Principle of Moments album, Plant convened an all new band for an appearance on the music television show The Tube. Queen's drummer Roger Taylor would accompany Plant, Blunt, Martinez, Woodruffe and new second guitarist Bob Mayo. Heavily advertised, the show was not up to Plant's expectations and the singer refused the right to broadcast.
With The Principle of Moments going top ten on both sides of the Atlantic and the sultry tones of accompanying hit single 'Big Log' scoring massively on radio Plant undertook his inaugural American solo tour in August of 1983. The band would remain stable with the exception of Phil Collins who once more stepped in to act as drummer. Commencing in Peoria, Illinois (U.S. state) the tour pulled in legions of Led Zeppelin fans even though Plant had warned he would not be performing any Led Zeppelin material. The tour wound up in Vancouver on the 1st of October and two tracks recorded from a Dallas, Texas show, 'Pledge Pin' and 'Horizontal Departure', would be issued as the b-side to the 'In the Mood' single.
The tour would move on to the UK where ticket demand so outweighed demand a succession of extra dates had to be added to the original schedule, Plant doubling up in London, Newcastle, Manchester and Birmingham. With Phil Collins unable to commit due to the constraints of his own enormously successful solo career, erstwhile drummer Ritchie Hayward fulfilled percussion duties for these gigs. At the Hammersmith Odeon show in London Plant, much to the delight of the audience, would be joined onstage by Jimmy Page for an encore rendition of 'Treat Her Right'. By 1984 The Principle of Moments tour had reached Australia - where Elton John jammed 'Treat Her Right' onstage in Sydney and Japan, rounding off with a gig in Hong Kong on February 29.
The Honeydrippers would reconvene once more, this time with ex-Stray Cats frontman Brian Setzer on guitar, for a US television appearance for Saturday Night Live. They would perform again, albeit billed as the Skinnydippers, at a benefit concert in Monmouth; a benefit for a blinded police officer, with a band comprising of Plant, Sylvester, Martinez, Woodruffe, Ray Martinez and drummer Ritchie Hayward from Plant's solo band. He also recorded and released the Honeydrippers' album, The Honeydrippers: Volume One, which also featured Page on 'Sea of Love' and 'I Get a Thrill'. The singer's only other live outing upfront of touring for third album Shaken n' Stirred would be a jam session at Phil Collins wedding in May. Plant being backed for the occasion by Eric Clapton and Phil Collins himself.
Plant's second solo world jaunt began where his last had ended, the first show being Vancouver on 9 June 1985. Reaction to Shaken n' Stirred had been somewhat mixed as the media perceived Plant had strayed far too deep into adventurous musical territory. Nevertheless Plant's standing took the album into the charts, admittedly lower than it's predecessors, where it was buoyed by another hit single 'Little by Little'. Jimmy Page put in a customary guest appearance, alongside Brian Setzer he would guest at the East Rutherford Meadowlands show. Rather than a full blown UK tour Plant would deliver only two shows at the giant Birmingham NEC and London Wembley Arena.
March of 1986 would find Robert Plant aiding the Birmingham Children's Hospital with a giant charity fund raiser at the Birmingham NEC. Ranked alongside other famous Midlands Rockers such as Electric Light Orchestra and the Moody Blues, Plant put in a brief show before encoring with George Harrison on 'Johnny B. Goode'. A later unannounced show came in August, Plant guesting with Fairport Convention at the annual 'Cropready' Folk festival. He appeared on the Porky's, White Nights, and Wayne's World II soundtracks, and also on an album of Elvis covers.
Now and Zen
In 1987 Robert Plant would showcase a brand new musical unit in preparation for his forthcoming Now and Zen album. The group consisted of guitarists Doug Boyle and Phil Johnstone, bassist Charlie Jones and drummer Chris Blackwell. Undercover warm up dates would see the band billed as the Band of Joy and for the first time in over six years had Plant performing Led Zeppelin songs onstage such as 'In the Evening', 'Trampled Under Foot', 'Misty Mountain Hop' and even 'Whole Lotta Love'. When it arrived in stores the album too cemented the Led Zeppelin connection, Jimmy Page featuring prominently and with Plant lyrically harking back to former glories. He also contributed vocals for the song 'The Only One' on Page's Outrider. Now and Zen gave Plant's solo career the public spotlight he needed after the deflatory Shaken n' Stirred with impressive global sales. A world tour was kicked off in England with a media only invite show at the London Marquee club. For the tour proper It Bites landed the opening slot. Again Jimmy Page would guest at the London Hammersmith Odeon date.
The American leg of the tour would include a stop off at the Atlantic Records 40th anniversary show at New York's Madison Square Gardens. Plant would perform twice, firstly with his solo material and later with a full blown Led Zeppelin reunion. Dubbed the Non Stop Go tour it would live up to it's name stretching out until mid December. By comparison 1989 would provide a period of relaxation, Plant only showing his presence jamming with the Stray Cats in London and at a local Kidderminster Dr. Barnados fund raiser. The fifth solo set Manic Nirvana would find the momentum of Now and Zen being capitalised on. Initially Plant put in a set of European dates visiting Italy, Holland, Spain, Germany and Scandinavia prior to re-visiting the UK. Accompanying the band as support act would be Alannah Myles. On the 30th of June both Plant and Jimmy Page graced the Knebworth Silver Clef awards. Alannah Myles would continue the touring association for the North American shows before the Black Crowes and Faith No More took over for the second leg.
Having become disillusioned with WEA's handling of the Manic Nirvana album in 1990, Plant announced a switch of labels to Fontana/Phonogram in late 1991, although Atlantic boss Ahmet Ertegun succeeded in luring Plant back to the Atlantic roster for America. Live performances in 1992 included his inclusion at the Freddie Mercury tribute concert where Plant covered Queen's 'Innuendo' delivering a segment of 'Kashmir' for good measure. In August Plant would reacquaint himself with Fairport Convention at the 'Cropready' festival offering a rarely aired 'Babe I'm Gonna Leave You' among others.
Plant's touring line-up in support of his Fate of Nations release for 1993 included ex-Cult drummer Michael Lee and bassist Charlie Jones. On guitar would be Francis Dunnery of It Bites and former Cutting Crew guitarist Kevin Scott MacMichael. Touring on mainland Europe would find the band at major festivals. Returning to the UK the band, surreptitiously billed as Fate of Nations and the more familiar Band of Joy, played two secret gigs at the London Kings Head pub. Classical violinist Nigel Kennedy would join them for the latter show. Another round of European shows ensued, including strangely billed as support to Lenny Kravitz, before a Glastonbury Festival show preceding the Black Crowes. More festivals followed including the Danish 'Roskilde', the Swiss 'Out in the Green' and Dutch 'ParkPop' events then a Birmingham NEC show with support act Texas and a 'Cropready' appearance. For the American dates in support of the album MacMichael would be replaced by Innes Sibun. The Fate of Nations would tour, after revisiting Europe and putting in a one off hometown Wolverhampton gig would then find it's way toward South America. During this time he had a relationship with Canadian singer Alannah Myles, and appeared on Adios Amigo, a tribute album for R&B songwriter Arthur Alexander.
Plant's next move took the Rock world by surprise as he re-united with his Led Zeppelin colleague for the Jimmy Page and Robert Plant Unledded project. The duo debuted in 1994 with the Fontana issued No Quarter: Jimmy Page and Robert Plant Unledded album and video. No Quarter was recorded live in front of an invited audience and included Led Zeppelin standards such as 'Kashmir' and 'The Battle of Evermore' alongside four new songs, including Morrocan style experimental tracks. Such was the success of this venture the pair were tempted into producing a further album, Walking into Clarksdale.
Plant would announce a short string of American dates for May of 2001 with another incarnation of his live band billed as Strange Sensations. The band, which cut their teeth with two festival dates in Norway, included keyboard player John Baggot, guitarist Justin Adams and guitarist Porl Thompson.
The band would be confirmed for the resurrection of the legendary 'Isle of Wight' festival in June 2002. The advent of a new solo album would also be confirmed, Plant's first in eight years. Interestingly the singer revealed that at least three cover versions had been cut in Tim Rose's seminal 'Hey Joe', Tim Hardin's 'Morning Dew' and Tim Buckley's 'Song of the Siren'. When the record finally emerged it was found to comprise a collection of interpretive renditions.
Following the release of Dreamland Plant engaged himself in promotion for the esteemed American car manufacturer Cadillac, being photographed for advertising spreads by none other than the highly successful Canadian Rocker Bryan Adams. Cadillac's partnership with Plant was an extension of an ongoing commercial makeover that had commenced with the brand utilising Led Zeppelin's 'Rock and Roll' as a theme track. On the opposite end of the scale, and in keeping with his enduring fascination with ethnic music, Plant and his band appeared at the remote and extraordinary 'Le Festival au Désert' event in the Sahara desert. This show would be captured on film and audio for subsequent release.
The Dreamland album's North American release came on 16 July. A US tour then commenced four days later at the 'Rock Fest' in Cadott, Wisconsin, before Plant's band appeared on 26 July at the Tweeter Center in Mansfield, Massachusetts, for a month long run of opening dates. News also emerged that Plant had formed an unlikely studio alliance with Primal Scream, contributing harmonica on the track 'The Lord Is My Shotgun' off their album Evil Heat.
The singer returned in 2003 with a new Atlantic compilation entitled Sixty Six to Timbuktu, this collection comprising solo hits, unreleased songs and pre-Led Zeppelin tracks. Included would be a 1988 track, 'Red for Danger', recorded with Midlands guitarist Robin George and a live song 'Win My Train Fare Home', captured live at the Timbuktu festival.
In March of 2004 the singer put in an impromptu guest appearance at a Vanilla Fudge gig at the local Stourbridge Rock Café 2000. Plant joined the Lizards, featuring drummer Bobby Rondinelli of Black Sabbath fame, and Vanilla Fudge during an encore of Cactus' 'Parchment Farm' featuring both bands onstage together. Robert Plant would, alongside Jeff Beck, act as a featured guest on the song 'Look Out Mabel' for the Big Town Playboys album 'Roll the Dice' in October.
The singer would be back in the public eye during 2005, promoting new album Mighty Rearranger, recorded with the group Strange Sensation, promoted by US shows in March. The singer's new band comprised guitarist Justin Adams, drummer Clive Deamer, pianist John Baggott, Skin Tyson, and bassist Billy Fuller.
Plant also addressed the SXSW Convention in Austin, Texas on 17th March with a keynote speech. A live show to coincide saw the inclusion of no less than six Led Zeppelin numbers included in the set, comprising 'No Quarter', 'Heartbreaker', 'Black Dog', 'When the Levee Breaks', 'Babe I'm Gonna Leave You' and 'Whole Lotta Love'. In July a limited edition EP, Robert Plant and the Strange Sensation Live in Paris, was made available through the singer's official website, featuring four live tracks including Led Zeppelin's 'When the Levee Breaks'. All proceeds from this release were donated to Turtle Will, an organization helping indigenous peoples in the African nations of Ethiopia, Mali, and Niger. In September Plant revealed he had donated vocals to 'Ever Fallen In Love', as a tribute to the late Radio 1 DJ John Peel. Proceeds from the single went to Amnesty International.
On October 5, Robert Plant jammed on both cover tunes and Led Zeppelin material with Pearl Jam during a benefit for Hurricane Katrina relief at the House of Blues in Chicago. Plant and members of his band joined Pearl Jam onstage during the latter group's second encore for a version of Led Zeppelin's 'Going to California'. Plant then duetted with Pearl Jam vocalist Eddie Vedder on 'Thank You' and 'Fool in the Rain', a song which Plant and Led Zeppelin had never performed live. Other songs performed by the pairing included Elvis Presley's 'Little Sister', 1960s hit 'Money (That's What I Want)', before closing the show with Neil Young's 'Rockin' in the Free World', which featured Plant playing guitar. Tickets for the show were US$1,000, with proceeds going to the American Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity and the Jazz Foundation of America.
October 2006 found Plant in Nashville, Tennessee, working on a series of duets with Country and Bluegrass star Alison Krauss. The sessions were later released as Raising Sand which proved a surprise commercial success. The singer, with his latest band incarnation dubbed Return of the Honeydrippers, performed a one off show at his local Kidderminster Town Hall on 23 December as a benefit for his friend Jackie Jennings in order to raise funds to treat a brain tumour.
Plant, billed as the Honeydrippers performed at Dudley JB's on 15 February 2007 to celebrate Plant sound engineer Roy Williams' 60th birthday. Jeff Beck put in a surprise showing for three songs, before Plant embarked on an American tour to promote Raising Sand with Alison Krauss. On 10 December 2007, Plant joined Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, and Jason Bonham as Led Zeppelin for a concert in honour of Ahmet Ertegun, fuelling rumours of a full blown Led Zeppelin reunion. Plant received a CBE on the Queen Elizabeth II's 2009 New Year Honours list, 30 December 2008. Plant and Krauss, won all five Grammys they were nominated for at the 51st annual Grammy Awards on 7 February 2009: country collaboration with vocals, contemporary folk/Americana album, pop collaboration with vocals, record of the year for 'Please Read the Letter', and album of the year for Raising Sand.
Personal life and family
Plant was married to Maureen F. Plant (née Wilson, born 1948) from 1968 until 1983, after which they remained on civil terms. They have two children together, Carmen (born 1968) and Logan (born 1979). A middle child (Karac, born 1972) died at age six of a stomach virus while Plant was away on tour. The song All My Love, co-written by Robert Plant and John Paul Jones, is a tribute to Karac. Maureen Wilson first met Plant at a concert in 1966 that was cancelled at the last minute. Robert Plant later acknowledged that Maureen had helped him survive early in his career when he was financially strapped; he even briefly working for her father in a steel factory. Maureen Plant traveled only once with the band, on their 1969 US spring tour, after which she stayed at the Plant's family farm with their children. Robert wrote the song 'Thank You' as a tribute to Maureen. Robert was present at the birth of both Carmen and Karac.
Maureen Plant appeared uncredited on the family property in Wales in the 1976 film The Song Remains the Same. Maureen is a qualified nurse.
Maureen was the driver in a hired Austin Mini, with Robert in the passenger seat and Carmen in the back, that skidded off the road and collided with a tree in a ravine on the Greek island of Rhodes on 4 August 1975. Thrown against the steering wheel, Maureen suffered life-threatening injuries and lost a large amount of blood. Charlotte Martin and Maureen's sister Shirley Wilson, who were following in the car, behind managed to get medical help, but there was concern the local facilities were inadequate and they were brought back to Great Britain to recover. Robert wrote the song 'Tea for One', about his feelings for her on tours away from home.
In 1991, Robert had a son (Jesse) with Shirley Wilson, Maureen's sister.
- (13 July 2009) "Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant Accepts CBE". Uncut. ISSN 1368-0722. Retrieved on 14 July 2013.
- Woollard, Rob (9 February 2009). "Robert Plant & Alison Krauss win Grammy for Album of the Year". New Musical Express: 16. ISSN 0028-6362. Retrieved on 14 July 2013.
- The 40 Greatest Led Zeppelin Songs of All Time. Rolling Stone (7 November 2012).
- Welch, Chris (2009). Led Zeppelin: The Stories Behind Every Led Zeppelin Song, Revised. London: Carlton Books, 40. ISBN 978-1-84732-286-9. OCLC 317254118.
- Shadwick, Keith (2005). “Unforseen Circumstances”, Led Zeppelin: The Story of a Band and Their Music: 1968-1980. San Francisco: Backbeat Books, 243. ISBN 978-0-87930-871-1. OCLC 224513955.
- Lewis, Dave (2003). “In the Presence of Pure Rock 'n' Roll”, Led Zeppelin: The 'Tight but Loose' Files: Celebration II. London: Omnibus Press, 39. ISBN 978-1844-49056-1. OCLC 66737707.
- Welch, Chris (2009). Led Zeppelin: The Stories Behind Every Led Zeppelin Song, Revised. London: Carlton Books, 125. ISBN 978-1-84732-286-9. OCLC 317254118.
- Robert Plant: 'I feel so far away from heavy rock', The Independent, 23 October 2011.