Robert Plant
* August 20, 1948
United Kingdom
Solo Artist
Robert Anthony "Rob" Plant (born August 20, 1948, West Bromwich, West Midlands) is an English rock singer, most famous for his membership in the rock band Led Zeppelin, but also for his successful solo career. He is known for his powerful style, often mysterious lyrics, and wide vocal range. As the lead singer of Led Zeppelin he is often defined as the quintessential rock front man combining rare musical adeptness and knowledge with a large measure of braggadocio and stage bravado. As a solo artist following the Led Zeppelin era, he is often credited for his wide range of musical taste and his ability to perform an eclectic range of songs in a refined and critically acclaimed manner.

Although born in West Bromwich, Plant actually grew up in Halesowen, formerly Worcestershire, now part of the Metropolitan Borough of Dudley. He is a big supporter of the football team Wolverhampton Wanderers and regularly attends home games at the Molineux stadium. He left school in his early teens and developed a strong passion for the blues, abandoning a promising career as a chartered accountant to become part of the Midlands blues scene. Plant did various jobs whilst pursuing his music career, one of which was working for Wimpey's in Birmingham in 1966 tarmacing roads. He cut no less than three obscure singles on CBS records [1]. He sang with a variety of bands including The Crawling King Snakes, which brought him into contact with drummer John Bonham. They both went on to play in the Band of Joy, merging blues with newer psychedelic trends. Though his early career met with no commercial success, word quickly spread about the "young guy with the powerful voice".

In 1968, guitarist Jimmy Page was in search of a lead singer for his new band and met Plant after being turned down by his first choice, Terry Reid, who referred him to a show at a nightclub where Plant was singing in a band. Plant and Page immediately hit it off with a shared musical passion and after Plant joined the band, they began their powerful writing collaboration with reworkings of earlier blues songs. Plant brought along John Bonham as drummer, and along with John Paul Jones, who had worked with Jimmy Page as a studio musician, Led Zeppelin was formed in 1968. Their self-titled debut album hit the charts in 1969 and is widely credited as a catalyst for the heavy metal genre. Ironically, Plant has commented that he doesn't like people to think of Zeppelin as "heavy metal," since about a third of their music was acoustic.[2]

Robert Plant's voice and singing technique were very unusual compared to other rock lead singers of the era such as John Lennon, Mick Jagger and others, and these traits helped to define the unique sound of Led Zeppelin and ultimately the heavy metal vocal style. Plant is an alto and his powerful, high-pitched, wailing vocals are famously showcased in many Led Zeppelin songs such as "Communication Breakdown", "Dazed and Confused", and "Whole Lotta Love". His singing method is characterized by a slightly higher than average male voice and an aggressive, rough timbre. His performance in the 1968 hit "Communication Breakdown" is particularly intense and is often cited as one of the first examples of the modern punk vocal style. Plant's more relaxed and tender verses are often followed by an explosive chorus, such as in the songs "Thank You", "Ramble On", and "Stairway to Heaven", which helped to establish and popularize the rock ballad format. Plant became one of the most, if not the most significant rock singer of the 1970s, influencing the style of many of his contemporaries like Bon Scott and Steven Tyler, and later rock vocalists such as Axl Rose, Brian Johnson, Justin Hawkins and Chris Robinson.

Plant's lyrics are often mystical, philosophical, and spiritual, alluding to events in classical and Norse mythology, such as in the song "No Quarter" which refers to the god Thor, and the "Immigrant Song", which refers to Valhalla and Viking conquests. Another example is "The Rain Song", which contains allusions to various pagan rituals. Lyrics like these led to the popularization of associating Led Zeppelin and their particular brand of rock and roll with pagan mythology (i.e. 'rock gods', 'guitar gods', or 'hammer of the gods').

Plant was also influenced by J. R. R. Tolkien, inspired some lyrics on early Led Zeppelin albums. Most notably the "Battle of Evermore", "Misty Mountain Hop" and "Ramble On" all contain verses referencing Tolkien's the The Lord of the Rings. Conversely, Plant sometimes used more straightforward blues-based lyrics dealing primarily with sex, drugs and violence, as in the songs "Dazed and Confused", "The Lemon Song", "Trampled Underfoot", and "Black Dog".

The passion for diverse musical experiences drove Plant to explore Africa, specifically Morocco, which most evidently culminated in the classic track, "Kashmir." Both he and Jimmy Page revisited these influences during their reunion album No Quarter: Jimmy Page and Robert Plant Unledded in 1994. In his solo career, Plant again tapped from these influences many times, most notably in the 2002 album, Dreamland.

Undoubtedly one of Plant's most significant and influential achievements with Led Zeppelin was his contribution to the track, "Stairway to Heaven", an epic fantasy rock ballad featured on Led Zeppelin IV that drew influence from folk, blues, Celtic traditional music and hard rock among other genres. Most of the lyrics of the song were written spontaneously by Plant in 1970 at Headley Grange. While never released as a single, the song has topped charts as the greatest song of all time on various polls around the world.

Plant is also recognised for his lyrical improvisation in Led Zeppelin's live performances, often singing verses previously unheard on studio recordings. One of the most famous Led Zeppelin musical devices involves Plant's vocal mimicking of bandmate Jimmy Page's guitar effects. This can be heard in the songs "How Many More Times", "Dazed and Confused", "You Shook Me", and "Sick Again". He's also known for his on stage banter, often referred to as "plantations."

Robert Plant in 1979Plant enjoyed great success with Led Zeppelin throughout the 1970s and developed a compelling image as the charismatic rock-and-roll front man much like the late Jim Morrison of The Doors. With his mane of long blond hair and powerful, bare-chested appearance, Plant helped perhaps more than any other artist to create the archetype of the 'rock god'. On stage, Plant was particularly active in live performances, often dancing, jumping, snapping his fingers, clapping, making emphatic gestures to emphasize a lyric or cymbal crash, throwing back his head, or placing his hands on his hips. As the decade progressed he, along with the other members of Led Zeppelin, became increasingly flamboyant onstage and wore more elaborate, colourful clothing and jewelry. In 1975, he was reported to have exclaimed the phrase "I am the Golden God!" from the balcony of the Continental Hyatt House in Los Angeles, California (reference to which was later made in Cameron Crowe's film, Almost Famous).

Plant's time with Led Zeppelin was not without its problems, however. In 1975, he and his wife Maureen were seriously injured in a car crash in Rhodes, Greece. This significantly impacted the production of Led Zeppelin's seventh album Presence for a few months while he recovered, and forced the band to cancel the remaining tour dates for the year. Things took an even greater turn for the worse in 1977 when his oldest son Karac died of a stomach infection when Plant was engaged on Led Zeppelin's concert tour of the United States. Karac's death later inspired him to write the song "All My Love" in tribute, featured on Led Zeppelin's final studio LP, 1979's In Through the Out Door.

After the breakup of Led Zeppelin in 1980 following the sudden death of drummer John Bonham, Plant pursued a successful solo career beginning with his first solo album, Pictures at Eleven in 1982. Popular tracks from this period include "Big Log" (a Top 20 hit in 1983), "In the Mood (1984), "Little by Little" (1985), "Tall Cool One" (a #25 hit in 1988) and "I Believe" (1993), another song written for and dedicated to his late son, Karac. In 1984, Plant formed a short-lived all-star group with Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck called The Honeydrippers, who had a #3 hit with a remake of the Phil Phillips' tune, "Sea of Love", along with a lesser hit with "Rockin' at Midnight." Plant avoided performing Led Zeppelin songs through much of this period.

On rare occasion, Plant performed with both surviving members of Led Zeppelin: In 1985 for Live Aid (with Phil Collins on drums), 1988 for Atlantic Records 40th anniversary, and in 1995 when the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the last two with Bonham's son Jason filling in on drums. Additionally, Plant, Jones, and Page attended—and later performed at Jason's wedding in 1990.

Through the 1980s and 1990s, Plant co-wrote three solo albums with keyboardist/songwriter Phil Johnstone. Now and Zen, Manic Nirvana, and Fate of Nations, all graced the Plant/Johnstone partnership. It was Johnstone who talked Plant into playing Zeppelin songs in his live shows, something Plant had resisted, not wanting to be forever known as "the former Led Zeppelin vocalist." Plant first collaborated with Jimmy Page post-Zeppelin in the studio on the 1988 Page solo effort, Outrider. He later collaborated with Page on the 1998 album, Walking into Clarksdale, which features all original material from the pair.

In 2002, with his then newly-formed band Strange Sensation, Plant released a widely acclaimed collection of mostly blues and folk remakes, Dreamland. Contrasting with this lush collection of often relatively obscure remakes, the second album with Strange Sensation Mighty ReArranger (2005), contains new, original songs. Both have received some of the most favorable reviews of Plant's solo career and four Grammy nominations, two in 2003 and two in 2006.

As a former member of Led Zeppelin, along with Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones, Plant received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005 and the Polar Music Prize in 2006. Plant still actively tours, the most recent taking place in US and Europe during 2005/2006 with Strange Sensation. His sets typically include recent, but not only, solo material and plenty of Led Zeppelin favorites, often with new and expanded arrangements. A DVD, titled "Robert Plant and the Strange Sensation", featuring his Soundstage performance (filmed at the Soundstage Studios in Chicago on September 16, 2005), was released in October 2006. An expansive box set of his solo work, Nine Lives, was released in November 2006.

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