Robert Plant is 65 years old August 20th. Few other rock singers have had a higher credibility over a span of more than 40 years than him. Since Led Zeppelin started their career in 1968, Robert Plant’s voice has been synonymous for rock music.
Led Zeppelin is one of the best selling artists in rock history, with a total world-wide sale of between 200 and 300 million copies. They were active from 1968 until 1980, but they are still the benchmark for many of today’s bands. Even if the band is the sum of all the members, the voice of Robert Plant is the most distinguishing part of their sound.
After Led Zeppelin, we didn’t hear much from Robert Plant for many years. He did some mega tours with Jimmy Page, but semed more and more fed up with the big touring machine. When he wa the keynote speaker at SXSW in 2005, he stressed that when he was touring with Jimmy Page, he knew what he was going to do the next one and a half year.
He came bak in the limelight without Jimmy Page in the late 90’s with his band The Priory of Brion, consisting of Plant, Kevyn Gammond and students from Kidderminster College. The band played at the Hell Blues Festival in 1998, and I saw them there. Not the best band in the world, and Robert Plants impeccable timing was sometimes lost on the rest of the bands. He stressed that this was much fun for him, singing songs he liked without any commercial motive.
In 2001 I saw him again with a new band, with Justin Adams on guitar. They played in Bergen, and here he did one Zeppelin song, Whole Lotta Love, together with cover songs and songs inspired by Arabic music. His band was tighter, and felt more like a band than Robert Plant with backing.
The next time I saw Robert Plant, was at SXSW in 2005, where he was the keynote speaker and also held a concert. At the keynote he told the story of driving somewhere in the US, listening to public radio. One station had a request for sponsors, if you paid a yearly amount, they promised never to play Stairway To Heaven. Robert Plant called in and signed on for a yearly amount. When asked where to send the bill, he gve them the name an address of the head of their record company, Atlantic Records, Ahmet Ertegun. So, as he said, “every year around Christmas Ahmed Ertegun got a bill for a radio station which promised never to play Stairway To Heaven”.
The last time I saw Robert Plant was three years ago, at Sentrum Scene in Oslo. He had released his critically acclaimed album Raising Sand with Alison Krauss three years before. Now he was on tour with his newest album, Band of Joy, with his girlfriend, singer songwriter Patty Griffin.
I never saw Led Zeppelin live, but I have, of course heard their albums and know their songs. I have always admired his voice, and the times I have seen him live, he has impressed me with his voice control and his timing. He also has great humor, and of all the keynotes I have heard at the SXSW, his was by far the most funny.
Happy Birthday, Robert Plant!
All pictures are © Per Ole Hagen and must not be used without written permission.