Artist Profiles: Robert Plant

Robert Plant – Photo Credit by Pamela Springsteen

Robert Anthony Plant was born August 2, 1948 in West Bromwich, West Midlands, England. He is a rock singer most famous for being the lead singer of one of the most influential rock bands of all time. Led Zeppelin. Robert is known for his powerful style, with a wide vocal range that embodies folk and blues passion at its finest. The British musician has a great appreciation for world music, especially African music.

In 1966 Plant became a professionalmusician. By 1967 he hformed the Band of Joy with John Bonham and created two fundamental working partnerships. The first such partnership was with Terry Reid – the two became friends playing on the progressive music circuit of the mid-1960s; the second was with bandleader Alexis Korner with whom Plant worked as harmonica player and co-vocalist in various Korner ventures many of which featured pianist Steve Miller and were featured as the opening act for the band Free.

In early 1968, Plant’s psychedelic dream ended. Bonham left the Band of Joy to tour with Tim Rose while Plant continued to work with Korner. Plant’s friend, Terry Reid recommended Plant to Jimmy Page for a revised Yardbirds line-up, declining the gig himself to pursue what looked to be a promising solo career. Plant in turn recommended Bonham and with Page’s fellow session musician John Paul Jones on bass, what began life as ‘The New Yardbirds” became the creative force known as Led Zeppelin.

Plant was influenced by J.R.R. Tolkien, which inspired some lyrics on early Led Zeppelin albums. The passion for diverse musical experiences drove Plant and Page to explore the African continent, specifically Morocco which they both revisited during their reunion album No Quarter in 1994. From blues to folk to African tribal music, Plant enjoyed diverse influences.
Led Zeppelin’s greatest success came with “Stairway to Heaven,” an epic fantasy song that draws influence from folk, blues, Celtic, traditional music and hard rock among other genres. While never released as a single, the song has topped charts as one of the greatest songs of all time on various polls around the world.

Plant enjoyed great success with the band throughout the 1970s but it ended abruptly when Plant and his wife Maureen were seriously injured in a car crash in Rhodes, Greece on August 4, 1975. This halted production of Led Zeppelin’s album Presence for a few months while he recovered. Things also took a turn for the worse in 1977, when his oldest son Karac died of a stomach infection. Karac’s death later inspired him to write the Led Zeppelin song “All My Love” in tribute.

Bonham’s unfortunate death in 1980 brought the Led Zeppelin era to a close. Following the band’s breakup”, Plant pursued a successful solo career. Plant formed a short-lived all-star group, The Honeydrippers, that had a Top Ten hit with a remake of “Sea Of Love”.

Plant and Jimmy Page renewed their long-time partnership in 1995 for four years in the No Quarter project, a mix of North African, Egyptian, and folk roots sounds.

Plant’s wide-ranging enthusiasm for non-Western musics, including the music of Morocco, met with his lifelong fascination with American West Coast psychedelic rock to form a new fusion of styles and colors known as Strange Sensation. Their first album Dreamland received great critical acclaim and two Grammy nominations in January 2003.

Plant recorded with Afro Celt Sound System and along with Skin and Justin Adams traveled to north of Timbuktu in Mali to participate in the 2nd Festival of the Desert, a gathering of African, Saharan and assorted musicians that included Oumou Sangare, Ali Farka Toure, Tinariwen and Tartit. This project ultimately became a CD compilation Festival in the Desert on the Harmonia Mundi label.

In 2003, Plant released the retrospective Sixty Six to Timbuktu that included a selection of Plant’s solo work from his first recording date to his appearance in Mali.

In October of 2004, Plant revived his long-dormant Es Paranza label for its first release in many years. May of 2005 saw the release of Plant and the Strange Sensation’s album Mighty Rearranger that featured twelve new original songs. A major year-long tour followed. At the close of 2005, the critically acclaimed Mighty Rearranger received two Grammy nominations in vocal categories.

In 2006, Robert and the band embark on a new adventure with a series of dates across Europe and beyond. A stopover in Sweden in late May saw Robert, along with the other members of Led Zeppelin receive the prestigious Polar Music Prize. King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden presented the award to Led Zeppelin in the presence of other dignitaries with the following words: ‘The 2006 Polar Music Prize is awarded to the British group Led Zeppelin, one of the great pioneers of rock. Their playful and experimental music combined with highly eclectic elements has two essential themes: mysticism and primal energy.”

In October of 2006 Rounder/Zoe Vision released Plant and the Strange Sensation DVD, a ten-camera High Definition shoot for USA Soundstage productions. This was the first commercial DVD in Robert’s career. This continued the critical recognition of the work of Plant and the Strange Sensation.

2006 closed with the worldwide release of Nine Lives (Rhino), a beautifully designed boxed set containing all of Plant’s solo work since 1980, accompanied by outtakes live cuts and a DVD with contributions from Tori Amos, Phil Collins, Roger Daltrey, Bobby Gillespie and Lenny Kravitz among others.

In 2007, Robert worked on album number three with Strange Sensation.

Raising Sand, a project and partnership with Grammy Award winning bluegrass artist Alison Krauss was released in October 2007 on Rounder Records. Produced by T-Bone Burnett, Raising Sand includes blues, country and folk-rock.

Discography:

Pictures at Eleven (Swan Song Records, 1982)
The Principle of Moments (Es Paranza Records, 1983)
Shaken ‘n’ Stirred (Es Paranza Records, 1985)
Now and Zen (Es Paranza Records, 1988)
Manic Nirvana (Es Paranza Records, 1990)
Fate of Nations (Es Paranza Records, 1993)
Dreamland (Mercury Records, 2002)
Mighty ReArranger (Sanctuary Records, 2005)
Raising Sand, with Alison Krauss (Rounder Records, 2007)
Band of Joy (Rounder Records, 2010)
Lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar (Nonesuch Records, 2014)
Carry Fire (Nonesuch Records, 2017)

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music and progressive music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music and electronic music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World, Lektronic Soundscapes, and Mindchild Records. Angel is currently based in Durham, North Carolina.

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