Robert Plant is a British rock singer and songwriter best known as the vocalist and lyricist for the band Led Zeppelin. Inspired at a young age by Elvis Presley, Plant left school to begin his musical career. He performed with a number of groups before he was discovered by Jimmy Page, who was in search of a lead singer for a new band he was forming, called the New Yardbirds. The group eventually became Led Zeppelin. Plant launched his solo career in 1982, reuniting with the band for occasional benefits.
Robert Anthony Plant was born on August 20, 1948 in Bromwich, Staffordshire, England. Robert Plant became interested in singing at a young age and found inspiration in the likes of Elvis Presley.
In 1966, Plant left school to began his musical career. He performed with a number of groups around this time, showing his talent for handling blues music. With drummer John "Bonzo" Bonham, Plant formed Band of Joy. He also recorded a few R&B singles for CBS records on his own, but they failed to attract much interest. In 1968, Plant was recruited by guitarist Jimmy Page for the New Yardbirds, and he, in turn, recommended Bonham to Page. The fourth member of the group was bassist/keyboardist John Paul Jones.
Forming Led Zeppelin
After a short tour as the New Yardbirds, the band quickly renamed themselves Led Zeppelin. They landed a spot as the opening act for the American rock group Vanilla Fudge during their U.S. tour. The band then released their first album, Led Zeppelin I in 1969, which earned mixed reviews. While critics may have disliked the group, Led Zeppelin won over fans with Plant's raw, powerful vocals and Page's masterful guitar work. They produced a sound with an engaging mix of hard rock and heavy metal, while drawing inspiration from other types of music.
Their second album, Led Zeppelin II (1969), featured "Whole Lotta Love," "Ramble On," and "Heartbreaker." "Whole Lotta Love" reached the No. 4 spot on the pop charts, and the album reached the top of the charts by year's end. Behind the scenes, Plant wrote most of the group's lyrics.
In 1970, Led Zeppelin released the more folk-influenced Led Zeppelin III, featuring the hit single, "Immigrant Song." Rock critic Lester Bangs praised the song for "its bulldozer rhythms and Bobby Plant's double-tracked wordless vocal croonings echoing behind the main vocal like some cannibal chorus wailing in the infernal light of a savage fertility rite." The group's fourth album was untitled, featuring only a set of runic symbols on its cover. Some view it as their best work, and it features the legendary "Stairway to Heaven," one of the most requested rock songs of all time. The 8-minute song drew inspiration from Celtic mythology, and its musical and lyrical complexity have helped its longevity. As Plant later explained, "If 'Stairway to Heaven' had just been about cruising around in a convertible, it wouldn't have endured in a meaningful way."
With 1973's Houses of the Holy, Led Zeppelin continued to experience great commercial success. The album went to the top of the charts and featured the hit "D'yer Mak'er." In addition to their recordings, Led Zeppelin was one of the most popular live acts at the time. Its members were infamous for their partying ways on the road. "I can remember a stream of carpenters walking into a room as we were checking out. We'd be going out one way, and they'd be going in the other way, with a sign, CLOSED FOR REMODELING, being put on the door," Plant once explained to Rolling Stone magazine.
Led Zeppelin scored again with the double album Physical Graffiti, released in 1975. It contained such hits as "Trampled Underfoot." While the band was thriving, Plant faced some personal challenges. He and his family were injured in a car accident that summer while vacationing in Greece. Plant took some time off to recover.
Their next effort, 1976's Presence, failed to live up to their earlier triumphs. That same year, the group was featured in the concert film The Song Remains the Same, which featured some great live performances. The movie has become a cult classic.
In 1977, Plant experienced a great personal loss. While he was away on tour in the United States, his 6-year-old son Karac died from a viral infection. Sudden and unexpected, Karac's death hit Plant and his family hard. He canceled the rest of the tour, and Led Zeppelin went on hiatus for a year and a half.
Returning to work in late 1978, Plant and his bandmates began recording In Through the Out Door, which proved to be their last album. They were preparing for a tour when John Bonham died at Page's house outside London in September 1980. Bonham reportedly choked to death on his own vomit after passing out from a night of heavy drinking. Mourning the loss of their friend, Plant, Page, and Jones decided in December that Led Zeppelin could not continue without Bonham.
In 1982, Plant launched his solo career with Pictures at Eleven, which fared well on the album charts. He then released The Principle of Moments (1983), known for its mellow single "Big Log." Recording with Page, guitarist Jeff Beck, and guitarist/producer Nile Rodgers, Plant sang the lead vocals for a collaborative R&B-influenced project called The Honeydrippers, Vol. 1 (1984). The group had two successful singles, the ballad "Sea of Love" and the more uptempo "Rockin' at Midnight."
Reuniting with Page and Jones, Plant revisited his Led Zeppelin days at the Live Aid benefit concert in 1985. He released another solo effort, Shaken 'n' Stirred that year, on which he experimented with hip-hop styles. In 1988, Plant pitched in for Page's solo debut, Outrider, as well as releasing Now & Zen in response to fans' ardent requests for Led Zeppelin material. He then released Manic Nirvana (1990), which received strong reviews and reached as high as the 13th spot on the album charts. He reteamed with Page and Jones in 1988 for the special concert held in honor of Atlantic Records 25th anniversary. This time, however, Jason Bonham, son of the late John Bonham, filled in on drums.
For Fate of Nations (1993), Plant explored a more folksy sound. He then reunited with Page for No Quarter: Jimmy Page and Robert Plant Unledded (1994). Together they revisited Led Zeppelin classics, reworking them with a heavy Moroccan and Arabic influence. They also recorded a few new songs for this project, which resulted in a television special and 1995 tour. That same year, Led Zeppelin was inducted into the Rock and Rock Hall of Fame.
Three years later, Plant and Page put out a new studio album Walking Into Clarksdale (1998). The recording earned rave reviews and netted the pair a Grammy Award win for Best Hard Rock Performance for "Most High." After a long hiatus, Plant returned in late 2001 with his solo album Dreamland. Two years later, he debuted Sixty Six to Timbuktu, a two-disc compilation dedicated exclusively to works from Plant's solo career, including "Tall Cool One" and "Upside Down."
Plant earned some of the best reviews of his solo career for Mighty Rearranger (2005). Incorporating African rhythms, blues, psychedelic rock, and Celtic ballads, he created "a collection of songs that sound gloriously raw, relevant and, most importantly, rocking," as one music journalist wrote. Plant saw his career reach new heights with another musical experiment, collaborating with Alison Krauss on the 2007 country-folk album Raising Sand. The recording quickly became a top seller in the United States and won five Grammy Awards, including the honors for Album of the Year and Record of the Year for "Please Read the Letter."
Reuniting with other surviving members of Led Zeppelin, Plant performed at a special benefit show for the Ahmet Ertegun Education Fund, named for the late co-founder of Atlantic Records. Tickets sold out quickly for the December 10 show, which was the first appearance by Led Zeppelin in 19 years (with Jason Bonham again filling in for his late father on drums).
After the hugely successful concert, rumors swirled about a possible Led Zeppelin reunion tour and album. Plant, however, released a statement in 2008 that he was not interested in touring for the next few years. His former bandmates publicly discussed carrying on without him, but they have yet to tour or record new material.
In July 2009, Plant received a special honor. He was named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire for his services to the field of music. Prince Charles bestowed the honor on him at a ceremony held in Buckingham Palace.
Plant has been an inspiration to many generations of singers who have followed him. He has been named one of the greatest singers of all time by Rolling Stone magazine. It seems likely that Plant will continue to amaze music fans for years to come.
Married to Maureen Wilson from 1969 to 1983, Plant has three children, daughter Carmen, and sons Logan Romero and Jesse Lee. Robert's first son, Karac, died in 1977 from a stomach infection.
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