Robert Plant sounds fantastic singing Led Zeppelin's 'Stairway To Heaven' for first time in 16 years

24 October 2023, 11:45

Robert Plant recently performed Led Zeppelin's 'Stairway To Heaven' for the first time in 16 years, and he sounded fantastic.
Robert Plant recently performed Led Zeppelin's 'Stairway To Heaven' for the first time in 16 years, and he sounded fantastic. Picture: Getty

By Thomas Curtis-Horsfall

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It's one of the most fabled and fanatically adored rock songs of all time.

Led Zeppelin released 'Stairway To Heaven' in 1971 on their fourth album, Led Zeppelin IV, and it changed the entire history and landscape of rock music.

Despite not even being released as a single, the song dominated rock radio in the US - the promotional records radio stations received were almost immediately considered gold dust by collectors and fans alike.

The reputation of the 8-minute epic was enhanced by the masterful musicianship of guitarist Jimmy Page, bassist John Paul Jones, and drummer John Bonham, but also the mythological lyricism of singer Robert Plant.

It developed its own lore, and Plant spent the entirety of the following decade being probed about the true meaning of 'Stairway To Heaven'.

On one occasion when he was asked why it captured the imagination of rock music lovers around the world in such a unique way, Plant responded in a typically mystifying way, saying: "Depending on what day it is, I still interpret the song a different way - and I wrote the lyrics."

The song is widely considered to be Led Zeppelin's magnum opus, a view shared by Jimmy Page who feels it's their masterpiece.

Robert Plant on the other hand doesn't share a similar fondness, sometimes referring to it as a "wedding song" and refusing to perform it live.

That all changed recently, when the former Zeppelin singer sang 'Stairway To Heaven' for the first time in sixteen years for a very special occasion.


Performing at a charity concert arranged by Duran Duran's Andy Taylor, Plant sang the classic song in what came as a huge surprise to fans of the music legend.

The concert was raising awareness for the charity Cancer Awareness Trust, as Taylor has been battling prostate cancer since 2018.

Amongst the musicians performing together on the night were Wham!'s Andrew Ridgeley, former Pink Floyd, Roxy Music and Madonna bassist Guy Pratt, drummer David Palmer (who has toured with Rod Stewart, Sting, Bryan Adams, Tom Jones, Pet Shop Boys and more), and Ivor Novello-nominated singer Ella Henderson.

Even at the age of 75, Plant's iconic voice still has buckets of character and strength, and his performance had more of a ruminative, retrospective quality to it given he first sang the same lyrics when he was just 23 years old.

Led Zeppelin's 1985 reunion (without their late drummer John Bonham) for Live Aid was considered a disaster. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta, file)
Led Zeppelin's 1985 reunion (without their late drummer John Bonham) for Live Aid was considered a disaster. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta, file). Picture: Alamy

It marks the first time he has performed the song live in sixteen years, the last being when Led Zeppelin's surviving members reunited for a one-off concert at London's O2 Arena in tribute to Atlantic Records boss Ahmet Ertegun who had passed away.

Plant's performance at the charity concert also included other Led Zeppelin classics in 'Thank You' and 'Black Dog'.

'Stairway To Heaven' was also the final song they played at their 1985 reunion for Live Aid, a decision they'd regretted after Phil Collins sat in on drums for them.

They hated that performance so much, that they refused to let it appear on the Live Aid DVD release, and still point the finger at Collins for their disastrous return.

Led Zeppelin performing in 1973. (Photo by Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage)
Led Zeppelin performing in 1973. (Photo by Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage). Picture: Getty

It's certainly come as a surprise seeing Robert Plant performing 'Stairway To Heaven' again, after he explained he could no longer "relate" to the song in an emotional sense back in 2019.

Talking on Ultimate Classic Rock Nights radio show, he expressed his feelings about the song, and admitted: "Of course, it was a good song."

"The construction of the song, the actual musical construction is very, very good. It's one of those moments that really can stand without a vocal — and, in fact, it will stand again without a vocal, I'm sure, because it's a fine, fine piece of music."

During the interview, Plant went on to say: "Lyrically, now, I can't relate to it, because it was so long ago. I would have no intention ever to write along those abstract lines anymore."

"I look at it and I tip my hat to it, and I think there are parts of it that are incredible. The way that Jimmy [Page] took the music through, and the way that the drums reached almost climaxed and then continued... It's a very beautiful piece."

"But lyrically, now, and even vocally, I go, 'I'm not sure about that'," he continued.

Evidently, the occasion called for something special, and despite his mixed feelings about 'Stairway To Heaven', Robert Plant clearly thought the time was right.

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