Led Zeppelin is the greatest band in the history of rock and roll. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, U2, Nirvana, The Ramones, Fleetwood Mac, The Who… these are just some of the groups whose glory wilts before the herculean power and divine energy of Zeppelin. Of the few concrete opinions I’d be willing to stake my entire critical career upon, this is the firmest. In just 12 years, and across eight albums, Zeppelin perfected the very formula of rock itself, blowing it out to its sonic limits through heavy guitar riffage, monstrous drum patterns, inventive bass-lines, and the signature banshee wail of their golden-throated vocalist.
At the forefront of that almighty group of course is Robert Plant, a shaggy-haired idol who just so happens to be the greatest singer in the history of rock and roll. Between glass-shattering screams, tender, blues-y crooning, elaborate vocal scatting, and a distinct, ethereal view of the world, Plant has spent the last 50 years, both in and out of Zeppelin, creating some of the most astounding and earth-shaking music the world has ever known.
I first discovered Plant’s supernova-force vocal abilities when I was 14 years old. Every weekend I was tasked with mowing my Uncle’s gigantic backyard. For whatever reason, amid his stale collection of ‘80s and ‘90s pop-country albums, he owned a single, double-CD copy of Led Zeppelin’s 1976 live album The Song Remains The Same. My curiosity was piqued by the ominous, black cover, so I threw the first disc into my blue Walkman and was instantly transported through both time and space to universes I never even knew existed. From that day on, Zeppelin and Plant became the lens through which I viewed and judged nearly every form of music.
To his enormous credit, Plant has refused to rest on his impressive laurels following the demise of Zeppelin in 1980 after the death of that group’s drummer, and one of his dearest friends on the planet, John Bonham. Under constant pressure and speculation about the fate of a renewed union with his one-time mates Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones, he has put together one of the more compelling second acts out there, with a collection of solo albums that seems to only increase in quality with each passing year.
His latest is Carry Fire, an incredible musical document, inspired by a return to his native home in and around the UK. As I noted in my review of that record, it’s an eclectic project, packed with immense emotional heft, and canny observations about the world as it exists in this moment. I recently had the chance to speak to Robert Plant about his new album, some of his more cherished Led Zeppelin memories, and what the future holds in store.