10 years ago, a ‘Stairway to Heaven’ performance brought Led Zeppelin’s surviving members to tears
When Billboard and Rolling Stone pull together their “Best Songs of All Time” lists, there are some tunes you know for sure will be included. Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” is most definitely one of them.
It has everything—the beauty of a ballad, the grunginess of a rock song, the simple solo voice, and the band in full force. “Stairway to Heaven” takes us on a musical journey, and even people who aren’t necessarily giant Led Zeppelin or classic rock fans can’t help but nod or sing along to it.
Of course, it’s also been so ubiquitous (or overplayed, as some would claim) to become a meme among musicians. Signs saying “No Stairway to Heaven” in guitar stores point to how sick of the song many guitarists get, and when Oregon radio station KBOO told listeners they would never play the song again if someone pledged $10,000, Led Zepelin singer Robert Plant himself called in and gave the donation.
Musicians can often tire of performing their songs over and over again, but it’s a different story when someone else puts their spin on it. And at a Led Zeppelin tribute concert at the Kennedy Center on Dec. 2, 2012, rock legends Heart and the son of John Bonham, Led Zeppelin’s original drummer who passed away in 1980 at age 32, performed a rendition of “Stairway to Heaven” that brought the surviving members of the band to their feet—and to tears.
It helps that Heart’s Ann Wilson had been a huge fan of the song since she was 19 and that her voice has a similar quality to Plant’s. But what makes this performance so epic is the contrast between its simple beginnings and huge, full climax with an orchestra and full choir wearing bowler hats (a touching shout out to Bonham, who famously wore one) behind the band.
It’s quite a ride to see the audience grow more and more excited as the song builds and to see Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones clearly awed at their own music being performed with such excellence. As one commenter quipped, “I think this is the first time Led Zeppelin was feeling what people felt listening to them all their lives.”
It’s definitely worth a watch. Enjoy:
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