Robert Anthony Plant CBE is an English singer, lyricist, and musician. He is best known as the former lead singer of the now-disbanded rock band Led Zeppelin. Known for his powerful and wide vocal range, Plant has established himself as one of the most influential music artists of all time. He has won numerous awards, including seven Grammys. Plant grew up in Kidderminster, Worcestershire and developed a deep love for rock and roll at an early age. Inspired by Elvis Presley, he used to emulate his mannerisms as a child. He also accumulated a strong passion for blues music. At the age of 16, he left home and became part of the English Midlands blues scene. During this period, he joined one group after another while simultaneously furthering his musical knowledge. In 1968, he joined Jimmy Page in the earliest rendition of Led Zeppelin. The band went on to release nine studio albums and, as one of the most successful, innovative, and influential rock groups in history, effectively and drastically changed the music industry forever. Since Led Zeppelin’s disbandment in 1980, Plant has built up a successful solo career for himself. Furthermore, he has been a member of the bands Strange Sensation, Band of Joy, and Sensational Space Shifters and has collaborated with bluegrass star Alison Krauss. Plant also regularly works with Page, his old bandmate.
Childhood & Early Life
Robert Plant was born on August 20, 1948, in the Black Country town of West Bromwich, Staffordshire, England, to Robert C. Plant and Annie Celia Plant (née Cain). His father was an educated man; a qualified civil engineer, he served in the Royal Air Force during the World War II. His mother, on the other hand, came from a Romanichal background. He has a younger sister named Allison.
Growing up in Kidderminster, Worcestershire, Plant started to harbour musical aspirations pretty early in his life. The first musician who had a significant effect on him was Elvis Presley. As a youth, He spent his Christmases trying to emulate the legendary performer and singer.
After leaving King Edward VI Grammar School for Boys in Stourbridge in his mid-teens, Plant found a new passion for blues as he became a fan of Willie Dixon and Robert Johnson.
He did not complete his training as a chartered accountant and instead opted to enrol at a college to pursue more GCE passes. He also wanted to experience the English Midlands blues scene.
Leaving the safety of his parents’ home when he was 16 years old, Plant became part of one band after another, and all the while, increased the depths of his understanding of not the only blues, but music as a whole.
While he was aspiring to be a musician, Plant held several jobs, including that of a construction worker for Wimpey in Birmingham in 1967. He briefly worked at Woolworth's in Halesowen as well.
Among the bands he performed with during this period, Crawling King Snakes and Band of Joy stand out, as, in both the bands, he worked with future Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham.
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Career with Led Zeppelin
In 1968, musician Jimmy Page was looking for a new lead singer for his band The Yardbirds. His first choice, Terry Reid, had declined the offer but suggested Plant instead. After auditioning Plant who sang Jefferson Airplane's ‘Somebody to Love’ for him, Page brought his search to a successful conclusion.
Plant introduced Page to Bonham, who joined the band as the drummer and soon, John Paul Jones, an acquaintance of Page, was brought in. They started working on their first album under the name ‘The New Yardbirds’ and went on a tour to the Scandinavian countries.
After they received a cease and desist letter from one of the past members of The Yardbirds, the group had to find a new name for themselves. They eventually settled on Led Zeppelin.
The group released their self-titled first album on January 12, 1969. Containing integral contributions from all the four members, the album was successful in establishing the sound of the group: the fusion of rock and roll and blues. While critics did not like it, it was commercially successful and garnered the band a considerable following. In 2004, the album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
They released their second album, ‘Led Zeppelin II’, that year as well, on 22 October (US). This was their first project on which Eddie Kramer served as the engineer. The group’s sound was much more mature, versatile, and inclusive in this and it has been cited as their heaviest album. From this album onwards, Plant started to contribute as a lyricist.
‘Led Zeppelin II’ was a massive commercial hit, reaching the top spot in the US and the UK charts. On November 15, 1999, it received 12× Platinum certification from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) after its sales surpassed 12 million copies. It also brought them their first Grammy nominations.
On October 5, 1970 (US), the group’s third album, ‘Led Zeppelin III’, was released. Through the 1970s, they would put out five more albums: untitled album (1971), ‘Houses of the Holy’ (1973) ‘Physical Graffiti’ (1975) ‘Presence’ (1976) ‘In Through the Out Door’ (1979).
Led Zeppelin disbanded in 1980, following Bonham’s death on September 25, 1980. They released one more album in 1982, titled ‘Coda’. It was a collection of unused songs from various sessions over the course of the group’s 12-year existence.
Robert Plant found success in his solo career as well. As of 2018, he has released 11 studio albums. They are ‘Pictures at Eleven’ (1982), ‘The Principle of Moments’ (1983), ‘Shaken 'n' Stirred’ (1985), ‘Now and Zen’ (1988), ‘Manic Nirvana’ (1990), ‘Fate of Nations’ (1993), ‘Dreamland’ (2002), ‘Mighty ReArranger’ (2005), ‘Band of Joy’ (2010), ‘Lullaby and... The Ceaseless Roar’ (2014), ‘Carry Fire’ (2017).
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Despite the disbanding of Led Zeppelin, Plant and Page remained lifelong friends. They set up a performing act together in 1994 and released the live album ‘No Quarter: Jimmy Page and Robert Plant Unledded album’.
A year later, in 1995, they went on a massively successful tour. However, after the failure of their 1998 studio album ‘Walking into Clarksdale’, they ended the collaboration and Plant returned to his solo career.
He has also been part of several bands since 1980. From 1999 to 2000, he performed with his folk-rock band Priory of Brian; from 2001 to 2007, with Strange Sensation; and from 2010 to 2011, with Band of Joy. Since 2012, he has been performing with his newest band, Sensational Space Shifters.
It was with their fourth release, the untitled album (unofficially ‘Led Zeppelin IV), that the group became a true cultural phenomenon. One of its tracks, ‘Stairway to Heaven’, became the anthem of a generation and is commonly regarded as one of the greatest rock songs of all time.
The album itself became Led Zeppelin’s best selling, having shipped over 37 million copies worldwide. In 1999, the album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and in 2003, ‘Stairway to Heaven’ followed suit.
He began collaborating with bluegrass star Alison Krauss in 2007 and released the duet album ‘Raising Sand’ on October 23, 2007. It went on to become a critical and commercial success and won the Album of the Year Award at the 51st Grammy Awards.
Robert Plant met his first wife, Maureen Wilson, in 1966, at a Georgie Fame concert. He was still a struggling musician with dreams of greatness. They married two years later, on November 9, 1968.
Their first child, a daughter whom they named Carmen Jane, was born only 12 days later, on 21 November. She was followed by two sons: Karac Pendragon in 1972 and Logan Romero on January 21, 1979.
While Plant was touring with Led Zeppelin in the US, his son, Karac, died from a stomach virus on June 26, 1977. It utterly devastated Plant and for a prolonged period, he considered quitting Led Zeppelin.
His marriage with Maureen soon fell apart and they divorced in August 1983. Plant subsequently began a relationship with Maureen’s sister, Shirley, who later gave birth to their son, Jesse Lee, in 1991.
He eventually left Shirley for the Canadian singer Alannah Myles. In recent years, Plant dated American singer-songwriter, Patty Griffin.
The former editor of Q and Kerrang! magazines, Paul Rees, wrote an unauthorised biography of Plant, titled, ‘Robert Plant: A Life’ (2013).