There’s Only One Band Jimmy Page Allowed To Cover “Stairway To Heaven”
Jimmy Page Radio Interview in 1977 - archives / YouTube
Although Led Zeppelin disbanded in 1980, their impact on the rock music scene remains enduring. Formed in 1968 with members Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, and John Bonham, the band quickly ascended to iconic status with their distinctive guitar-based sound.
Unfortunately, their remarkable journey took a somber turn with Bonham’s passing, leading to the band’s decision to exit the music scene. Led Zeppelin’s influence is evident in a string of timeless rock hits, such as “Whole Lotta Love”, ”Dazed And Confused”, “Black Dog”, and the legendary “Stairway To Heaven”.
The latter, a classic Zeppelin composition, found its place in the band’s fourth album, Led Zeppelin IV. Crafted by the collaborative genius of Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, ‘Stairway To Heaven’ continues to be a lynchpin in the realm of rock music, having been covered by numerous artists.
Interestingly, Page, one of the architects of Led Zeppelin’s sound, displayed a reluctance toward other bands covering their signature song. This sentiment held true for most instances, with Page expressing a notable exception to this rule.
The only exception
Released in late 1971, “Stairway To Heaven” continues to captivate audiences today, boasting nearly 90 million views on YouTube.
Over the years, numerous artists have attempted to cover this iconic song, though performing it remains a formidable challenge due to its legendary status.
One exceptional rendition, however, emerged victorious in the face of this challenge. On December 26, 2012, at the Kennedy Center Honors, Ann and Nancy Wilson of the band Heart took the stage to deliver their version of “Stairway To Heaven”.
Accompanied by an orchestra, two choirs, and Jason Bonham, the son of Led Zeppelin’s late John Bonham, the Wilson sisters performed in the presence of Jimmy Page and Robert Plant.
The best reinterpretation yet
The moment proved to be not only a musical triumph but also an emotional one. The performance garnered a standing ovation from the audience, bringing Plant to tears of joy.
Subsequently, the cover achieved remarkable success online, amassing over four million views on YouTube within the initial five days after the show. Recognizing its impact, the Kennedy Center even released a limited-edition iTunes single of Heart’s rendition.
In a revealing interview with Eddie Trunk, Nancy Wilson shared insights into Led Zeppelin’s reaction to their performance. Plant, who had admittedly grown weary of the song due to its frequent mishandling by others, expressed genuine admiration for Heart’s rendition.
Similarly, Jones commended the Wilson sisters for their outstanding job, while Jimmy Page, the guitar virtuoso himself, praised their rendition as “just lovely”.
Led Zeppelin’s seal of approval
Heart’s rendition of “Stairway To Heaven” not only achieved immediate acclaim but also carried significant weight in Led Zeppelin’s legacy.
Following the band’s disbandment, Jimmy Page had been hesitant to allow other musicians to sing the song, opting for instrumental performances to preserve its integrity.
However, Heart’s successful interpretation, witnessed by Page with evident approval, marked a departure from this stance and highlighted the exceptional nature of their rendition.
Here, you have the opportunity to listen to Heart’s interpretation of the iconic song and witness the reactions of Led Zeppelin members to the performance: