Led Zeppelin vocalist Robert Plant achieved fame with Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and John Bonham playing Hard Rock music but after the 80s when his solo career begun, he showed the variety of influences from many other music genres on his albums. The musician shared his love for many different bands and singers from all eras in a participation on the BBC Radio 6 show “6 Music’s Festive Takeover” back in 2021 (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage), listing some of his favorite songs of all time and explaining why he thinks they are so important.
Robert Plant was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame back in 1995 as a member of Led Zeppelin by Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and Joe Perry. In his speech in the ceremony, perry described the British group as “pure chemestry, kind of Howlin’ Wolf meets the Loch Ness monster”.
20 songs that Robert Plant listed as some of his favorites of all time
The Rolling Stones “Street Fighting Man”
“There is so much to be said about this band and about the politic of the time in the late 60s, early 70s and how great that The Rolling Stones‘ Jagger and Richards were putting together songs that were really quite vital absolutely and are in many ways timeless.”
“This track ‘Street Fighting Man’ from ‘Beggars Banquet’ is just incredible. And of course, many stations banned the record because they said it was subversive. There is a great comment from the band that said: ‘of course it’s subversive. It’s stupid to think that you can start a revolution with a record, I wish you could'”, Robert Plant said.
One of the Rolling Stones’ most famous songs, ‘Street Fighting Man’ is called the band’s ‘most political song’ as Robert Plant mentioned. Rolling Stone ranked the song number 301 on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Bob Dylan “Masters Of War”
“Goodness, does that ever go away, that theme, that feeling that we all have? That’s Bob Dylan‘s ‘Masters Of War’, from 1963, ‘The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan’ album on Columbia”. There is so much that can be said about Dylan and about his intentions and his lyrics. How many millions of people have actually sung his songs and hopefully delivered the same intent”, Robert Plant said.
The melody of the Bob Dylan song was adapted from the traditional song “Nottamun Town”. His lyrics are a protest against the Cold War nuclear arms in the early 60s.
Howlin’ Wolf “Forty Four”
“Howlin’ Wolf‘s “Forty Four” recorded in 1954, insane. The bands I’ve been around, everybody just marvels about the cross timing of that stuff. I saw the Wolf when I was 16, he was on a, for about five or six years. Two German promoters brought over a remarkable collection of musicians: Skip James, Bukka White, Son House, Sonny Boy Williamson, the Wolf (Howlin’), Muddy Waters, Sugar Pie De Santo, Hound Dog Taylor.”
“The Wolf was frightened and yet there is a great book called ‘Moanin’ at Midnight’, if you ever get the opportunity to check it out, it’s the story of the Wolf. So he was a very charming, funny and amazing guy”, Robert Plant said.
Howlin’ Wolf was a Chicago blues singer, guitarist, and harmonica player. Originally from Mississippi, he moved to Chicago in adulthood and became successful, forming a rivalry with fellow bluesman Muddy Waters. With a booming voice and imposing physical presence, he is one of the best-known Chicago blues artists.
His most famous songs are “Spoonful”, “Smokestack Lightin’”, “Killing Floor” and “How Many More Years”.
Love “Your Mind and We Belong Together”
“Well, that’s Johnny Echols playing guitar with the amazing “Your Mind and We Belong Together” from love. Of course, have been with me since “De Capo” (album) in 1966″, Robert Plant said.
Love was one of the first racially diverse American rock bands and their sound was characterized as garage rock, folk rock, and psychedelic. Also being linked with blues, jazz, flamenco, and orchestral pop.
Feist “Undiscovered First”
“A remarkable Canadian singer-songwriter. You can’t get enough of these beautiful great tangents of imagination from all these various artists. It’s really quite inspiring and the whole idea of actually finding a good cross-section of stuff to play without ending up playing most of the stuff that was recorded in Clarksdale Mississippi in 1929, it’s been a tough call (laughs)”, Robert Plant said.
Born in Amherst, Nova Scotia, Canada back in 1976, Feist first launched her solo music career in 1999 with the release of the album album ‘Monarch’. She achieved fame with her second and third albums: Let It Die (2004) and The Reminder (2007), the latter had the hit “1, 2, 3, 4, that remains as Feist’s biggest hit single in the US to date, and her only song to chart on the Billboard Hot 100 and UK Top 40.
Turin Brakes “Hope We Make It”
“We move now to the magnificent Turin Breaks ‘Hope We Make It’. I’ve been enjoying them for a long time. This is from the 2016 album “Property Brakes”. You know, catch them if you can, they really are quite something. Also they bring a feeling of well being and sensitivity to their music in the way that they play”, Robert Plant said.
Formed in Balham, London, England back in 1999, Turin Brakes is formed by the duo Olly Knights and Gale Paridjanian, that also has long-term collaborators Rob Allum and Eddie Myer. In 2003 they had a UK Top 5 hit with the song “Painkiller (Summer Rain)” and have sold around one million records worldwide since then.
The Association “Cherish”
“This song is (from) quite a remarkable group from the United States called The Association. Never for a minute think that it was just about beautiful saccharine singing. Because these guys were really out there and it’s a remarkable piece of music called ‘Cherish”, Robert Plant said.
Formed in California, United States back in 1965, The Association hadseveral hits like “Windy”, “Cherish”, “Never My love” and “Along Comes Mary”. They also were the lead-off band at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. They are recalled for their intricate vocal harmonies and for having multiple singers.
Lucinda Williams “Sweet Old World”
“That’s the magnificent Lucinda Williams with ‘Sweet Old World’. It’s been, I wouldn’t say privilege. But yes I will. Since I’ve been working with Alison Krauss and that magnificent team out there in Nashville and on with Buddy Miller and Patty Griffin, I got to know Lucinda really well. She came on the road with us pre-lockdown with my chums in the Sensational Space Shifters.”
“We’ve gotten to be really good friends. So when I was recording with Alison I spent time with Lucinda, Tom and all the people and they are really precious, precious people. I was really so glad that she came and sang along with us on this record. Also that Alison and I recorded one of the songs that she’s made really popular ‘Can’t Let Go’, which is a magnificent piece”, Robert Plant said.
Born in Lake Charles, Lousiana, United States back in 1978, Lucinda Williams recorded her first album in the late 70s and he commercial breakthrough happened with the 1988 album “Car Wheels On a Gravel Road” that had a fused Rock, Blues, Country and Americana approach.
The album was certified Gold by the RIAA the following year, and earned her a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album.
Fotheringay “John The Gun”
“I was a very good friend of Sandy Denny and one time way back, 50 years ago, she joined me with Led Zeppelin when we recorded ‘Battle Of Evermore’. I wrote a load of lyrics for it and I thought I could sing them all myself. And I knew by trying to do it that was just an impossibility. So I got hold of Sandy and she came along and sang in the most remarkable, empathetic way.”
“But this song ‘John The Gun’ is her just really bringing it home. Yet another song that brings us up to the point of huge questions about who’s running our worlds for us. So much beautiful drama, there we have Gerry Conway on drums, remarkable. I saw him not long ago, he is back with Fairport Convention again. So everytime I see him I say ‘Man, what was that like then with the amazing Jerry Donahue on telecaster’. Incredible music, so beautiful”, Robert Plant said.
The short-lived British group Fotheringay (1970 to 1971 and reformed in 2015) was formed by singer Sandy Denny after her departure from Fairport Convention and the name of the group was inspired by her 1968 composition “”Fotheringay” about Fotheringhay Castle.
Prince La La “She Put The Hurt On Me”
“As a kid I was drawn to the sound of New Orleans music. But I had no real idea about regional music. So I knew Slade came from Wolverhampton, okay I got that. But I din’t know that Allen Toussaint and Professor Longhair and the whole deal of The Meters, you know, Dr John and all these kind of weirdo trans music was coming out of one town. So it’s a remarkably different city to anywhere else in the United States. Not incredibly well known, his name is Prince Lala ‘She Put The Hurt On Me'”, Robert Plant said.
Born in New Orleans back in 1936, Lawrence Nelson, also known as Prince La La, was the son of Walter Nelson, a jazz and R&B guitarist, who played with Smiley Lewis.
His elder brother, Walter “Papoose” Nelson, played in the 1950s and early 1960s with Fats Domino and Professor Longhair, and was a session guitarist for New Orleans bandlander and producer Dave Bartholomew.
Lazy Lester “Sugar Coated Love”
“I mean, how many bands play that at some point in time. I think when the pub Rock scene was on the go in the 80s you had these great groups coming and playing some mean stuff. Yeah, that was it. So you go down Camden Parkway and get into that pub there, there was some really rocking stuff going on. So we were in a Blues mode. But is that really Blues? I mean, ‘Sugar Coated Love’ it’s not so bad, apparently”, Robert Plant said.
Born in Torras, Lousiana back in 1933, Lazy Lester was an American Blues musician who sang, played harmonica and guitar. Known for many regional hits recorded with artists like Ernie Young’s Nashville-based Excello Records, the musician also contributed to songs recorded by other Excello artists, including Slim Harpo, Lightnin’ Slim, and Katie Webster.
John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers “I’m Your Witch Doctor”
“A piece that written by John Mayall, produced by Jimmy Page and issued on the Immediate label. Eric Clapton on guitar, John McVie of Fleetwood Mac on bass and Hughie Flint, the great Hughie Flint on drums”, Robert Plant said.
The legendary English Blues singer and guitarist John Mayall, who recently announced his retirement from touring, had on his band an incredible amount of musicians that left his group and pursued successful and praised careers on other bands or solo.
Some of these musicians were Eric Clapton (Cream, Blind Faith, solo), Jack Bruce (Cream, BBM, solo), Peter Green (Fleetwood Mac, solo), Mick Fleetwood (Fleetwood Mac), John McVie (Fleetwood Mac) and Mick Taylor (Rolling Stones).
Joni Mitchell “Woodstock”
“The remarkable Joni Mitchell with her reimagining ‘Woodstock’ from her ‘Travelogue’ album in 2002. The whole adventure of revisiting songs that you’d written 40 years earlier, I can’t imagine how it would work for a lot of us. But her songs had so much quality and brevity. The orchestration, the whole adventure of this record is really something”, Robert Plant said.
Born in Fort Macleod, Alberta in Canada, Joni Mitchell is one of the most famous songwriters of all time. Her work often talks about social and philosophical subjects with the sound influenced by Jazz, Pop music, Rock and Folk.
Some of her most famous songs are “Big Yellow Taxi”, “A Case of You”, “California”, “Both Sides Now” and “River”. Mitchell also won 9 Grammy Awards, the first one in 1969 for “Best Folk Performance”.
Elvis Presley “I Feel So Bad”
“That’s the great Chuck Willis song recorded by Elvis Presley in 1961 in Nashville. Listening to that Nashville sound, do you hear that? Listen to that playing, it’s so clipped and I was very fortunate one time in the golden days when we all dreamed in color to meet Elvis. When I was in Led Zeppelin he wanted to know some stories about us.”
“He’d heard some things and the great thing to tell you, I hope it has resonance is that, that guy was so deep into the Blues. Being born and raised between Tupelo, Mississippi and Memphis, Tennessee, it was everywhere. So I mean, the radio was just one move of the dial and you went from Country to the Wolf and Chuck Willis”, Robert Plant said.
Led Zeppelin had an strange encounter with Elvis Presley in the 70s and his daughter Lisa Marie was a big fan as Plant recalled in an interview with Brazilian magazine Veja in 2020: “No, he didn’t ask for an autograph (Elvis). What happened was that I met his daughter several times. On one occasion, she wanted an autograph on her arm and then got a tattoo.”
Elbow “The Blanket Of Night”
“It’s a magnificent, very, very succint piece of music that echoes the circumstances that before so many families and individuals who were trying to beat it and get out of the great problems that we were all watching almost helpless as the people head from the coast of North Africa and on looking for some solace and world without intimidation, perhaps”, Robert Plant said.
Formed in Bury, England back in 1997, Elbow is an Alternative Rock group that released nine studio albums. In 2008, Elbow won the Mercury Music Prize for their album The Seldom Seen Kid, and in 2009 they won the Brit Award for Best British Group.
Davey Graham “Rif Mountain”
“Remarkable guitarist along with Bert Jan and John Renbourn. I was following them with the Incredible String Band and people like that. Davey Graham spent time as I think Bert did, in Morrocco and he brought back a whole of interesting modal tuning, which creates in itself almost a blue note. Most of the time is a very poignant tuning which allows a different way of minor key mood”, Robert Plant said.
Born in Leicestershire, England back in 1940, Davey Graham was one of the most influential British guitarists of the 60s, one of the responsibles for the British Folk Revival and inspired names like Jimmy Page and Paul Simon.
Silly Sisters “The Grey Funnel Line”
“Two remarkable British singers: June Tabor and Maddy Prior taken from the album ‘Silly Sisters’. An album which covers the subjects: work, religion, sexual relations, humor, tragedy and the absurd. But ‘The Grey Funnel Line’ is the name of the song, it relates to the life of a sailor in the royal navy, the battleship, just incredible singers”, Robert Plant said.
The Silly Sisters were a English folk music duo formed by Maddy Prior and June Tabor in 1976. They released only two albums: “Silly Sisters” (1976) and “No More To The Dance” (1988).
The Staple Singers “(It Takes More Than) A Hammer And Nails”
When presenting the song, Robert Plant said:”Let’s talk about singing, let’s talk about Mavis Staples, let’s talk about Pop’s Roebuck Staples, let’s talk about the Staples singers, let’s listen to ‘A Hammer and Nails'”, Robert Plant said.
The American gospel, soul and R&B group The Staples Singers (Active from 1948 to 1994) are known for 1970s hits like “Respect Yourself”, “I’ll Take You There”, “If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me)” and “Let’s Do It Again”.
Betty Harris “There’s A Break In The Road”
“Get that, that’s the amazing Betty Harris. Along with Lee Dorsey and Aaron Neville and so on, all working around, I guess the mixing desk, most probably of the New Orleans studios down there. Ironically, it’s a very contemporary sound for Betty, she quit singing the following year after that.”
“That’s basically the begining, I think, of The Meters, who are just master Funk exponents. So if you get an opportunity, you check her out on Soul Jazz records, there is a remarkable album called ‘The Lost Queen of New Orleans Soul'”, Robert Plant said.
Born in Orlando, Florida, United States back in 1939, Betty Harris’ career started in the 1960s with three hit singles “Cry to Me” (1963), “His Kiss” (1964) and “Nearer to You” (1967) that made to the U.S. Billboard R&B and Billboard Hot 100 charts.
Lead Belly “Christmas Is A-Coming”
“Lead Belly, where do you begin and end with this guy. Well, we’ve all lent on his songs. He also lent on the stuff that came over from the United Kingdom and Ireland. Into the United States, made it’s way through the country of the eastern seaboard. On Led Zeppelin III we took ‘Gallows Pole’ and turned into our own. If you haven’t not heard this guy before just listen ‘In The Pines’ and listen to ‘Black Betty'”, Robert Plant said.
Born in Mooringsport, Louisiana back in 1888, Lead Belly was an American folk and blues singer, musician, and songwriter notable for his strong vocals, virtuosity on the twelve-string guitar, and the folk standards he introduced.