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Robert Plant - Book: Dave Thompson- Robert Plant: The Voice That Sailed the Zeppelin

  by Adrian Huggins

published: 9 / 2 / 2015

Robert Plant - Book: Dave Thompson- Robert Plant: The Voice That Sailed the Zeppelin


Adrian Huggins is impressed by Dave Thompson's new biography of former Led Zeppelin front man and solo artist Robert Plant

I was drawn to this book, having witnessed Robert Plant and his band the Sensational Spaceshifters’ performance at Glastonbury Festival last year. I was genuinely blown away hearing him sing. Unmistakable from the off, it was clear he has lost none of his vocal dexterity all these years later on. Newer songs sat perfectly alongside those from the era which he is best known with rock gods Led Zeppelin. Sure, those familiar moments were incredible, but it was definitely not a case of several thousand people enduring one ego and his new songs in order to hear the two or three songs that they had known from birth. The whole set was nothing short of fantastic. This desire of Plant to keep things fresh throughout his career rather than resting on his laurels is one of the primary focuses of this highly enjoyable biography by American writer Dave Thompson. The book charts Plant’s career in a non-linear manner, jumping between the two halves of his life to give it a footballing approach, these being life after Led Zeppelin’s demise in 1980 and Plant’s life before and during the band. I thought at first this was simply a gimmicky way to steer things away from the usual “Robert was born during this year, then went to school, then decided he liked music, then grew his hair then joined a different band (times about six), then eventually he found some chaps who became very important, then it finished, then he did this, that and the other’.” It isn’t. It is a first-rate device, setting apart the two very different eras in Plant's life and, as the book goes on, it serves to show the development of a person now well into his 60s who hasn’t ceased to have that hunger for making intelligent music but has clearly been through a hell of lot to get there. It also forcefully makes the point that Plant has always thought of himself as ‘an ordinary bloke’ who has lead a pretty incredible life. Maybe that’s just some very rose-tinted writing that I’ve fallen for, but having read this book I am far more familiar with a lead singer, a teenager, an adult with a family, a farmer (sort of), a Wolverhampton Wanderers fan and a massive ‘Lord of the Rings’ and folklore nerd. I really warmed to this well-rounded person having simply known of him as a flamboyant frontman and apparent Lothario of the 1970s before. It paints a much more detailed picture of him, his life and why he has continued to be relevant and successful. Plant, of course, has a natural talent but it was fascinating reading how he nurtured this talent and obsessive love of music, and in particular how the blues inspired him and he went from being a headstrong teenager from the Midlands to the frontman of one of the most important bands in the world. One of the most endearing things I have taken from this book is the image of a young Plant being “that guy” at the gigs who was as much a fan of the music as he was singer of the support act or headline band as time went on, the one at the front for the whole gig not giving a damn about appearing cool or keeping up his lead singer persona. He comes across as a self -assured but not cocky music lover who got there by being part of it all rather than trying to force his way in. There has been a lot of literature about all four members of Led Zeppelin, often providing conflicting portraits of each of them. Thompson, however, is definitely pro-Plant, Admiration pours respectfully but realistically from the book. It balances a fine line of not brushing over the darker moments and giving a bit more of a personal perspective to see them with. Those darker and sad moments are handled with a respect and dignity. Rather than prodding and poking at them gratuitously, they simply serve to highlight how these events shaped Plant’s life and provide new appreciation of his career. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, Honest and well-written, I would recommend it to all Led Zeppelin fans out there.

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