Robert Plant - ‘Robert Plant’s Blue Note’
Interviews with Robert Plant
Nigel Williams - author of ‘The Rough Guide To Led Zeppelin’
Barry Hoskyns - author of ‘Trampled Under Foot: The Power & Excess of Led Zeppelin’
Tom McGuinness - Manfed Mann
Dave Kelly - The Blues Band
Chris Dreja - The Yardbirds
Richie Unterberger - Californian music historian
Hossam Ramzy - percussionist & composer
Definition of a Blue Note - In jazz and blues, a blue note (also "worried" note) is a note sung or played at a slightly lower pitch than that of the major scale for expressive purposes. Typically, the alteration is a semitone or less, but this varies among performers and genres. Country blues, in particular, features wide variations from the diatonic pitches with emotive blue-notes. Blue notes are often seen as akin to relative pitches found in traditional African work songs. The blue notes are usually said to be the flattened third, flattened fifth, and flattened seventh scale degrees. Though the blues scale has "an inherent minor tonality, it is commonly 'forced' over major-key chord changes, resulting in a distinctively dissonant conflict of tonalities". A similar conflict occurs between the notes of the minor scale and the minor blues scale, as heard in songs such as "Why Don't You Do Right?." In the case of the flattened third over the root (or the flattened seventh over the dominant), the resulting chord is a neutral mixed third chord. Blue notes are used in many blues songs, in jazz, and in conventional popular songs with a "blue" feeling, such as Harold Arlen's "Stormy Weather." Blue notes are also prevalent in English folk music. Bent or "blue notes", called in Ireland "long notes", play a vital part in Irish music.
Robert Anthony Plant CBE, (August 20th, 1948) is an English singer and songwriter best known as the vocalist and lyricist of the iconic rock band Led Zeppelin. He has also had a successful solo career. In 2007, Plant released Raising Sand, an album produced by T-Bone Burnett with American bluegrass soprano Alison Krauss, which won the 2009 Grammy Award for Album of the Year at the 51st Grammy Awards.
With a career spanning more than 40 years, Plant is regarded as one of the most significant singers in the history of rock music, and has influenced contemporaries and later singers such as Freddie Mercury and Axl Rose. In 2006, heavy metal magazine Hit Parader named Plant the "Greatest Metal Vocalist of All-Time". In 2009, Plant was voted "the greatest voice in rock" in a poll conducted by Planet Rock. In 2011, a Rolling Stone readers' pick placed Plant in first place of the magazine's "Best Lead Singers of All Time".
Jimmy Page was in search of a lead singer for his new band and met Plant after being turned down by his first choice, Terry Reid, who referred him to a show at a teacher training college in Birmingham— where Plant was singing in a band named Hobbstweedle.
When I auditioned him and heard him sing, I immediately thought there must be something wrong with him personality-wise or that he had to be impossible to work with, because I just could not understand why, after he told me he'd been singing for a few years already, he hadn't become a big name yet. So I had him down to my place for a little while, just to sort of check him out, and we got along great. No problems.
According to Plant:
“I was appearing at this college when Peter and Jimmy turned up and asked me if I'd like to join The Yardbirds. I knew The Yardbirds had done a lot of work in America - which to me meant audiences who would want to know what I might have to offer - so naturally I was very interested.”
Plant and Page immediately hit it off with a shared musical passion and began their writing collaboration with reworkings of earlier blues songs, although Plant would receive no songwriting credits on the band's first album, allegedly because he was still under contract to CBS Records at the time. Plant brought along John Bonham as drummer, and they were joined by John Paul Jones, who had previously worked with Page as a studio musician. Jones called Page on the phone before they checked out Plant, and Page hired Jones immediately.
Initially dubbed the "New Yardbirds" in 1968, the band soon came to be known as Led Zeppelin. The band's self-titled debut album hit the charts in 1969 and is widely credited as a catalyst for the heavy metal genre. Plant has commented that it is unfair for people to think of Zeppelin as heavy metal, as almost a third of their music was acoustic.
In 1975, Plant and his wife Maureen (now divorced) were seriously injured in a car crash in Rhodes, Greece. This significantly affected the production of Led Zeppelin's seventh album Presence for a few months while he recovered, and forced the band to cancel the remaining tour dates for the year.
In July 1977 his son Karac died aged five of a stomach infection while Plant was engaged on Led Zeppelin's concert tour of the United States. It was a devastating loss for the family. Plant retreated to his home in the Midlands and for months afterward he questioned his future. Karac's death later inspired him to write the song "All My Love" in tribute, featured on Led Zeppelin's final studio LP, 1979's In Through the Out Door.
When I was a kid I used to hide behind the curtains at home at Christmas and I used to try and be Elvis. There was a certain ambience between the curtains and the French windows, there was a certain sound there for a ten year old. That was all the ambience I got at ten years old... I think! And I always wanted to be a curtain, a bit similar to that.
Plant's early blues influences included Robert Johnson, Bukka White, Skip James, Jerry Miller, and Sleepy John Estes. Plant had various jobs while pursuing his music career, one of which was working for the major British construction company Wimpey in Birmingham in 1967 laying tarmac on roads. He also worked at Woolworths in Halesowen town for a short period. He cut three obscure singles on CBS Records and sang with a variety of bands, including The Crawling King Snakes, which brought him into contact with drummer John Bonham. They both went on to play in the Band of Joy, merging blues with newer psychedelic trends. Though his early career met with no commercial success, word quickly spread about the "young man with the powerful voice".
Plant did not begin writing song lyrics with Led Zeppelin until the making of Led Zeppelin II, in 1969. According to Jimmy Page: “The most important thing about ‘Led Zeppelin II’ is that up to that point I'd contributed lyrics. Robert hadn't written before, and it took a lot of ribbing to get him into writing, which was funny. And then, on the second LP, he wrote the words of Thank You. He said, "I'd like to have a crack at this and write it for my wife."
Plant's lyrics with Led Zeppelin were often mystical, philosophical and spiritual, alluding to events in classical and Norse mythology, such as the "Immigrant Song", which refers to Valhalla and Viking conquests. However, the song "No Quarter" is often misunderstood to refer to the god Thor. The song actually refers to Mount Thor (which is named after the god). Another example is "The Rain Song".
Also influenced by J. R. R. Tolkien, whose book series inspired lyrics in some early Led Zeppelin songs. Most notably "The Battle of Evermore", "Misty Mountain Hop", "No Quarter", "Ramble On" and "Over the Hills and Far Away" contain verses referencing Tolkien's ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Hobbit’. Conversely, Plant sometimes used more straightforward blues-based lyrics dealing primarily with sexual innuendo, as in "The Lemon Song", "Trampled Under Foot", and "Black Dog".
The passion for diverse musical experiences drove Plant to explore Africa, specifically Marrakesh in Morocco where he encountered Umm Kulthum. “I was intrigued by the scales, initially, and obviously the vocal work. The way she sang, the way she could hold a note, you could feel the tension, you could tell that everybody, the whole orchestra, would hold a note until she wanted to change.” States Plant
That musical inspiration eventually culminated in "Kashmir". Both he and Jimmy Page revisited these influences during their reunion album No Quarter: Jimmy Page and Robert Plant Unledded in 1994. In his solo career, Plant again tapped from these influences many times, most notably in the 2002 album, ‘Dreamland.’
He is also known for his light-hearted, humorous, and unusual on-stage banter, often referred to as "plantations". Plant often discusses the origin and background of the songs during his shows, and sometimes provides social comment as well. He frequently talks about American blues musicians as his inspiration, mentioning artists like Robert Johnson, Howlin' Wolf, Blind Willie Johnson, and Willie Dixon at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony and the 2007 Ahmet Ertegün Tribute Concert with Led Zeppelin.
After the break-up of Led Zeppelin in 1980 (following the death of John Bonham), Plant pursued a successful solo career beginning with ‘Pictures at Eleven’ in 1982, followed by 1983's ‘The Principle of Moments’. Popular tracks from this period include "Big Log" (a Top 20 hit in 1983), "In the Mood" (1983), "Little by Little" (from 1985's ‘Shaken 'n' Stirred’), "Tall Cool One" (a #25 hit off 1988's ‘Now and Zen’) and "I Believe" (from 1993's ‘Fate of Nations’), another song written for and dedicated to his late son, Karac. In 1984, Plant formed a short-lived all-star group with Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck called The Honeydrippers, who had a #3 hit with a remake of the Phil Phillips' tune, "Sea of Love" and a follow-up hit with a cover of Roy Brown's "Rockin' at Midnight". Plant avoided performing Led Zeppelin songs through much of this period, his tours in 1983 (with drummer Phil Collins (drummer Genesis/solo artist) ) and 1985 were very successful, often performing to sold-out arena-sized venues.
Through the 1980s and 1990s, Plant co-wrote and recorded three solo albums with keyboardist/songwriter Phil Johnstone titled, ‘Now and Zen’, ‘Manic Nirvana’, and ‘Fate of Nations’ (featuring Moya Brennan of Clannad). Johnstone talked Plant into playing Led Zeppelin songs in his live shows, something Plant had resisted, not wanting to be known as "the former Led Zeppelin vocalist."
Page and Plant became a full-fledged performing act from 1994 through 1998. Releasing the Unledded album in 1994 and following with an enormously successful tour in 1995: Fourteen years of speculation from their fans and occasional sniping between the two former members ended when Jimmy Page and Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin reconvened their former musical partnership to produce No Quarter. Having long resisted offers from MTV to reform to do an Unplugged show, they finally accepted as part of a deal that also allowed them to visit Morocco to record new material. The album combines the results of both of these projects. The Led Zeppelin material features new arrangements and new instrumentation, including strings, Egyptian musicians and the haunting vocals of British-Asian star Najma Akhtar. Page and Plant recorded their only post-Zeppelin album of original material on the 1998 album, ‘Walking into Clarksdale’, an effort that was unsuccessful commercially, leading Plant to return to his solo career. A song from this album, "Please Read the Letter", was re-recorded by Plant with Alison Krauss, winning the 2009 Grammy Award for Record of the Year.
Starting in mid-1999, Plant performed until the end of 2000 at several small venues with his folk-rock band, named Priory of Brion.
In 1999, Plant contributed to the tribute album for Moby Grape co-founder Skip Spence, who was terminally ill. The album, ‘More Oar: A Tribute to the Skip Spence Album’ (Birdman, 1999), with the album title referring to Spence's only solo album, Oar (Columbia, 1969), contained Plant's version of Spence's "Little Hands". Plant had been an admirer of Spence and Moby Grape since the release of Moby Grape's eponymous 1967 debut album.
In 2001, Plant appeared on Afro Celt Sound System's album ‘Volume 3: Further in Time’. The song "Life Begin Again" features a duet with Welsh folksinger Julie Murphy, emphasizing Plant's recurring interest in Welsh culture (Murphy would also tour in support of Plant).
In 2002, with his then newly-formed band Strange Sensation, Plant released a widely acclaimed collection of mostly blues and folk remakes, ‘Dreamland’. Contrasting with this lush collection of often relatively obscure remakes, the second album with Strange Sensation, ‘Mighty ReArranger’ (2005), contains new, original songs. Both have received some of the most favorable reviews of Plant's solo career and four Grammy nominations, two in 2003 and two in 2006.
From 2007-2008, Plant recorded and performed with bluegrass star Alison Krauss. A duet album, Raising Sand, was released on 23 October 2007 on Rounder Records. The album, recorded in Nashville and Los Angeles and produced by T-Bone Burnett, includes performances of lesser-known material from R&B, Blues, folk, and country songwriters including Mel Tillis, Townes Van Zandt, Gene Clark, Tom Waits, Doc Watson, Little Milton and The Everly Brothers. The song "Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On)" from ‘Raising Sand’ won a Grammy for Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals in 2008. ‘Raising Sand’ also won Album of the Year at the 51st Grammy Awards. The album has been successful critically and commercially, and was certified platinum on 4 March 2008.
Plant and Krauss began an extended tour of the US and Europe in April 2008, playing music from Raising Sand and other American roots music as well as reworked Led Zeppelin tunes. The album was nominated for the Mercury Prize in July 2008. Also in 2008, Plant performed with bluegrass musicians at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival. He appeared as a surprise guest during Fairport Convention's set at the 2008 Cropredy Festival, performing Led Zeppelin's "The Battle of Evermore" with Kristina Donahue as a tribute to Sandy Denny. On 8 February 2009, Plant and Krauss won Grammy Awards for Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Pop Collaboration with Vocals, Country Collaboration with Vocals, and Contemporary Folk/Americana Album.
This unauthorized documentary DVD of Robert Plant covers the influence and love he has for the Delta Blues scene. Moreover, how artist such as Robert Johnson, Sonny Boy Brown, and Howlin’ Wolf as influenced his entire career. Though the interview segments are mainly from either authors who have written biographies on Plant or from the guitarist that recorded several of Plant’s solo material. I understand when you look at Plant’s five decade career just a small section included Led Zeppelin yet I would have like to have seen then spend a little more time discussing the group just because of the quality of music they released. Too me authorized or unauthorized it doesn’t matter I love watching stuff such as this as long as it’s honest! With that being said this is more of a rent then buy however, I really don’t see on any rental shelves. So, unless you’re like me and really enjoy watching music documentary’s or you are a diehard Led Zeppelin fan I spend my money elsewhere.