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Robert Plant’s Rambling Freedom

Saturday, August 20th, 2011

This week’s Free Ride* muses on the songs of Robert Plant, the wailing front man for the supergroup Led Zeppelin, who turns 63 today. He typically provides my answer to the question, “if you could sing like anybody in the world, who would you want to sound like?” I know of few singers with the range of style that Plant employs, going from the screaming intro of Immigrant Song to the Ricky Skaggs sound-alike style of Your Long Journey in his collaboration with Alison Krauss. Oddly enough, his tenure with Led Zeppelin began in a temporary role. Jimmy Page formed the group with John Bonham and John Paul Jones, and wasn’t greatly impressed with Plant’s stage presence. Page’s original plan was to find a permanent singer after the first tour, but Plant’s comfort level on stage grew as the tour progressed, and Page decided to keep him in the band. It’s hard to imagine the history of rock and roll without the interplay of the two of them together.

Plant started writing songs for the group with the second album in 1969. His lyrics are now the stuff of legend, most notably Stairway to Heaven. His contributions to the theme of freedom is sprinkled throughout the Led Zep repertoire and on into Plant’s solo career, with The Ocean, Sons of Freedom, and My Love is a Freeway as a few examples. For this week’s post, I’ve chosen some lyrics from Ramble On to illustrate what I love most about Plant’s writing – his references to JRR Tolkien. I love the way he took the standard theme of rock and roll – getting the girl – and set it in the context of the epic Lord of the Rings world.

A-ramble on, and now’s the time,
the time is now

Sing my song,

I’m goin’ ’round the world

I’ve gotta find my girl

On my way,

I’ve been this way

ten years to the day

I gotta ramble on,

I gotta find the queen

of all my dreams

I tell you no lie

Mine’s a tale that can’t be told,
my freedom I hold dear

How years ago in days of old

when magic filled the air

’twas in the darkest depths of Mordor,

I met a girl so fair

but Gollum and the evil one

crept up and slipped away with her

her, her, yeah, and ain’t nothin’ I can do, no

I guess I’ll keep on ramblin’

Plant held the freedom of Middle Earth dear, and playfully lived out his rollicking life as if he were a character in the tale that Tolkien told, complete with his own Mordor and Gollum to contend with. His fascination for mythology, whether it was Finnish or Welsh or Norse, gives his songs a layer of depth that sets them apart from the standard fare of classic rock. He also had a wide interest in the roots music of many cultures, including the culture of my own Appalachian heritage. I’m glad that his wide musical interests freed him to ramble on to these hills, where a recent interview showed him being as excited to discover The Cuckoo song as he might be to discover a treasure from Gimli’s Misty Mountains.



  • July 10, 2013 at 10:24 pm

    “Plant . . . playfully lived out his rollicking life . . .” !!!! “Had a wide interest . . .”?!!? Man, he’s not dead yet, not nearly. Four days ago (7/7/2013) he performed for nearly 2 hours at the Portland Waterfront Blues Fest. He still has the Voice and the strut.

    Thanks for the otherwise interesting article, though. I learned a couple of new factoids.

    Comment by Deanna

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