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The History of the Greatest Musicians of All-Time: Led Zeppelin

Much like the Beatles in the 1960s, Led Zeppelin was known as one of the greatest rock bands of all time, taking the music industry by storm with their epic lyrics, amazing talent, and unique sound. With origins ranging from the blues to heavy metal, the group created a genre for themselves that would make them legendary to music fans around the world.

Early Years of Led Zeppelin

It was the tenacity of Jimmy Page and his desire to create a band that could stand the test of time that led to Led Zeppelin being born. His inspiration of music all the way from skiffle sounds to rockabilly, hard rock, and blues, guided the way to their eventual success.

After playing in work sessions with some well-known bands and artists, Page joined the Yardbirds with Jeff Beck. Within three short years, all of the band members left, leaving Page with the rights to the band’s name, but no band.

Jimmy Page then set out to find new band members starting with Terry Reid and Steve Marriott. Although they were not available, Reid sent Page to listen to the vocal sounds of Robert Plant, who agreed to join as lead vocalist.

John Paul Jones joined the Yardbirds after the last member, Chris Dreja, dropped out as the bassist. Jones and Page had previously worked on a project, so coming together seemed like a natural fit.

Last but not least, John Bonham, who was recommended by Robert Plant, was asked to join in as the drummer. After some discussion, drummer John Bonham agreed to become the last member of the New Yardbirds.

It wasn’t until they began to tour that they realized that continuing under their current name was not going to work for them, that they decided on a new name. After a comment by Keith Moon that stuck with Jimmy Page, the band Led Zeppelin was born.

Playing together for the first time, Led Zeppelin performed in London as the New Yardbirds. It was after this that everyone knew that they had the inspirational sound that would take them into becoming the greatest rock band of all time.

Peter Grant, Led Zeppelin’s manager, reportedly secured a contract with Atlantic Records for $200,000, which was the highest sum paid out especially for a new band whose first album hadn’t been released yet. 

Not only was the amount of money for this advance phenomenal, but the level of control that was granted to stay with the band itself was unheard of for this time period.

Led Zepplin in 1973

The Albums of Led Zeppelin

Creating a sound in the studio that could also be translated to the stage by just the four band members was important to Jimmy Page. This is one of the things that set them apart from other bands that were similar.

Their first album, Led Zeppelin, was created in just about thirty hours in the studio. Within just a couple of months, this debut album soared to the top of the charts in the United States.

Touring in both the United States and England in early 1969, after the release of their first album, the music fans began to see the uniqueness that would make them popular. It was during this time that they also recorded their second album.

Led Zeppelin II, which was released in October of 1969, was filled with the uncommon sounds of a mix of genres and the guitar riff that was found in most of their songs. This album also soared to the top of the American charts and stayed there for several weeks.

It was becoming clear that Led Zeppelin was not only a phenomenal band but was here to stay. Since they were being heard in both the United States and England, they were seen as an international sensation.

Although the release of Led Zeppelin III didn’t do as well as the first two albums, it still reached the top charts in both the United States and the UK. With this album, the group mixed in with their unique sound a little bit of folk to round their music off to deeper levels.

By the time the fourth album was released, the band was breaking box office records. The album, commonly referred to as Led Zeppelin IV, was actually an untitled album, according to the band members.

Led Zeppelin went on to release a total of eight albums, all of which were, for the most part, chart-toppers. With their final album released in 1979, little did they know that this would be the last one before the band decided to call it quits after the tragic death of John Bonham.

Jimmy Page with Robert Plant 1977

Tours and Other Successes of Led Zeppelin

From their very first album through the last, Led Zeppelin seemed to be on a rollercoaster of a ride with the many tours throughout the United States and the UK. With each album release, the more tour dates they booked.

By the time they released their fourth album, which featured the hit song “Stairway to Heaven,” they were entertaining at some of the largest tour events they had seen to date. These sold-out shows in many stadiums seemed to become a standard for the members of Led Zeppelin.

After their tour in 1972, they took a break to complete the recording of Houses of the Holy, their fifth album only to return to the tour with a vengeance. This tour, which consisted of a few days in New York’s Madison Square Garden in 1973.

Soon after creating their own record label, Swan Song, they released their sixth album, Physical Graffiti, which led to more chart-topping success as well as an international tour. This tour ended abruptly with a car accident that took Robert Plant and his wife out of commission for the rest of the year.

Led Zeppelin, through their record label, also produced albums for such rock music acts like Bad Company, the Pretty Things, and Dave Edmunds.

Although they began touring again in 1977, this also ended about three months later with the death of Robert Plant’s six-year-old son. The band did not return to the stage until 1979 for a short European tour.

After the release of their eighth studio album, In Through the Out Door in 1979, and another short European tour in 1980, the band set out to prepare for their American tour. This tour, however, would never take place due to the death of John Bonham.

It would not be until 1995 that Led Zeppelin was given the highest honor to a band that would then be considered classic rock. Aerosmith had the honor of inducting Led Zeppelin into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Clockwise, from top left: Jimmy Page, John Bonham, Robert Plant, and John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin. A crop/montage derived from images with Creative Commons licenses on Wikimedia Commons

Members of Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin would not have been the iconic band that they were had it not been for the unique talents of the band members that were brought together by Jimmy Page. The individual personalities and amazing sounds that were meshed together is what made this band the greatest band of all time.

Jimmy Page

From the time he played his first guitar at age twelve, Jimmy Page, then known as James Patrick Page, was captivated by the music industry. Ultimately learning to play the guitar on his own, his early influence came from that of the blues, rockabilly, and acoustic folk music.

Even at the young ages of thirteen and fourteen, it was clear that Page had the talent to go the distance. He played with several bands before he became severely ill and had to stop for a period of time.

Once he had recovered, he was often found playing in work sessions for a variety of projects that allowed him to demonstrate his guitar skills. Some of the projects he worked on were for big-name artists such as Joe Cocker, The Who, and The Kinks. 

These sessions led guitarist Jimmy Page to the Yardbirds, taking the place of Paul Samwell-Smith. It was not long after that the members of the band began to leave and force Page’s hand to seek out new talent.

Through the years, Jimmy Page, with his massive determination, continued to push his new band, Led Zeppelin to chart-topping success. 

John Bonham

John Bonham, who was also referred to as “Bonzo,” was one of the most influential drummers of all time. With his flair for the loud and fast beats, Bonzo was iconic in his abilities.

From his start in his parents’ kitchen beating on pots and pans to the used drum kit at the age of ten, John Bonham was a natural to the drumming world. 

After playing with a few different bands over the years, Bonham found himself friends and bandmates with Robert Plant. It was also during this time that he became one of the most popular and sought-after drummers in England.

It was during this time that Robert Plant introduced Bonzo to Jimmy Page with the proposal of joining the Yardbirds as their drummer. After much consideration, he accepted the position and went on to be the exemplary drummer for Led Zeppelin.

Although he seemed to have it all with his successes and popularity of being in one of the best bands of the time, John Bonham struggled with heavy drinking. Because of this, after a night of drinking, he reportedly passed out and choked on his own vomit, causing his death at the age of 32.

John Paul Jones

Much like Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones got an early start on his music career. Performing in his father’s dance band at the age of 14, gave Jones the confidence to move forward and create the dreams he desired.

After traveling and performing with his own band, Jones, at the age of 15 and 16 years old, earned the credentials to become not only a bassist but also an arranger and director for many other bands and musical artists.

By working with bands such as The Rolling Stones, The Everly Brothers, and the Outlaws, John Paul Jones became well known. It was this notoriety that led him to being chosen by Jimmy Page to form the group Led Zeppelin in 1968.

After Led Zeppelin disbanded after John Bonham’s death in 1980, Jones continued to rise in his musical career. From production work to writing songs and film scores, Jones eventually released a solo album called Zooma.

Robert Plant

Much like his band member, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant had an early interest in music due to his exposure to artists such as Elvis Presley. This led to him joining the English Midlands blues scene at the age of 16.

His vocal talent that has been described as inspirational landed him several gigs as lead singer of bands such as Band of Joy and Crawling King Snakes. It was during this time that he was referred to Jimmy Page as the person needed to lead Led Zeppelin in vocals.

Helping to skyrocket Led Zeppelin into stardom with his contributions and unique vocal sound, Robert Plant was the perfect addition to the band that would be so influential in the music industry.

After a few setbacks including a horrific car accident for him and his wife and then the death of his six-year-old son, Robert Plant continued to be the voice behind the legendary band until it ended in 1980.

Following the break up of Led Zeppelin, Plant went on to pursue a solo career in 1982. His first album, Pictures at Eleven kicked off a whirlwind of opportunities with other musical artists as well as his own solo success.

Robert Plant and John Bonham in 1975.

Greatest Led Zeppelin Songs

While there are many songs that could have made the list as some of the greatest songs by this iconic group, here are some that hit the top of the charts many times:

  • Whole Lotta Love-1969
  • Dazed and Confused-1969
  • Good Times Bad Times-1969
  • Immigrant Song-1970
  • Black Dog-1971
  • Stairway to Heaven-1971
  • No Quarter-1973
  • The Song Remains the Same-1973
  • Kashmir-1975

Although the three surviving members of Led Zeppelin went on to create success for themselves in a variety of ways after the death of John Bonham, it was never the same. If it were not for the influence of this great band, many musical icons would likely not exist today.

Hope Davis
Author: Hope Davis

Writer, because it's the only way daydreaming pays.

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Written by Hope Davis

Writer, because it's the only way daydreaming pays.

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