Robert Plant‘s performance of the LED ZEPPELIN classic “Stairway To Heaven” last weekend was reportedly prompted by a six-figure donation to a cancer-focused charity.
On Saturday (October 21),the 75-year-old LED ZEPPELIN frontman sang a rendition of the 1971 power ballad during a charity concert for The Cancer Platform at Soho Farmhouse in Oxfordshire, organized by DURAN DURAN‘s Andy Taylor. It marked Robert‘s first time singing the song in public since LED ZEPPELIN‘s 2007 performance at the O2 Arena in London, which was later released as the “Celebration Day” concert film.
In a new interview with Led Zeppelin News, former REEF and current GOLDRAY guitarist Kenwyn House, who played alongside Plant at the event, said that he had no idea “Stairway To Heaven” was on the setlist until he arrived at rehearsal.
“It was a combination between über excitement and terrifying,” House said. “I literally only had four days to learn everything” after receiving a phone call from Taylor‘s guitar technician on October 15 asking if he would be available for a charity performance less than a week later.
“When Robert Plant walked into the room and I had to play ‘Stairway To Heaven’ with him for the first time in a small enclosed environment, that was probably the most pressured professional situation I have ever, ever come across. I’m in a small room with my hero playing the most famous of his songs.”
House went on to say that Plant — who has shared somewhat conflicting feelings about the track during interviews throughout the years — only agreed to perform “Stairway To Heaven” after it was requested by someone who donated a significant amount of money to the aforementioned The Cancer Platform.
“Someone bid a huge amount of money for him to sing this song,” House said. “There is a good circle of karma around it. That raised a six-figure sum for the charity, that one song.”
Plant, Taylor and House were joined at the event by PINK FLOYD/David Gilmour bassist player Guy Pratt, Rod Stewart drummer David Palmer, Taylor‘s son Andy J. Taylor on guitar, Danish singer Anne Rani and Croatian multi-instrumentalist Dino Jelusick (WHITESNAKE, TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA) on keyboards and backing vocals.
Back in 2019, Plant said that he could no longer “relate” to “Stairway To Heaven”. During an appearance on the “Ultimate Classic Rock Nights” radio show, Plant spoke candidly about his feelings regarding the “Led Zeppelin IV” classic. “Of course, it was a good song,” he said. “The construction of the song, the actual musical construction is very, very good. It’s one of those moments that really can stand without a vocal — and, in fact, it will stand again without a vocal, I’m sure, because it’s a fine, fine piece of music.”
Plant went on to say: “Lyrically, now, I can’t relate to it, because it was so long ago. I would have no intention ever to write along those abstract lines anymore. I look at it and I tip my hat to it, and I think there are parts of it that are incredible. The way that Jimmy [Page] took the music through, and the way that the drums reached almost climaxed and then continued… It’s a very beautiful piece. But lyrically, now, and even vocally, I go, ‘I’m not sure about that.'”
Several years ago, LED ZEPPELIN had to defend itself against a copyright lawsuit alleging “Stairway To Heaven” was stolen from an obscure 1960s instrumental. Jurors in the 2016 trial, which included testimony from Plant and Page, decided that “Stairway” did not infringe on “Taurus”, written by the late Randy Wolfe and performed by his band SPIRIT.
During the trial, Plant recalled how he and Page had worked on “Stairway To Heaven” at Headley Grange, a former poorhouse in Hampshire, England. He said: “One evening, Jimmy Page and I sat by the fire, going over bits and pieces.” He recalled leaving the rest of the band to work on the song while he went to his bedroom to write the song’s lyrics, which he told the court were based on Celtic mythology and “the pastoral areas of Britain I love.”
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