Kennedy Center Honors Led Zeppelin
By Ramona Flightner/ @ramonaflightner
I find great inspiration from music. Last week, I watched the Kennedy Center Honors show because it honored one of my favorite bands, Led Zeppelin.
I love Led Zeppelin. I remember when I first really listened to their albums. I was on a family vacation and became terribly ill and had to lie in bed all day rather than play in the ocean. My walkman (yes, those horrid machines that played tapes), malfunctioned. I asked my brother to lend me his walkman and he told me I could only use it as long as I listened to music that would not “denigrate” his machine. I told him I didn’t want to listen to Metallica and he said I should try some of his Zeppelin. I started listening to Zeppelin’s third album and I was mesmerized. I loved everything about the music: Robert Plant’s voice, the lyricism in the guitar playing of Jimmy Page, John Bonham’s amazing drumming and John Paul Jones’s melodic bass playing.
Since then, I have continued to listen to and enjoy their music. I was one of the 20 million who threw their names into the lottery to attend the concert in London in 2007. Of course I didn’t get a ticket, and I have yet to see the DVD of the show, but just the thought of seeing the three surviving members perform was a thrill.
Thus, when I heard they were to be honored, I knew I needed to DVR the show. Jack Black did a wonderful job in introducing the band. His evident adoration of the group represented every fan’s feeling toward the band. I enjoyed watching the short video on the history of the band.
Then, the music started and it was interesting seeing others trying to meet the challenge of interpreting Led Zeppelin’s songs. Lenny Kravitz held nothing back as he channeled a younger Robert Plant in the song “Whole Lotta Love.” His rendition had Bonnie Raitt grooving in her seat and earned a standing ovation from the band.
I was a bit nervous when I realized they were to perform “Stairway to Heaven,” as it has always been one of my favorite songs. However, I thought it was a fantastic interpretation. Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart performed brilliantly by not attempting to mimic Led Zeppelin, but by creating their own version, and it was great seeing John Bonham’s son, Jason, on the drums. I was mesmerized by the depth of sound created by the large choir and orchestra.
My favorite aspect of the performance was watching the three surviving band members watch the tribute. They seemed to really enjoy it and be moved by the performers. I smiled with appreciation upon realizing President Obama was a fan when I saw him singing along to the songs and I loved watching Yo Yo Ma jamming to the electric guitar solo on “Stairway.” When I finished watching the tribute, I, too, wanted to stand up and cheer.
© Ramona Flightner, writer