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A Life

by Paul Rees

Pub Date: Oct. 22nd, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-06-228138-8
Publisher: It Books/HarperCollins

By-the-numbers biography of the shaggy rocker.

Unfortunately, former Q and Kerrang! editor Rees hits nearly every rock-bio cliché. As his yarn opens, we find an aging Plant, frontman of Led Zeppelin, world-weary, “the weight of history pressing down upon him; the burden of all the demons he had come here to put to rest at last.” Then the perfunctory career review begins: Midlands boy grows up in a bombed-out, gritty industrial landscape, the child of music-loving (but classical music, mind you) parents, hears Elvis—and, more to the point, Bill Haley and His Comets—and is turned into a faux American. As Rees rightly notes, Plant, initially known in Britain as the hippie’s hippie, is a shrewd and bookish fellow who refuses to be pinned down. He made his fortune as a singer of heavy rock, but, as folk-rock idol Roy Harper says, “Robust Planet” was smart not to do the same old rock thing in the 30-odd years post-Zep, instead searching endlessly on the musical horizon for the next thing to do. (The current next thing is a blend of Middle Eastern and Americana, a pleasingly contradictory sound.) Plant, who at 65 “is now eligible for a bus pass and a state pension” in Britain, is a serious enough musician to warrant a serious biography, though perhaps it’s payback for thudding anthems like “Kashmir” and “Immigrant Song” to have a life story clotted with thudding prose along the lines of “His path was set,” “In many respects 1965 was to be a pivotal year,” and “He heard the screams, smelt the sex and sensed the power that could be bestowed upon the man with the microphone.”

For die-hard fans only. Zeppelin fanatics will want to turn to Stephen Davis’ hoary Hammer of the Gods (1985), which, though covering only the band and not Plant’s solo decades, isn’t as painful to read.