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Robert Plant

As the lead singer of Led Zeppelin, Robert Plant seemed invincible, a "Golden God" in the words of journalist/filmmaker Cameron Crowe. Plant may have embraced rock stardom during Zeppelin's zenith in the mid-'70s, but the singer has spent the decades following the band's 1980 dissolution exploring the road less-traveled. Beginning with his 1982 solo debut, Pictures at Eleven, Plant pursued a feverishly adventurous solo career, embracing synthesizers and art rock that seemed to be the antithesis of Zeppelin's majestic hard rock, but he'd also later dabble in sampling and world music, while taking detours to reunite with Zep guitarist Jimmy Page for both a rockabilly lark and a folk-based revival of their catalog. Folk and roots rock weren't a passing fancy for Plant: he teamed with bluegrass singer Alison Krauss on 2007's Raising Sand, a Grammy-winning smash that also proved to the world at large the depth and range of Plant's music. Even with this success under his belt, Plant was determined to explore new musical territory, continuing to take risks on the 2010 album Band of Joy and 2014's Lullaby And...The Ceaseless Roar, then delivering a successful reunion with Krauss with 2021's Raise the Roof. These records proved that among all his peers, Plant possessed a musical wanderlust that kept his art vibrant. Pictures at Eleven launched Plant's solo career in 1982. The album featured Phil Collins, and the drummer also appeared on the 1983 follow-up, The Principle of Moments, where Plant achieved a lighter touch somewhere between Genesis and Zeppelin's quieter side with tracks like "In the Mood" and "Big Log." But the singer would feed his Elvis Presley infatuation on 1984's The Honeydrippers, Vol. 1, teaming with Page and other guests on influential roots rock material. Refusing to be typecast, Plant then threw fans a major curveball with Shaken 'n' Stirred, the 1985 album that approximated new wave through the synthesizer embellishments of keyboardist Jezz Woodroffe and guitarist Robbie Blunt, plus Hayward's use of electronic drums. It was a creative highlight of his career, but despite a hit in "Little by Little," the album sold poorly, and rumblings about a Zeppelin reunion mounted. Plant took the next few years off, then answered the call for Zeppelin material with 1988's Now & Zen, which featured samples from his old group (plus selections from its vault on the subsequent tour). Manic Nirvana furthered the post-Zeppelin theme in 1990, and Plant's 1993 CD, Fate of Nations, proved another artistic high point and found Plant singing Page's name on the hit "Calling to You." The old songwriting partners had gotten together again for special occasions with Jones and drummers like Collins and Bonham's son Jason, but organized a different reunion in 1994. Plant brought in his bassist, Charlie Jones, and touring drummer Michael Lee, to back the singer and Page -- who added a British symphony orchestra and Middle Eastern musicians for their televised No Quarter concert and CD. Despite Plant blocking John Paul Jones from participating (the two had disagreed throughout their careers), the show proved a fascinating blend of different cultures tackling Zeppelin classics like "Since I've Been Loving You" and "Gallows Pole." As the versatile John Paul Jones made a name for himself as a producer (of groups as disparate as Heart and the Butthole Surfers) as well as a solo artist, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page further stirred the ashes with their 1998 studio CD Walking Into Clarksdale. But the quartet format (with Charlie Jones and Michael Lee) paled in comparison to Zeppelin's similar blend of bombast and subtlety, and poor sales put Plant back at the crossroads of his 35-year career. He stayed away from recording until late 2001, when he stepped into the studio with a batch of original material and a few well-chosen covers and recorded Dreamland. Taking his penchant for experimenting with ethnic musics and blending it with a softer approach to his bluesy pop, he steered in another interesting direction almost 40 years into his recording career. In November 2003, Atlantic issued Sixty Six to Timbuktu, a two-disc compilation dedicated exclusively to Plant's solo work. The set ranged from hits like 1988's "Tall Cool One" and the Honeydrippers favorite "Sea of Love" to the previously unissued "Upside Down" and a pre-Zeppelin single dating from 1966. Mighty Rearranger followed two years later, and Plant teamed up with bluegrass icon Alison Krauss to release the Grammy-winning collaborative album Raising Sand in 2007. Plant next revived the name of his first band, Band of Joy, in 2010 for the self-titled Band of Joy release, which was co-produced by Buddy Miller. Two years later, Plant formed a new band called the Sensational Space Shifters (featuring former Cast guitarist Liam Tyson), who made their debut at that year's WOMAD. They released a digital live album and went on to play a number of festivals, including 2014's Glastonbury. Plant's next solo album, Lullaby And... The Ceaseless Roar, featured the band. Released by Atlantic in September 2014, it incorporated blues, rock, folk, world, funk, and electronic influences, and was a deeply personal effort that saw Plant reconnecting with his English roots. It was greeted by good reviews and healthy sales, debuting at two on the U.K. charts and ten on Billboard in the U.S. Plant retained the Sensational Space Shifters for Carry Fire, an album released in October 2017. In 2020, Robert Plant released Digging Deep: Subterranea, a two-CD compilation of deep tracks from throughout his solo career that also featured three unreleased songs. Plant next reunited with Alison Krauss for Raise the Roof, the 2021 sequel to Raising Sand. The pair supported the album with a tour in 2022.
© Bill Meredith /TiVo
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