The genre Robert Plant admitted he “was so wrong” about and embraced in later life

Robert Plant

Robert Plant expressed a strong love for traditional American music during his formative years as the frontman of the West Bromwich band Band of Joy and later on as he rose to fame and glory with Led Zeppelin. The most obvious influences were from the blues, which is where rock ‘n’ roll originated. As a vocalist, Plant was especially taken by Howlin’ Wolf’s robust projection.

During one of Howlin’ Wolf’s early UK tours, Plant had the good fortune to see him. Plant remarked, “The bands I’ve been around, everybody just marvels about the cross-timing of that stuff.” He characterized his favorite song by Mississippi artist “Forty-Four” as “insane.” I saw the Wolf when I was sixteen years old; he spent roughly five or six years touring.

Robert Plant explained that two German promoters had brought some of the biggest blues musicians to the UK for tours during his adolescence. Skip James, Bukka White, Son House, Sonny Boy Williamson, Muddy Waters, Sugar Pie DeSanto, and Hound Dog Taylor were among the “remarkable collection of musicians” that were present.

Although Plant’s early musical training was firmly rooted in the blues, the luminaries of soul and early rock & roll helped to shape his remarkable vocal ability. Plant’s captivation with Betty Harris’s soulful voice surpassed any other, and his first love in the rock ‘n’ roll genre was Elvis Presley.

Blues, gospel, and country music primarily influenced Presley. Plant once remembered attempting, as a child, to imitate Presley. He made the most of the narrow space for acoustics between the French windows and the curtains. He recalled, “At home for Christmas, I used to hide behind the curtains and pretend to be Elvis.” The French windows and the curtains created a particular atmosphere. For a ten-year-old, there was a particular sound there. At ten years old, that encompassed my entire experience of the atmosphere. And I’ve always aspired to resemble that in some way.

Plant primarily admired Presley for his versatility in styles and his distinctive voice. Additionally, he likely found resonance in the bluesy elements present in Presley’s music. Generally speaking, Plant had little taste in country and folk music, especially white roots music.

Being a follower of the blues, a genre founded by African Americans, Plant believed that folk and white country music were imitative. He probably thought of Lead Belly as a folk and blues pioneer, but mistakenly thought of white folk musicians as imitations.

Robert Plant acknowledged his misunderstanding in a 2007 interview with The Guardian, citing Roscoe Holcomb’s “Little Maggie” as one of his favorite songs. “With the American roots musicians I currently collaborate with, I’ve found my match. I’m always open to learning new things, but I’ve been missing white American roots music a lot,” he said. “I was wrong to think that it was just guys in the hills singing songs by Black people.”

The folk-infused “Going to California” stands out as one of the softer songs in the Led Zeppelin catalog. It implies that Plant’s feelings were dormant during the 1960s and 1970s. Plant elaborated on his admiration for Holcomb, pointing out the artist’s capacity to tell moving stories. He said, “This is a mountain song about a woman who goes crazy. He tells a tale and has a deep singing style; you can hear the experience in his voice.”

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