December 2, 2012
Kennedy Centre Honors
Led Zeppelin receive a prestigious award from President Barack Obama for their significant contribution to American culture and the arts.
Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page were among a group of artists who received Kennedy Centre Honors at a dinner event at the White House.
Plant said he was flattered and overwhelmed by the award, adding that he was glad to see Jones and Page using "good table manners".
In his tribute to the band, Mr Obama said: "When Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and John Bonham burst onto the musical scene in the late 1960s, the world never saw it coming.
"There was this singer with a mane like a lion and a voice like a banshee, a guitar prodigy who left people’s jaws on the floor, a versatile bassist who was equally at home on the keyboards, a drummer who played like his life depended on it.
"And when the Brits initially kept their distance, Led Zeppelin grabbed America from the opening chord. We were ready for what Jimmy called songs with "a lot of light and shade".
"It’s been said that a generation of young people survived teenage angst with a pair of headphones and a Zeppelin album ... but even now, 32 years after John Bonham’s passing - and we all I think appreciate the fact - the Zeppelin legacy lives on."
The president drew laughter from guests when he thanked the former band members for behaving themselves at the White House given their history of "hotel rooms being trashed and mayhem all around".
He ended his speech saying: "We honour Led Zeppelin for making us all feel young, and for showing us that some guys who are not completely youthful can still rock!"
Led Zeppelin, whose songs include Stairway To Heaven, Rock And Roll and Whole Lotta Love, broke up in 1980 following Bonham's death.
Oscar-winning actor Dustin Hoffman, chat show host David Letterman, blues star Buddy Guy and ballerina Natalia Makarova also received Kennedy Centre Honours at the event.
For the big finale, there was Led Zeppelin, which rated four musical numbers and overflowing, hilariously overwrought praise from presenter Jack Black (“They sang songs about love, about Vikings, about Vikings making love!”).
Then came Foo Fighters, with usual frontman Dave Grohl banging away on drums (connection: He teamed with Zep bassist John Paul Jones in the supergroup Them Crooked Vultures); they thrashed admirably through “Black Dog” and “Rock ‘n’ Roll.”
Kid Rock (Kid Rock?) was surprisingly credible on a medley of “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You” and “Ramble On.” And Lenny Kravitz gave a reading of “Whole Lotta Love” that was worthy of Plant himself.
Producers George and Michael Stevens set the musicians in front of an enormous backdrop of a gloomy and decrepit gothic church. There were seizure-inducing strobes, bottom-rumbling bass lines and smoke effects, which may be why a small group of older folks tiptoed out. The whole thing suggested both a Zeppelin arena concert in the ’70s and a bit of the Stonehenge set in “Spinal Tap.” When it was over, no one held up a lighter.
And then, inevitably, for the big windup: “Stairway to Heaven,” sung by Heart’s Ann Wilson backed by Nancy Wilson on guitar and a giant choir wearing bowler hats. On drums was Jason Bonham (son of, and sometime stand-in for, the late John Bonham, he of the bowler hat and Led Zeppelin’s fourth member).