You just can’t argue with a classic song like Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin. I still love the original but now whenever I hear the song it makes me think of this incredible performance by Heart at the Kennedy Center Honors night a few years ago:
This is an epic cover of an epic song and this clip is wonderful for many reasons.
First of all, why is this song so enduring? It’s considered one of the best rock songs of all time. But it’s eight minutes long! And what does it even mean?
Who’s this lady shopping after hours and what’s she got to do with this piper guy? How did we end up in the forest?
I love this in-depth analysis of the song’s meaning on Schmoop:
“Stairway to Heaven” plays out as a kind of spirit quest, a journey into a quasi-mythical, pagan past through music. The classical guitar and lyrics recall Romantic poets like Keats as nature itself becomes a voice of truth whispering in the distance. The song’s key thematic element — a journey in search of meaning in a world of ambiguity — is emphasized by the constant evolution of the song as it, too, searches for an adequate voice. When that voice finally seems to be found — in Jimmy Page’s soaring guitar solo, which starts almost six minutes into the piece — it is ritualistically and gloriously prefaced by a fanfare…
Oh baby, I love it when you talk sort of quasi-academic to me.
The lyrics take us from the store, to the manicured hedge, to the wild windy forest. The old world folksy flute and acoustic guitar shift to a wailing electric guitar solo of industrial proportions. The single voice becomes a chorus, and the narrator becomes a piper who’s going to show us the way. The sad and possibly corrupt woman is replaced by a mythical goddess. This song has a lot going on.
This tribute performance is special because Jason Bonham is on drums. He’s the son of John Bohham, the original drummer for Led Zeppelin who died in 1980, just 9 years after the song Stairway to Heaven was released.
Plus how can you not ♥️ Heart? Barracuda, anyone? Apparently they were a hit in Canada before they made it big in the US even though they’re from Seattle.
Ann Wilson absolutely kills it with the vocals here and, dare I say it, her throaty roaring gives Robert Plant’s original vocal track a run for its money.
In fact it’s such a mindblowing performance that it brings Robert Plant himself to tears. I’d say that’s a pretty solid win right there.
Besides the incredible talent, the full orchestra, the gigantic choir and all of the elements of the performance that brought the house down, this clip has something unexpected. Comedy.
Check out the audience. Look at everybody’s well-tamed excitement as they try to rock out in their tightly buttoned tuxes. You get the strong sense that Barack Obama is doing his best not to break out into the Carleton dance:
Here’s a short demonstration on the appropriate way to listen to Stairway to Heaven:
GET IT RIGHT, PEOPLE.