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(Credit: Man Alive)


The eight songs that Robert Plant couldn’t live without


If you wanted to draw the archetype of a rock ‘n’ roll frontman, then the chances are you would use a young Robert Plant as a model. When he emerged with Led Zeppelin, he had it all: the flowing locks of some stone-crafted Roman Adonis, pants tight enough to count the change in his pocket, the striking looks of a South America centre forward, and a voice that could stir honey into tea from a thousand paces. 

This made him a sensation that we are still reeling from. However, he wasn’t content with merely crystalising an era of rock ‘n’ roll in golden amber. When his days with Led Zep were done, he pursued other passions, and most recently he release an album with bluegrass sensation Alison Kraus once more with Raising the Roof in 2021.

Heralding from the humble setting of Wolverhampton and weaving a trailblazing path through rock ‘n’ roll and beyond meant that there was much to talk about when he appeared on the iconic BBC series Desert Island Discs. The show has been a cornerstone of British broadcasting since its inception in 1942 when it was created by the playwright, novelist and radio producer Roy Plomley, OBE. The premise is simple, in fact, it’s one we’ve all thought about ourselves even if you’ve never been aware of the show: if you were cast away to a desert island and you could only choose eight songs, one book and a luxury item, what would you take?

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“In April 1960 I was 12, nearly 12, and already something was knocking on the door,” Plant began when selecting the first record that originally got him into music. “That April, Eddie Cochrane was killed in a car wreck in Chippenham, and he recorded loads and loads of really provocative, very well produced songs. This one now, it’s called ‘Pink Peg Slacks’ and I really wanted to know what the whole deal way around the corner and can I have some.”

From then on, Plant was drawn toward the allure of rock ‘n’ roll. He basked in the bluesy brilliance of near-mystic American stars like Howlin’ Wolf and built up his musical education. However, that is not the scene he would eventually enter and when it comes to the counterculture, Plant cherishes an anthem that captured the zeitgeist with ‘Ohio’ by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

When explaining his love for the protest anthem that documents the time when the National Guard opened fire on students protesting the Vietnam war, Plant said: “This is the song which was written which will remind us forever how it can go nastily, badly wrong.” This song represents a key moment when culture entered the discourse and the arts in some ways changed the world. 

Plant remembers these heady days as an almost surrealist time, and when he looks back retrospectively, the era seems weirdly illusory. Thus, he journeyed through different pastures thereafter and his final choice is one that seems to culminate his journey as an artist. He first met Alison Krauss when paying tribute to one of his old blues heroes Leadbelly, and he would later go on to record with her in a way that incorporates all the musical styles he grew to love. 

As the musical legend concluded: “I am going to have to play a song that I recorded with [Alison Krauss] it’s a Doc Watson song, and it is really beautiful, and it’s called ‘Your Long Journey’.” The stirring ode is surely a fitting sundown for a man who once rattled the rafters with grace and before sidestepping towards softer spiritualism. As Ali Farka Touré once said to him, “We know your voice. If we were a bird in a tree and we could see nothing but leaves, we’d know it was you.”

Eight songs Robert Plant couldn’t live without:

  •  ‘Pink Peg Slacks’ – Eddie Cochrane
  • ‘Serenade’ – Mario Lanza
  • ‘I Ain’t Superstitious’ – Howlin’ Wolf
  • ‘Teenage Ska’ – Baba Brooks
  • ‘Ohio’ – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
  • ‘Raha Gardishon Mein Hardam’ – Mohammed Rafi
  • ‘Diaraby’ – Ali Farka Touré and Ry Cooder
  • ‘Your Long Journey’ – Robert Plant and Alison Krauss

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