Jack White is arguably the greatest guitar technician of the 21st Century. White has fought the good fight, helping to keep rock ‘n’ roll alive and ticking over the last 20 years since The White Stripes released their debut album. His career has been built on collaboration, working with esteemed names like Alisson Mosshart in The Dead Weather, performed onstage with The Rolling Stones and he’s even recorded a Bond theme with Alicia Keys. However, all said and done, getting to perform a Led Zeppelin with Robert Plant might just be his career highlight.
“They are an immovable force in music,” Jack White once said about Led Zeppelin before adding. “I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t like them.” In 2019, the former White Stripes singer even shared a playlist of his 10 favourite Zeppelin songs, which was filled with deep cuts. His playlist includes alternate mixes of ‘Two Ones Are Won (Achilles Last Stand)’ and ‘St. Tristan’s Sword’, as well as ‘The Girl I Love She Got Long Black Wavy Hair’ and ‘Traveling Riverside Blues’ taken from sessions that the Zep carried out for the BBC.
However, one song on the playlist holds a special place close to the heart of Jack White and that is ‘The Lemon Song’. When he headlined Lollapalooza Argentina in 2015, White found himself taking to the stage after Robert Plant & The Sensational Shapeshifters. There was no way that he wasn’t taking full advantage of being in such close proximity to his hero and chanced his arm by inviting Plant to join him on stage.
The Led Zeppelin frontman didn’t take much convincing and the feeling of respect between the two titans of rock remains reciprocal. “I love Jack White’s buccaneer spirit, and the way he dodges through the musical horizons,” Plant wrote as part of a Facebook chat in 2014. He also revealed to his avid fanbase that he would be “happy” to record a song with the former White Stripes singer whilst he was in Nashville, adding: “I’m going to Nashville on Sunday and can do it on Monday morning! I’ve got lunch with Alison Krauss at 2pm and cocktails with Patty Griffin at 8pm.”
Although the studio collaboration didn’t come about, the barnstorming performance of ‘The Lemon Song’ at Lollapalooza half makes up for it. To make the occasion even more special, it was the first time that Plant had performed the track since 1995. The Led Zeppelin II deep cut has been drenched in controversy because of the similarities between the track and Howlin’ Wolf’s ‘Killing Floor’. This resulted in a court case back in 1972, when Arc Music, who owned the rights to Howlin’ Wolf’s music, sued Led Zeppelin for copyright infringement over ‘The Lemon Song’.
Thankfully, the parties manage to settle out of court and although, the sum has remained undisclosed — Howlin’ Wolf did receive $45,123 from Arc Music immediately following the suit and Led Zeppelin have been cornered into including him as a co-songwriter credit on re-releases.
Jack White is no longer the epitome of cool when he’s on stage with the swooning Led Zeppelin frontman and living out his childhood fantasy. Robert Plant seems just as lost in the moment as White and is trying his damndest to keep a lid on his admiration for the man he’s sharing the stage with.