Led Zeppelin and Bob Dylan are two juggernauts of the music industry. In fact, on the Mount Rushmore of rock and roll, there is no doubt that the two acts would be carved into the stone. Both found fame in the sixties, and both sets of artists are considered the best in their field, with Dylan a wondrous lyricist and each member of Led Zeppelin arguably the best at what they do. Yet, despite this, there aren’t many similarities between the two.
Jimmy Page once spoke of the “life-changing” moment of witnessing Dylan play live in 1965, and Robert Plant has also shared his adoration for the freewheelin’ troubadour. “Something happened when Dylan arrived,” Plant told the Guardian in 2007. “I had to grapple with what he was talking about. His music referenced Woody Guthrie, Richard and Mimi Farina, Reverend Gary Davis, Dave Van Ronk, and all these great American artists I knew nothing about.”
“He was absorbing the details of America and bringing it out without any reservation at all, and ignited a social conscience that is spectacular.” He opened Britain up to a brand new world of music and confirmed that pop wasn’t such a dirty word after all and it could be used for good. “In these Anglo-Saxon lands we could only gawp because we didn’t know about the conditions he was singing about. Dylan was the first one to say, ‘Hello, reality.’ I knew that I had to get rid of the winkle-pickers and get the sandals on quick.” But that doesn’t mean the two acts were always on great terms.
Famously, Dylan left Led Zeppelin manager Peter Grant agog with his response to their introduction. It was 1974, and the band were the biggest thing on the planet, and Grant had a reason to make himself known to the singer. “Hello, Bob. I’m Peter Grant, I manage Led Zeppelin,” said the manager of the most famous band in the world. Dylan’s response was nothing short of devastating, replying, “Do I come to you with my problems?”
Perhaps owing to the “life-changing” power of Dylan, rather than be insulted or hurt by his words, Plant, Page, John Bonham and John Paul Jones decided to pay tribute to the ‘It Ain’t Me Babe’ singer by rekindling an old blues classic and laying it down on their then-new album Physical Graffiti.
‘In My Time of Dying’ is a classic Led Zeppelin song. Running over eleven minutes long, the song is built out of an old blues tune originally performed by Blind Willie Johnson in the 1920s and known as ‘Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed’.
However, the track came back into prominence when a young artist named Bob Dylan included it on his debut album as ‘In My Time of Dyin”. Transferring the song into a new spectrum certainly influenced the band, and they took his track and expanded on it for their own.
It could be argued that the band just so happened to enjoy the song and so included it, and its improvised closing segment, in their upcoming album. But, considering the slight on Grant, something which the band must have discussed, it feels rather likely that Page, Plant, Bonham and Jones tipped their hat to the iconic Bob Dylan by adapting one of his first releases.