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Music

Robert Plant’s 10 favourite songs of all time

@TomTaylorFO

With the sort of golden locks that a lion would be proud of, a voice that could be measured on the Richter scale, and pants so tight you could count how much change he was carrying, Robert Plant represented the ultimate frontman of the counterculture age. Aside from the iconography and bristling bravura, he also had more musical chops than a butcher named Beethoven to back it up too. In fact, even Freddie Mercury admitted that he was in awe of him when the pair collaborated. 

The lifeblood of Plant’s musical journey began with an infatuation with the blues and folk records that were being shipped over the Wolverhampton from America. The likes of Howlin’ Wolf seemed to stir him into action with his rousing style. As fellow wolf lover Bob Dylan once put it “Howlin’ Wolf, to me, was the greatest live act,” Dylan explained, “Because he did not have to move a finger when he performed — if that’s what you’d call it, ‘performing.’”

And Dylan is a pertinent figure to mention because it was the folk forebearer who imbued Led Zeppelin with a more socially conscious ethos. “In May 1965 I experienced the genius of Bob at the Albert Hall,” Led Zeppelin bandmate Jimmy Page wrote as part of an Instagram post. “He accompanied himself on acoustic guitar and cascaded images and words from such songs as ‘It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)’ and ‘She Belongs To Me’ to a mesmerised audience. It was life-changing.”

However, as you might expect from the style that Plant later propagated, he was not averse to music with a bit more of a cinematic edge either and the classic track ‘Love Me’ BY The Phantom also features in his top ten. The song begins with an iconic howl, not unlike the glass-shattering shouts that Plant used to dish out for fun at the pomp of his Led Zeppelin fame. This shockingly atmospheric style of music was almost pioneered by the likes of The Phantom back in 1958. 

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However, it is a mark of Plant’s eclectic mix that blues and rock only make up a portion of his favourite tracks. Perhaps more surprising is the presence of The Cure and their eerie epic ‘Lullaby’. While Plant has wavered around various music genres since leaving Led Zeppelin, The Cure are far from the first act that you would guess amid his massive record collection. However, he told Q magazine: “I love Robert Smith’s beckoning you into his vulnerability. It’s an interesting little world, like H.G. Wells’s History Of Mr Polly.”

Also on the list is his favourite Led Zeppelin track—the classic spine-tingler ‘Kashmir’. As Plant told Q: “I wish we were remembered more for ‘Kashmir’ than ‘Stairway to Heaven’. It’s so right,” he opined, “there’s nothing overblown, no vocal hysterics. Perfect Zeppelin.” While Plant is not always that keen to praise his former back catalogue and even said he struggles to listen to certain Zeppelin songs, ‘Kashmir’ is the undoubted champion in his view. As it happens, ‘Stairway to Heaven’ is the undoubted chump too, in fact, he even paid a radio station $10,000 to stop playing the forbidden track. 

Nevertheless, the song lives on like all of Plant’s glowing output and part of this is owing to the sheer artistry in the mix. When you look at the eclectic slew of tracks that inspire him most, this is hardly surprising—he may well be a truly singular musician, but he certainly draws upon every element that the music world has to offer. After all, you don’t have a musical career like the ‘Golden God’ without keeping your ears open. 

Robert Plant’s ten favourite songs:

  • ‘Love Me’ by The Phantom
  • ‘Introduce Yourself’ by Faith No More
  • ‘What I’d Say’ by Ray Charles
  • ‘Swift as the Wind’ by The Incredible String Band
  • ‘Goin’ Down Slow’ by Howlin’ Wolf
  • ‘Song to the Siren’ by This Mortal Coil
  • ‘Travelling Riverside Blues’ by Robert Johnson
  • ‘Lullaby’ by The Cure
  • ‘A Big Hunk O’Love’ by Elvis Presley
  • ‘Kashmir’ by Led Zeppelin