We thought there was no better time than now to get to grips with the vast back catalogue of the incredible rock vocalist, arguably the best of his generation, Robert Plant. Below, we’ve compiled 10 of the singer’s best song both with and without the rest of Led Zeppelin.
If you’re of a certain age then introducing the mesmerising power fo Plant’s vocal is likely a little redundant. If you do happen to be unaware of the force with which he approached every tune, then allow us to provide a succinct education in why Plant is rightly considered one of the best to ever pick up a microphone.
We’re such big fans of Plant’s vocals that we would even go on to suggest that before Plant there was no such thing as a rock singer’s style. Nowadays, if you flick on the television and unfortunately happen to catch a singing competition reality TV show then chances are they will include a “rock hopeful” and if they are included, there’s an even greater chance that their “unique” rock vocal is an attempt to copy Robert Plant.
Below we’re looking through ten of Plant’s best moments on record as we weave through both his time with Led Zeppelin and his solo career to bring you ten tracks that will blow your mind.
Robert Plant’s 10 best songs:
10. ‘Fool In The Rain’ – Led Zeppelin
A song which was written while watching the 1978 World Cup alongside Jimmy Page, ‘Fool In The Rain’ is one of the few Led Zeppelin songs not to include a powerhouse rhythm section, instead, it goes all samba beat and sees polyrhythmic grooves permeate the airwaves.
For Plant, it’s a chance to shake off the shackles of the title of ‘rock singer’ and let him work his vocal cords across what is easily described as a pop beat. It’s the final US single the band would release before the death of John Bonham would force them to disband.
9. ‘Please Read The Letter’ – Robert Plant & Allison Krauss
The song was originally written by Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, Charlie Jones, and Michael Lee and designated for Page & Plant’s album Walking into Clarksdale, released in 1994. It sees the duo revert from their stadium-sized sound and pursues music on a more intimate scale.
That version of the song is truly impressive but there’s no better showing of ‘Please Read The Letter’ than his duet with Allison Krauss. It’s simply breathtaking. Featuring on Plant’s Raising Sand, Plant’s vocal is at ease and finally extracted from the iconography of Led Zeppelin. The song, and the album, even received Grammys to prove it was worth the wait for freedom.
8. ‘Communication Breakdown’ – Led Zeppelin
Taken from their self-titled debut LP, this is arguably the moment Led Zeppelin and, in turn, Robert Plant formally announced themselves as bonafide rock behemoths. While the instrumentation is, as always, unbelievably good, it is Plant’s vocal, with all its searing power, that marks this song as something special.
The song may handle the feelings of frustrated love, being young, inexperienced and unable to convey such emotions, it is also two-and-a-half-minutes of complete arm-flailing brilliance. Plant is the orchestrator of that feeling as his band power through behind his massive singing voice.
7. ‘Other Arms’ – Robert Plant
Many Led Zeppelin albums come with a curious thing. They often involve using two of their best songs as the opening tracks. It meant that when you first listened to a Zeppelin album you were hit with a powerful one-two punch. On Robert Plant’s second solo record The Principle of Moments, he employed the same technique.
Using ‘Other Arms’ and ‘In The Mood’ as the balled-up fists of a new record, Plant proved that despite the loss of Led Zeppelin, rock fans could still count on him to provide a searing song capable of turning a bar full of strangers into a sleazy underground choir.
6. ‘Black dog’ – Led Zeppelin
This is about as pure as rock ‘n’ roll can get. The first song from their 1971 album Led Zeppelin IV is perfectly compounded when Plant joins in with a devastatingly cool line and a vocal like no other as he sings, “Hey, hey mama said the way you move, Gon’ make you sweat, gon’ make you groove.”
From there onwards, ‘Black Dog’ descends into one of the most unholy yet beautiful songs from the record. Of course, having Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and John Bonham behind you is helpful, but still, Plant steals the show. But if you ever wanted to pretend to be Robert Plant then this is the one song we’d suggest you start with. That’s because, after that first line, you’ll quickly realise it’s impossible.
5. ‘The Greatest Gift’ – Robert Plant
When Plant released Fate of Nations in 1993 he made sure to remove himself completely from his previous sounds of the late ’80s. He scaled back the production and took the Hollywood sheen of previous efforts and muddied them up. Rather than go searching for big hits, Plant instead focused on the integrity of the music.
The album was a mark of how far Plant had come and offered up a reminder for all those who had forgotten just exactly who they were dealing with. The standout song from the album was undoubted ‘The Greatest Gift’. Rather than rehash old sounds, this song is proof that Plant is always looking forward.
4. ‘Heartbreaker’ – Led Zeppelin
Taken from the band’s sophomore album ‘Heartbreaker’ has a habit of dividing fans as it lands heavily on the instrumental side of things. As well as Page’s huge solos, the song is imbued with a rhythm section intent on killing every beat in front of them. It makes it a curious choice to feature so high in Plant’s list.
The thing is, while Plant’s contributions to the song are somewhat minimal in comparison to others, it is a testament to Plant’s ability to completely transform any song he is on into the Robert Plant Show. So powerful and far-reaching are his lines that we could listen to Plant singing this on his own, with no backing, and still be incredibly happy.
3. ‘Stairway To Heaven’ – Led Zeppelin
It would be impossible to ignore the sheer weight and gravitas that ‘Stairway To Heaven’ holds. It’s easy to fall in love with ‘Stairway’, after all, its eight minutes of pure songwriting brilliance. Lyrically abstract and musically complete the fact we have Plant’s tender vocals is the cherry on top.
Plant had gathered up a lot of fans for his gravel toned screech of the band’s early efforts. But on ‘Stairway’ he returns to a vulnerable and tender sound that showed the world he was capable of far more than he offered in Led Zeppelin.
2. ‘Immigrant Song’ – Led Zeppelin
The first track of the band’s third album, ‘Immigrant Song’ came out of the traps with a fire in its belly and one of Plant’s finest performances on record. While lyrically Plant doesn’t have much to contend with his transformative “Ahhhhh” will go down in history as one of the most iconic rock moments of all time.
Plant is on fire throughout the song, hitting notes that only dogs can process while also possessing all of the malicious intent that Lucifer himself would be proud of. Even some 50 years on, this song is still a meaning and overbearing powerhouse of a rock anthem. An absolute monster.
1. ‘Whole Lotta Love’ – Led Zeppelin
When anyone thinks of rock behemoths Led Zeppelin quite often the first song that will come to their mind is the 1969 smash ‘Whole Lotta Love’. But while Jimmy Page and the rest of the group are routinely celebrated for the track, it is Robert Plant’s unstoppable vocal which steals the show.
The opening track for the band’s second album, Led Zeppelin II, flies out of the traps like a greyhound with a riff-fuzzing bottle rocket in the wrong end. Jimmy Page’s guitar sound would go on to define a generation—raucous, unrestrained and unflinching, it drives the whole song and much of the decade that followed.
Backed amply by the crashing power of Jon Bonham’s drums and the definitive bassline of the decade from John Paul Jones the track is a thing of unbridled beauty. However, above all else, Plant’s vocal on ‘Whole Lotta Love’ is what sets it apart. It is the performance of a supreme singer, it is a performance of epic proportions, it, essentially, makes the track what it is.