Robert Plant’s relationship with ‘Stairway To Heaven’ is a complicated one. Although the track is Led Zeppelin’s magnum opus in many people’s eyes, one person who disagrees with that notion is the song’s actual singer. Astonishingly, he even donated $10,000 to a radio station in a plea to stop them from playing the rock behemoth.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a rock lover who doesn’t have a special place in their heart for ‘Stairway’. After all, it’s eight minutes of undeniable pure songwriting brilliance. Across the song, Led Zeppelin encapsulates everything that made them the dynamic group that successfully guided music to a new dimension.
However, in 2019, Plant spoke about how ‘Stairway’ is a track that he could no longer relate to, but he did admit that he could admire the song, even if only from afar. While sitting down with UCR as part of their ‘Nights’ radio show, Plant said: “The construction of the song, the actual musical construction, is very good. It’s one of those moments that really can stand without a vocal and, in fact, it will stand again without a vocal, I’m sure, because it’s a fine piece of music.
“Lyrically, now, I can’t relate to it, because it was so long ago. I would have no intention ever to write along those abstract lines any more.”
Plant’s disparaging comments about ‘Stairway’ were met with surprise, but in 2002, he made a more significant revelation when he said once he donated $10,000 to a radio station for it to stop playing the track.
The station in question was KBOO, which is a listener funded, non-profit radio channel in Portland. Plant was driving to a show in Lincoln City and stumbled upon the station, instantly falling in love with the weird blends of alternative music they were playing.
“KBOO had this amazing music,” the former Led Zeppelin singer told NPR in 2002. “It was kind of a mixture of sad outtakes of doo-wop and a very droll DJ, who sounded like somebody from Marin County in 1967. I thought, ‘This is great. I gotta pull over and listen to this.'”
“The guy came on saying they were looking for sponsorships,” Plant added. “You know, ‘Please send in $10’ (or $15 or whatever), and if people did that, KBOO would promise never to play ‘Stairway to Heaven.’ So I called him up and pledged my money. I was one of the KBOO sponsors.”
While most singers’ ego would take a bruising if the station they were listening to begged for listeners to pay them to stop playing their most famous song — Plant has never been wired like that.
If there’s one person who could quite happily never listen to ‘Stairway To Heaven’ again, it’s Robert Plant. Paying $10,000 to make sure it never got aired on the station is a step too far even in Plant’s playbook, you’d presume, but his love of supporting independent music ventures and his hatred for ‘Stairway’ aligned beautifully on this occasion.