Widely regarded as one of the best rock vocalists of all time, Robert Plant has seen his fair share of hardship. Until the mid-1970s, the Led Zeppelin singer had lived an envious life, enjoying critical and commercial success all around the world with his group Led Zeppelin. It was an unparalleled rise to fame that saw Plant and company take on a strange mythic power. It was as if nothing could touch them, and then it all fell apart.
The group had spent the latter days of the 1960s and first half of the ’70s establishing themselves as one of the most enticing acts on the rock circuit. By 1974, with five albums to their name and hits like ‘Stairway To Heaven’ and ‘Immigrant Song’ already under their belt, Zeppelin were the biggest band in the world. Then, in 1975, a series of unfortunate events sent the band into a downward spiral. It started when Robert Plant and his wife Maureen got into a car crash while on holiday in Greece, leaving the singer with a broken ankle that meant he could not tour.
During their forced hiatus, Led Zeppelin wrote much of the material for Presence. The album recieved a lukewarm reaction from fans and critics alike, as did their concert film The Song Remains The Same, which was particularly unpopular with British fans, who hadn’t seen Zeppelin perform on home turf since they became tax exiles. Fighting an uphill battle to win back the favour of their original fanbase, Zeppelin embarked on another extensive stadium tour of the US, during which Plant recieved a series of devastating phone calls.
Zeppelin had just checked into the French Quarter hotel ahead of their performance at the Louisiana Superdome on July 30th when Plant recieved word from his wife. “The first phone call said his son was sick,” tour manager Richard Cole later recalled. “And the second phone call, unfortunately, Karac had died in that time.” The tour was immediately cancelled. Karac had meant everything to Plant, and his death very nearly unravelled the singer. With Zeppelin once again on hold, Plant returned home to spend time with his wife Maureen and daughter Carmen. Remembering that time in a conversation with Rolling Stone, Plant said: “I lost my boy. I didn’t want to be in Led Zeppelin. I wanted to be with my family.”
Two years later, Plant sat down to write ‘All My Love’. Released on Zeppelin’s In Through The Out Door and performed live only once, the track is a tribute to Karac and the joy he bought Plant and his family. The singer had another son, Logan, the same year the track was written.
Unspursigngly, Plant’s Blake-ian verses are imbued with the sense of history repeating itself. Whether it’s the “many hours and days that pass ever soon” the “tides” that “cause the flame to dim” or the cup that is “raised, the toast is made yet again,” it’s clear that the joy of Logan’s birth was both a great joy and a crushing reminder of Karac’s absence.