Considered one of the most outstanding singers in the history of rock, Robert Plant was a member of the band Led Zeppelin from 1968 to 1980. When the group disbanded in 1981, he began a solo career that allowed him to venture into a number of musical universes - 1950s R&B, New Wave, Asian and African music... In 1994, he teamed up with Jimmy Page, an accomplice from his Led Zeppelin days, for the No Quarter project. In the early 2000s, he explored new horizons with the group Strange Sensation, and then branched out into a number of projects, including collaborating with bluegrass musician Alison Krauss. In 2011, Robert Plant received the Spirit Award, given by the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal.
Robert Anthony Plant was born August 20, 1948 in West Bromwich, England. Passionate about the blues, he was particularly influenced by Robert Johnson, Bukka White and Skip James. Two formative events, at the start of his career, in the mid-1960s, stand out. First, the creation of the group Band of Joy, with the help of an extraordinary drummer, John Bonham. Then, a fruitful collaboration with Alexis Korner, a pillar of the British blues scene, alongside whom Plant would ply his talents as singer and harmonica player.
In 1968, the lion-maned performer encountered guitarist Jimmy Page, a seasoned studio musician who'd been with the Yardbirds for two years. The group had just broken up, and Page was in the process of forming his own band. He had already secured the services of another studio hound, bass and keyboard player John Paul Jones, but was still on the lookout for a singer and a drummer. One day, spotting Plant at Korner's place, he approached him. Plant accepted the invitation, suggested Bonham on drums, and Led Zeppelin was born. Until its dissolution 12 years later, the foursome reigned in the rock universe.
John Bonham's tragic death in 1980 put an end to the adventure. Robert Plant began a solo career that, two years later, bore results. Recorded with guitarist Robbie Blunt and drummer Phil Collins, the album Pictures at Eleven made the top five on both sides of the Atlantic. The same team created The Principle of Moments (1983).
On The Honeydrippers Vol.1, a retro-style project released in 1984, Plant covered several R&B standards from the 1950s. Jimmy Page appears uncredited on one of the cuts. Shaken & Stirred, put out the following year, reveals shades of the electronic sound that was popular at the time.
Ever since the start of his solo career, Plant had been trying to distance himself from Led Zeppelin. But following a three-year hiatus, there was a reconciliation, resulting in Now & Zen. Jimmy Page plays six-string guitar on Tall Cool One, a tune that includes a sample from the famous Led Zeppelin number, Whole Lotta Love.
Page and Plant officially joined forces on No Quarter, in 1994. Flanked by bassist Charlie Jones and drummer Michael Lee, the two long-time accomplices called on a symphonic ensemble as well as some North African musicians to revive Zeppelin classics such as Kashmir and Gallows Pole. They also came up with a few new compositions. The resulting album and televised concert were both deemed unqualified successes.
Four years later, the singer and the guitarist struck again, with Walking Into Clarksdale, a disc entirely made up of new compositions. Once again, the pair called on Jones and Lee to form the rhythm section, and retained the services of independent rock producer Steve Albini.
A global musician
At the start of the 2000s, Plant put together Strange Sensation, a group that allowed him to go even farther in exploring the musical territories that fascinate him, in particular the music of Morocco and of the Atlas region, as well as American West Coast psychedelic rock. On the disc Dreamland, he added blues and folk to the mix. It also features covers (Bob Dylan, Tim Buckley, Skip Spence...) and two original titles. That same year, he released the retrospective Sixty Six to Timbuktu, which encompasses all the phases of his career - except for the Zeppelin years.
In 2007, a high-level collaboration with bluegrass singer and violinist Alison Krauss spawned the disc Rising Sand. Produced by T-Bone Burnett, it was lauded by the public, the critics and the music industry. Backed by a team of musicians that included Marc Ribot on guitar, Dennis Crouch on bass and Jay Bellarose on drums, Plant and Krauss flirted with country, folk, and blues. America's extremely fertile musical soil also gave rise to Band of Joy (2010), whose title is a reference to Plant's very first band. This time, the singer shared the title of producer with guitarist Buddy Miller, and recruited back-up singer Patty Griffin.
The following year, on the occasion of his first visit to the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, the artist received the Spirit Award, to highlight the quality and the innovative nature of his work, as well as the definitive influence of this singer-songwriter on international popular music as a whole.