Led Zeppelin was one of the recipients of the 2012 Kennedy Center Honors. The three surviving members, Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, and John Paul Jones watched as the Wilson sisters, Jason Bonham, an all-star orchestra, and two choruses rocked Stairway to Heaven.
And I mean rocked.
So much so, it brought tears to Robert Plants eyes.
Citizens of Earth, Mars, Mira, and the Milky Way have heard Robert Plants lyrics. However, in the sad possibility that, you, dear Reader, might not have been so fortunate, his lyrics are often mystical, spiritual, and mythological. He prefers to tell you his point of view via parable then let the listener draw her or his own conclusions. Said another way, what the Impressionists are to art, Robert Plant is to rock. Said a third way, this time in Robert Plants own words, Sometimes words have two meanings.
Here are the lyrics to Stairway to Heaven.
There’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold
And she’s buying a stairway to heaven.
When she gets there she knows, if the stores are all closed
With a word she can get what she came for.
Ooh, ooh, and she’s buying a stairway to heaven.
There’s a sign on the wall but she wants to be sure
‘Cause you know sometimes words have two meanings.
In a tree by the brook, there’s a songbird who sings,
Sometimes all of our thoughts are misgiven.
Ooh, it makes me wonder, Ooh, it makes me wonder.
There’s a feeling I get when I look to the west,
And my spirit is crying for leaving.
In my thoughts I have seen rings of smoke through the trees,
And the voices of those who stand looking.
Ooh, it makes me wonder,
Ooh, it really makes me wonder.
And it’s whispered that soon if we all call the tune
Then the piper will lead us to reason.
And a new day will dawn for those who stand long
And the forests will echo with laughter.
If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow, don’t be alarmed now,
It’s just a spring clean for the May queen.
Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run
There’s still time to change the road you’re on.
And it makes me wonder.
Your head is humming and it won’t go, in case you don’t know,
The piper’s calling you to join him,
Dear lady, can you hear the wind blow, and did you know
Your stairway lies on the whispering wind.
And as we wind on down the road
Our shadows taller than our soul.
There walks a lady we all know
Who shines white light and wants to show
How everything still turns to gold.
And if you listen very hard
The tune will come to you at last.
When all is one and one is all
To be a rock and not to roll.
And she’s buying a stairway to heaven.
So, what do these veiled, subtle, strange lyrics mean? Corny medievalism, so say some. Then there is the usual pronouncement from the Harry Potter haters: Satanism! Other assessments are more thoughtful. Musicologist Susan Fast says it is a shift from “extreme individuality” to “extreme community.” Robert Walser, another musicologist, called it a redefinition of political themes.
There are of course, many interpretations. Plant was well read in Norse and Welsh myths. All good myths have multiple meanings.
My take on Mr. Plants opus? Its a warning to the clueless: One cannot buy the stairway to heaven.
It would appear that everything in life is for sale. It would appear that every one in life is for sale. It would appear that wealth will get you everything, anything, and all things: palatial homes, expensive cars, a pretty spouse, respect, glory, security, power, legislators, governors, elections, liposuction, assault weapons, and, hey, whiter teeth. If the stores are all closed, no worries! With some cash and a campaign contribution or two, you can get what you came for.
Or so it would appear. These realities are illusory, Your stairway lies on the whispering wind.
My take on Mr. Plants opus? It is the warning another poet spoke to his time 2,700 years ago: Woe to you who join house to house and field to field until there is no more room Isaiah 5:8
My take on Mr. Plant’s opus on the 150th anniversary year of the Emancipation Proclamation, the 50th anniversary year of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther Kings I Have a Dream speech, and the second inauguration of Barack Obama as President of the United States? It is to say that voter ID laws, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus resurrected scheme to apportion the electoral votes based on a gerrymandered districts to keep Republicans in power, no taxes on the Marcellus shale wealth, tax breaks for drilling companies, 550 million dollars in basic education cuts, an unequal society of haves lots and have little, the insane pursuit of wealth, are most harmful to others and harm our democracy.
If you listen very hard, the tune will come to you at last.
Photo by Gerard Stolk
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