Dolly Parton’s Cover of Led Zeppelin’s Most Famous Song: Robert Plant’s Reaction
So you’re going to do a cover of a Led Zeppelin tune? Perhaps a ballad like “Going to California” or “That’s the Way” might be appropriate. Those songs do away with the necessity for electric guitar virtuosity, allowing you to avoid comparisons to Jimmy Page. Alternatively, you may attempt a stomper like “Trampled Under Foot.” But you’d never choose “Stairway to Heaven” under any circumstances, would you?
Dolly Parton was the one who accomplished it. Parton’s take on the elephant in the antechamber of classic rock closed her bluegrass album Halos & Horns in 2002. Parton sought special permission from Page and Robert Plant, the composers of Led Zeppelin’s 1971 anthem, because she did some ad-libbing in her version of “Stairway.”
When she emailed it to Page and Plant, Parton said she was “scared to death.” “I knew I was on holy ground since it’s a classic,” she explained (via Dollymania). Parton, on the other hand, received her blessing and, even better, praise from both Plant and Page. Plant expounded on his emotions regarding Parton’s version of “Stairway to Heaven” in an interview at the time.
Dolly Parton’s cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” was praised by Robert Plant.
Robert Plant revisited his post-Led Zeppelin years of musical “whoring like crazy.”
Parton didn’t decide to tackle “Stairway to Heaven” on a whim. “It was a song I loved and a song that [her husband]Carl loved,” she said upon the release of Halos & Horns (via Dollymania). “We used to love it together.” Yet that didn’t mean she’d do a note-for-note cover.
Parton’s stamp on the track really jumps out at you beginning around the 4:00 mark. “You can’t buy it, you can’t borrow,” she sings at 4:27. “You gotta walk it straight and narrow.” Parton’s offering a straight materialist reading of Plant’s lyrics there. Later, when a choir kicks in, the track’s production gets really big.
Plant told the now-defunct Launch he liked… This story is a short summary. Hope you enjoyed.