The first time that I remember hearing about Led Zeppelin was in the Spring of 1969 when I was at a friend’s house with the radio playing when “Communication Breakdown” came on. My friend told me that every time that a song by this new group called Led Zeppelin came on that he stopped whatever he was doing to listen to it and we did.
Led Zeppelin toured the US during the release of their first album and became one of the most popular Rock bands in the world. They released eight studio albums over a period of ten years. The group was made up of guitarist Jimmy Page who was originally filling tour dates for the now defunct Yardbirds as the New Yardbirds. The rest of the band was comprised of vocalist Robert Plant, bassist/keyboardist John Paul Jones, and drummer John Bonham. When Bonham died at the age of 32 in 1980, Led Zeppelin sisbanded but the remaining three members have all had successful solo careers and have even reformed on a few occasions with John Bonham’s son Jason on drums.
Here are our top 10 Led Zeppelin songs.
10. “Black Dog”
“Black Dog” is the first cut on Led Zeppelin IV and John Paul Jones came up with the main riff after listening to and being inspired by Muddy Waters’ 1968 psychedelic blues rock album Electric Mud. Rolling Stone Magazine ranked it 294 in 2004 and 300 in 2010 on a list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. This is a live version from December 10, 2007 when they reformed with Jason Bonham for a filmed tribute concert for Ahmet Ertegun at the O2 Arena in London England.
9. “Communication Breakdown”
Led Zeppelin’s eponymous debut album had “Communication Breakdown” on it since it had been part of their repertoire since the beginning. The song is an energy driven example of the intensity of the performance that the band had from the very beginning.
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8. “Dazed and Confused”
One of the most popular Led Zeppelin songs from their first album is “Dazed and Confused” which was a reworked folk song from 1967 by Jake Holmes who coincidentally opened for the Yardbirds when Page was in it. Holmes tried to contact Page about the plagiarism but wasn’t successful until he filed a lawsuit and it was settled out of court in 2012 and now Holmes is jointly credited with Page as inspiring him on all new releases.
7. “Good Times Bad Times”
“Good Times Bad Times” is the lead song from Led Zeppelin’s debut album and was the first single released in the US that scored on Billboard’s Hot 100. The song sets the tone for the rest of the album as it exemplifies the explosive performance of one of the most powerful rock bands that ruled the 1970s.
6. “Immigrant Song”
Led Zeppelin III in 1970 featured the “Immigrant Song” which is an ode to the Nordic gods of war. One has to keep in mind that the conflagration that was the war in Vietnam was raging when it was written to fully understand the context. At the same time it contrasted the Orient’s tropics with Norse “ice and snow” and even found a place in a number of television and film projects including School of Rock and Thor: Ragnarok.
5. “Whole Lotta Love”
“Whole Lotta Love” was another hit from Led Zeppelin II and it expressed the mood of the generation that they recorded it for. The song was as suggestive in its lyrics as you could get at the time while the gestures made by the artists themselves during their performances combined to further enrage conservative parents who were blindsided by the rock & roll revolution of the 1960s. It was ranked by Rolling Stone as #75 of the 500 Greatest recorded songs of all time. However, in a law suit settlement in 1985 it was determined that “You Need Love” by Willie Dixon which was originally recorded by Muddy Waters in 1962 wasn’t given credit. Therefore payment was made and credit was given on future releases.
4. “Ramble On”
Led Zeppelin II came out just in time for Christmas in 1969, so it could be a gift for the holidays. The references to Mordor and Gollum in the lyrics of “Ramble On” inspired people to investigate the meaning of these references which led them to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy which was popular among college students and hippies at the time.
3. “Stairway to Heaven”
“Stairway to Heaven” is probably the most emblematic of all of Led Zeppelin’s compositions and is another tune embroiled in accusations of plagiarism. In the case of “Skidmore v. Led Zeppelin” which finally concluded on March 9, 2020, the 9th Circuit Court “affirmed the district court’s conclusion that “Stairway to Heaven” does not infringe on Taurus’s copyright.” Randy (California) Wolfe who wrote the song drowned in Hawaii in 1997 rescuing his son. He never raised the issue that can be documented in his lifetime and after his death his mother established a “Trust” in his name. It wasn’t until 2014, eight years after Michael Skidmore became involved that he convinced the family to pursue the case. Links for both songs are included to give readers an opportunity to compare. The riff in question occurs about 45 seconds into “Taurus” which is an instrumental. The really weird thing about the entire case is that in 1959 British Folk musician Davy Graham, who played finger style guitar, recorded an instrumental version of “Cry Me A River” that included the same riff a decade earlier than either tune in question.
2. “When the Levee Breaks”
“When the Levee Breaks” was released by Led Zeppelin on Led Zeppelin IV but it was such a familiar blues recording that the band gave Memphis Minnie joint credit along with all the members of the band. The song was about the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and was first written and recorded by Kansas Joe and Memphis Minnie in 1929.
Although none of the members of Led Zeppelin had been to Kashmir, Plant and Page did perform in some small clubs in Bombay, India and Morocco. The band considers the song one of their best and it was released at the pinnacle of their success in 1975 on their Physical Graffiti album. According to Robert Plant; “It’s so right, there’s nothing overblown, no vocal hysterics. Perfect Zeppelin.”