Led Zeppelin covers and tributes

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Led Zeppelin songs have been the subject of cover versions on occasion; American band Dread Zeppelin have made a career out of covering and parodying Zeppelin tunes.[1] However, other serious and authentic-sounding tribute bands have also emerged, striving to keep the true essence of a Led Zeppelin live show experience alive such as the Brazilian Led Brazil and Swan Song - A Tribute to Led Zeppelin, In the Light, and the British band Fred Zeppelin, who are based in the Black Country homeland of Plant and Bonham and have been seen by Robert Plant several times.[2] Lez Zeppelin is also an all-female tribute act, performing the work of Led Zeppelin.[3]

Early years[edit]

Beginning in the 1980s, the iconic nature of many Zeppelin riffs made them a popular target for sampling, initially unauthorised but later sanctioned by the surviving band members, to mixed reactions from fans. Hip-hop group the Beastie Boys sampled Bonham's crushing beat from "When the Levee Breaks", and also borrowed parts of "The Ocean" for "She's Crafty". For the movie Godzilla, guitarist Jimmy Page collaborated with P. Diddy, reworking the famous riff from "Kashmir" in the song "Come With Me"—Page also has a brief vocal part in this song. Tool has covered "No Quarter" and a riff from the song can be found in Sublime's "Smoke Two Joints". Another band featuring Tool vocalist Maynard James Keenan, A Perfect Circle, cut When the Levee Breaks for their eMOTIVe album in 2004. The rock/comedy duo Tenacious D strategically used pieces of "Stairway to Heaven" in the original version of their song "Tribute". In 2005 Coheed and Cambria released an album titled "Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV, Vol 1: From Fear Through The Eyes of Madness" which included a hidden song entitled "Bron-Y-Aur" after Zeppelin's famous "Bron-Yr-aur" and "Bron-Y-Aur Stomp".

Celebrity tributes[edit]

A cover version of "Whole Lotta Love", by Alexis Korner, was, for many years, used as the theme music for the BBC's chart show Top of the Pops. Saxophone legend King Curtis also did "Whole Lotta Love" (with an uptempo R&B arrangement) on his 1971 Live at Fillmore West album. Tina Turner covered Led Zeppelin II 's "Whole Lotta Love" (as did the a cappella group The Bobs) and the London Philharmonic Orchestra released an orchestral tribute to Led Zeppelin that includes versions of "Stairway to Heaven", "When The Levee Breaks", and "Kashmir". Rolf Harris recorded a cover version of Stairway to Heaven in 1993 which reached No.7 in the UK charts [1]. Not long after an album "Stairways To Heaven" was released, featuring Australian artists' interpretations of the classic song. In 1995 a tribute album entitled Encomium: A Tribute to Led Zeppelin was released featuring covers performed by modern rock acts, notably a hit version of "Dancing Days" performed by Stone Temple Pilots. Robert Plant actually sang on this album, duetting with Tori Amos on "Down by the Seaside," because she wanted to sing a descant to it.

Lawful dispute[edit]

In 1978, a band from Davis, California called Little Roger and the Goosebumps put out a single called "Stairway To Gilligan's Island" (by putting the words to the theme of the 1960s US television show Gilligan's Island to an adapted and condensed Stairway to Heaven). This song became popular especially through heavy play (and many listener requests) on the Dr. Demento Radio Show. Legal action by representatives of Led Zeppelin soon followed and the single was withdrawn from sale. Comedian Mark Silverman made a parody of the song "Stairway to Heaven" with a song titled, "Stairway to the house on the rising smoke on the water."

Led Zeppelin licensing[edit]

Unlike many of their contemporaries, the band has been very protective of its catalogue of songs and has seldom allowed them to be licensed for other uses. For example, it was not until 2007 that the band licensed their songs to any online music stores.[4] In recent years this position has softened somewhat and Led Zeppelin songs can be heard in movies such as One Day in September, Almost Famous and School of Rock, On the DVD release of the latter movie, a special feature shows star Jack Black and an auditorium full of extras videotaping a plea to Led Zeppelin for permission to use Immigrant Song in the film. In a singular concession for commercial use, the Led Zeppelin song Rock and Roll was heard in Cadillac television and radio ads.

Led Zeppelin cover goes mainstream[edit]

One of the first mainstream bands to release a live Led Zeppelin cover was the US band Heart. A live version of "Rock & Roll" appeared on the band's 1980 compilation "Heart Greatest Hits: Live". It is no small coincidence that Nancy Wilson, one of the band's founders, later married Cameron Crowe, the famous Rolling Stone journalist who covered Led Zeppelin during the band's peak years. He was also the writer and director of the semi-autobiographical movie Almost Famous.

The US band Great White has covered Led Zeppelin frequently throughout its career, both live and on tribute CD's. One of the earliest covers was an acoustic rendition of "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" for the MTV Unplugged Series recorded March 30, 1990 at Hollywood Center Studios, Los Angeles, CA. The show was aired on May 6, 1990 and later released on DVD. The track can also be found on several of the band's greatest hits compilations. Great White has also released two full tribute CDs: Great Zeppelin: A Tribute to Led Zeppelin (1999) and Great White Salutes Led Zeppelin (2005).

Famous bands and their tributes/covers[edit]

Arguably the most appropriate tribute CD ever recorded was by Jason Bonham, the son of legendary Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham. In 1997 Jason Bonham's band released a tribute CD entitled In the Name of My Father: The Zepset Live from Electric Ladyland. Featuring ten Led Zeppelin tracks recorded live at the studio Jimi Hendrix made famous it is called "a warm, loving tribute to one of the giants of hard rock" by editors at allmusic.com.

On November 7, 2003, Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater) put together a one-off cover band to perform at the 2003 Montreal Drum Festival. The one-time cover line-up titled "Hammer of the Gods" included Portnoy (drums), Paul Gilbert (Mr. Big) on guitar, Dave LaRue (Dixie Dregs) on bass and Daniel Gildenlow (Pain of Salvation, The Flower Kings) on Vocals. All members dressed in proper attire to imitate the original members. This performance is scheduled for release on both CD and DVD in 2006 through Portnoy's website [2].

A tribute can also be heard in Dream Theater's album A Change of Seasons. In this live performance, "The Rover", "Achilles Last Stand" and "The Song Remains The Same" are put together in a medley. These tracks were performed and recorded in the "Uncovered" Show at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in London, England on January 31, 1995.

Switzerland Rockers "Gotthard" have arguably recorded one of the best live versions of "Immigrant Song" on their 2006 Made In Switzerland release.

The British Heavy Metal Band Iron Maiden recorded a cover of the song "Communication Breakdown" on their single Bring Your Daughter... To the Slaughter.

Frank Zappa covered "Stairway To Heaven" during live performances. One version can be found on the 1991 live album The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life. This remarkable cover features a note-for-note copy of Page's guitar solo played by the horn section.

The Minnesota Orchestra performed with a cover band by the name of "The Music of Led Zeppelin" on January 21, 2006 at the Target Center in Minneapolis, MN. This performance combined electric guitar, singing, and drums with a full-blown orchestra and rock concert-style lighting for the entire duration of the show. The Minnesota Public Radio website features an article with more details at this address: [3]. The Target Center website also features an article at this address: [4].

The metal band Demons and Wizards has also covered "Immigrant Song". So have Los Angeles thrash metal/speed metal legends Dark Angel on their 1989 album Leave Scars. Guitarist Eric Meyer admits the band covered the song to get on the radio. An electro-charged version of "Immigrant Song" can be found on 2004's Electric Samurai by Japanese guitar wizard Tomoyasu Hotei. Canadian band "Kashmir" perform live Led Zeppelin covers since 2001.

Jeff Buckley, in the 2003 extended release of his Live at Sin-é cafe recording, covered and transformed the song "Night Flight", from Zep's "Physical Graffiti". He also performed a rather abbreviated version of "Kashmir" on 2001's Live á l'Olympia (though definitely not at original speed). In a promotional b-side to their Drops of Jupiter album, the band Train recorded an acoustic cover of "Ramble On". Missouri Metalcore band Coalesce's album, There is Nothing New Under the Sun, which is composed solely of Led Zeppelin covers. On October 31, 2007 the jam band Gov't Mule covered the entire Houses of the Holy album. This album is called "Haunted Holy House" and can be purchased on their website. An early cover of "Heartbreaker" by Nirvana can be found on the boxed set "With the Lights Out".

Vanilla Fudge covered songs on their album Out Through the In Door, released in 2007. Vanilla Fudge and Led Zeppelin toured together in 1969 and had a special bond to each other.

American Idol Covers[edit]

Until the 8th season of the reality television singing competition American Idol, in 2009, no contestant had ever played a song of Zeppelin, but it changed when Adam Lambert sang "Whole Lotta Love" on this year's Top 4.

After this, Haley Reinhart sang "What Is And What Should Never Be" on the Top 3 of the 10th season, but didn't make it through to the finale. Even though she fell down during the performance, Haley received a standing ovation from the judges.

In 2012 (the 11th season of the show), another girl covered the band: Elise Testone picked Led Zeppelin as her "personal idol" (theme of the Top 9 week) and sang "Whole Lotta Love". She also got a standing ovation by the end of the performance.

References[edit]