The surviving members of Led Zeppelin enjoyed something of a celebration day over the weekend as they were awarded medals honouring their contribution to American culture by President Obama.
Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones received their Kennedy Centre Honours at a dinner event at the White House on Sunday alongside actor Dustin Hoffman, blues musician Buddy Guy, TV chat-show host David Letterman and ballerina Natalia Makarova, who also received awards.
Obama displayed a whole lotta love (groan!) for Led Zep in a tribute to the band, in which he told them “you still rock!”
“When Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and John Bonham burst onto the musical scene in the late 1960s, the world never saw it coming,” said the leader of the free world.
“There was this singer with a mane like a lion and a voice like a banshee, a guitar prodigy who left people’s jaws on the floor, a versatile bassist who was equally at home on the keyboards, a drummer who played like his life depended on it.
“And when the Brits initially kept their distance, Led Zeppelin grabbed America from the opening chord. We were ready for what Jimmy called songs with ‘a lot of light and shade’.
“It’s been said that a generation of young people survived teenage angst with a pair of headphones and a Zeppelin album … but even now, 32 years after John Bonham’s passing – and we all I think appreciate the fact – the Zeppelin legacy lives on.”
Obama got some giggles from the assembled dinner guests when he praised Led Zep for behaving themselves at the White House, given their history of “hotel rooms being trashed and mayhem all around”.
He wrapped up his speech saying: “We honour Led Zeppelin for making us all feel young, and for showing us that some guys who are not completely youthful can still rock!”
The Kennedy Centre Honours are given annually by the President to performing artists for their significant contributions to American culture. Medals were first handed out in 1977, and recipients over the decades have included Johnny Carson, Count Basie, Bill Cosby, Diana Ross and Barbra Streisand.
Perhaps best known for the song Stairway to Heaven, Led Zeppelin was one of the biggest bands in the world during their ‘60s and ‘70s heyday, having sold an estimated 300m records worldwide.
The band broke up in 1980 after the unexpected death of drummer John Bonham and, with the exception of a brief reformation for Live Aid in 1985 and a one-off UK gig in 2007 featuring Bonham’s son Jason on drums, the band have so far resisted all calls to reunite.
Led Zep will appear tonight on CBS’s Late Show with David Letterman.