‘Immigrant Song’: How a voyage to Iceland inspired a Led Zeppelin classic

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Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” was well accepted by its audience. When it was released in 1970, it immediately became popular. Since then, the song has established itself as a classic in rock music, and many musicians have covered it. It is one of Led Zeppelin’s most well-known tracks and a favorite among fans thanks to its distinctive fusion of hard rock and blues.

Few songs in the history of rock music can claim such a strong coherence between the music, lyrics, and subject, with the momentum created by Robert Plant, John Bonham, Jimmy Page, and John Paul Jones conjuring up images of ships sailing through a stormy sea, battered by waves. This song was written by Led Zeppelin with the intention of being humorous, comparing their traveling experiences to the struggles of the Vikings in their quest to conquer new territories. They didn’t have a reputation for being a funny band, so many of their followers took it very seriously.

‘Immigrant Song’, written by Led Zeppelin during their summer 1970 tour of Germany, Bath, and Iceland, shows them at their most energetic. The excursion brought them to Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, where Viking raiders had sailed ships in quest of treasure centuries earlier. Led Zeppelin made the same journey across the North Sea from the UK, but in reverse.

Robert Plant explained the song in Led Zeppelin: The Stories Behind Every Led Zeppelin Song. He said, “We weren’t being pompous. We did come from ‘the land of the ice and snow.’ We were guests of the Icelandic Government on a cultural mission. We were invited to play a concert in Reykjavik, and the day before we arrived all the civil servants went on strike, and the gig was going to be cancelled. The university prepared a concert hall for us, and it was phenomenal. The response from the kids was remarkable, and we had a great time. ‘Immigrant Song’ was about that trip and it was the opening track on the album that was intended to be incredibly different.”

Robert Plant sought to evoke the mood of a Norse warrior crossing the sea. The song’s lyrics make allusions to Norse folklore, such as Valhalla and Odin. The concept of a “viking immigrant” and the band’s wish to capture the essence of a bygone era are both referenced in the song’s title. The band’s appreciation of the Icelandic landscape and the locals they met while there also served as inspiration for the composition.

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