Robert Plant’s vocal style is a distinctive tapestry woven from diverse musical threads. As the voice of Led Zeppelin, he melded the soaring screams akin to Little Richard with the raw blues of Muddy Waters. This mix not only defined Led Zeppelin’s sound but also charted a course for future rock vocalists.
Led Zeppelin, while rooted in the blues, showcased Plant’s wide-ranging musical influences. From folk to psychedelic pop, he was always absorbing new sounds, be it from contemporary charts or dusty vinyl records of past eras. One particular voice that struck him deeply was described by Plant as simply “insane”.
Blues legends played a pivotal role in shaping Plant’s voice. Among them, Howlin’ Wolf, with his raspy, commanding voice, left an indelible mark. Plant was even fortunate enough to see a young Wolf perform in England, describing the experience as transformative.
The song ‘Forty-Four’ by Wolf was one that Plant held in high regard, recalling its complex rhythms and Wolf’s own tours alongside other blues greats like Muddy Waters and Sonny Boy Williamson.
But Plant’s influences didn’t stop at the blues. R&B and soul were also instrumental in shaping his sound. Artists like Betty Harris resonated deeply with him. He fondly remembered Harris’s unique voice and how it, alongside other greats from New Orleans, contributed to his ever-evolving vocal identity. Surprisingly, shortly after producing what Plant deemed a contemporary sound, Harris stepped away from singing.
Another cornerstone of Robert Plant’s musical admiration was Elvis Presley. While Presley himself was a mosaic of influences, for Plant, he was a primary musical love. From covering Presley’s hits to drawing inspiration for his own vocalizations, Plant’s connection to the rock ‘n’ roll legend was undeniable. Recounting his childhood, Plant spoke of emulating Elvis, seeking to capture that magic and energy.
In essence, Robert Plant’s vocals are a rich blend of his diverse musical loves, each contributing to the iconic voice that rocked the world.