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Rock On! “Stairway to Heaven” Turns 50

For many people, the 1970s is arguably one of the best decades for rock music, and it’s hard to believe that music from that era is beginning to turn 50 years old! One of those iconic pieces is Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven,” which is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its premier live performance tomorrow, March 5. Although the studio album that contains the track (technically untitled, but commonly referred to as Led Zeppelin IV) was not released until November 1971, the song was performed at nearly every subsequent Led Zeppelin show after March 5, 1971, turning it into a fan favorite. It was one of the most requested and played songs on American rock radio stations in the 1970s. The song came back into the spotlight in 2014 when Led Zeppelin were sued for copyright infringement by the band Spirit, who claimed that “Stairway to Heaven” was copied from their instrumental track “Taurus.” In late 2020, the Supreme Court declined to hear the case, meaning that Led Zeppelin had won the court battle.

The song was written by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant in 1970, and the band finished recording in early 1971 during the sessions for Led Zeppelin IV. The song is comprised of three main sections, each section building onto the section before. Interestingly, bassist John Paul Jones can be heard on the recorder in the beginning slower section of the song (this part was usually played by a Mellotron or other keyboard instrument when played live). The band continues to add texture, and the song builds from there.

Led Zeppelin was highly influenced by the blues and blues musicians such as Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters, and other contemporary blues rock artists such as Janis Joplin. Some of their songs (such as “Since I’ve Been Lovin’ You” off of Led Zeppelin III) are straight ahead electric blues. In turn, Led Zeppelin inspired many rock bands later in the 1970s, including (but not limited to) Aerosmith, Black Sabbath, and Queen (if you are interested in learning more about heavy rock bands from that period, check out the book Bang Your Head: The Rise and Fall of Heavy Metal [DB55721]). Their impact continues to this day, with such artists as Madonna and Lady Gaga citing them as influences.

If you are interested in rock music, Led Zeppelin, or blues guitar, here are some books from the NLS Music Collection that you may wish to borrow:

Audio

Brown, Bill – Guitar by Ear
Angel. In the style of Aerosmith (DBM01990)
Another One Bites the Dust. In the style of Queen, for bass guitar (DBM04315)
Dream On. In the style of Aerosmith (DBM02699)
I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing. In the style of Aerosmith (DBM02021)
Iron Man. In the style of Black Sabbath (DBM02983)
Rain Song. In the style of Led Zeppelin (DBM03474)
Stairway to Heaven. In the style of Led Zeppelin (DBM02064)

Lidel, Paul. Beginning Blues Guitar. Teaches blues chords, rhythm fills, blues scales, and blues guitar solos. Also discusses the styles of blues musicians such as B.B. King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton, and Muddy Waters. (DBM01729) Cartridge only.

Roth, Arlen. Bottleneck/Slide Guitar. Introduces bottleneck/slide guitar techniques used by blues musicians such as Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters, country musicians like Jimmie Rodgers, and rock groups like Cream. (DBM00444)

Sokolow, Fred. Electric Blues and Rock Guitar. A six part course that covers electric blues from its beginnings to today. Lesson five “concentrates on the licks, scales and playing styles Eric Clapton, Van Halen, Ted Nugent and Jimmy Page.” (DBM01483) Cartridge only.

Talking Tabs (not available on BARD – cartridge only)
Immigrant Song. In the style of Led Zeppelin (DBM03095)
Mannish Boy. In the style of Muddy Waters (DBM03119)
Paranoid. In the style of Black Sabbath (DBM03135)
Rock and Roll. In the style of Led Zeppelin (DBM03140)

Whorf, Mike. Janis Joplin. (DBM00899)

Braille

Bay, Melbourne Earl
Deluxe encyclopedia of guitar chords (BRM29565)
The Mel Bay modern Guitar Method. Grade 1 (BRM22168)
The Mel Bay Modern Guitar Method. Grade 2 (BRM22768)

Great songs of the 70’s: 81 songs for voice, piano and guitar (BRM27690)

Page, Jimmy. Jimmy Page Vocal Guitar Tablature Version. For unspecified voice and guitar. Lyrics and most notes in English uncontracted braille (BRM35634)

Schmid, Will. Hal Leonard guitar method. Book 1 (BRM35281)

Large Print:

Bay, Melbourne Earl
The Mel Bay Folio of Graded Guitar Solos (LPM00088)
The Mel Bay modern Guitar Method. Grade 1 (LPM00024)
The Mel Bay Modern Guitar Method. Grade 2 (LPM00258)
The Mel Bay Modern Guitar Method. Grade 3 (LPM00231)

Evans, Tom. Guitars: Music, History, Construction and Players from the Renaissance to Rock (LPM00523)

Grunfeld, Frederic V. The Art and Times of the Guitar: An Illustrated History of Guitars and Guitarists (LPM00194)

If you’d like to order hard copies of this material for loan, would like to download the materials from BARD and need some guidance, or if you would like to explore more materials of the NLS Music Collection and learn about our service, please email us at [email protected], or give us a phone call at 1-800-424-8567, extension 2. We are happy to help and look forward to hearing from you!

American Composers and Blind Musicians from A to Z: U-V (Part 2 – Ungár, Imré)

Today’s blog post continues our series of American composers and blind musicians with Hungarian pianist Imré Ungár.

Flashing Back on Jimi Hendrix

In this week’s NLS Music Notes blog, learn about the incredible artistry of Jimi Hendrix–who challenged most preconceived notions of popular music in the 20th century to create a new space for music appreciation.

The French Connection: French Composers for Organ

This blog post looks at the life of two renowned French composers for organ (Louis Vierne and Olivier Messiaen), and their compositions in the NLS Music Collection.

Song Stories: Two Tales of September

For this week’s NLS Music Notes blog, our series “Song Stories” looks at two different takes on the month of September.

American Composers and Musicians from A to Z: S (Part 2 – Stuckey, Joey)

For this week’s NLS Music Notes blog, learn about the inspiring story of Joey Stuckey–a remarkable person who overcame incredible odds to achieve success as a singer, guitarist, producer, and educator.

Remembering “Pershing’s Own” on Independence Day: Military Band Music in the NLS Collection

Independence Day has many associations: fireworks, barbecues, parades, and iconic military bands. In this week’s NLS Music Notes blog post, Carter Rawson explores the history behind one of our greatest national treasures, the United States Army Band.

Song Stories: Time Out for “Take Five”

As with many songs, “Take Five” has a story that is more encompassing than just the notes on the page or the sounds from a recording. It talks about overcoming obstacles, articulating a creative vision, and seizing upon spontaneity. In this week’s NLS Music Notes Blog, our series “Song Stories” explores the “Cool Jazz” standard, “Take Five.”

Song Stories: April in Paris

This week, as part of our series, “Song Stories,” learn more about the origins of the melody and lyric that lifted the spirits of the world during the Great Depression: “April in Paris.”