Robert Plant: A Life by Paul Rees

Sources: It Books, HarperCollins
Hardcover, 368 pages
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Robert Plant: A Life by Paul Rees is an unauthorized biography of one of Led Zeppelin‘s front men — the one some called a golden god.  Beginning with his early years in grade school, Plant was not destined to be the straight arrow his father wanted him to be.  His antics started as a young adolescent stealing small instruments from well-known musicians that visited local clubs.  He was initially influenced by the sway of Elvis, miming his records on the sofa with a hairbrush for a microphone.  But Rees also provides a background on the region and its hardships, which shaped his father and his older family members.  The hardships the family faced also shaped their attitudes toward a young man finding his love of music and barreling headlong into it.

Rees prose is engaging, like an old friends talking to one another, and the smattering of quotes from friends and family about the events that shaped not only Plant, but also the band, make readers feel like their watching a documentary unfold.  And like most documentaries with producers close to the subject, some of the more sordid details of drug use and sex are muted — though a salacious tale about the band and its members has likely been done before and does not need to be repeated.  Rees has a greater focus on the music Plant created in a series of defunct bands, his poor luck with bands when he started out, and his wild success as the lead singer of Led Zeppelin.

“He had felt fear gnawing away at him.  The dread of how he might appear to all the thousands out there in the dark.  Here he was, a man in his sixtieth year, desiring to roll back time and recapture all the wonders of youth.  Did that, would that, make him seem a fool? In those long minutes with himself he had looking in the mirror and asked over and over if he really could be all that he had once been; if it were truly possible for him to take his voice back up to the peaks it had once scaled.  He had so many questions but no answers.” (page 1)

As a young husband, he’d made a pact with his bride that if he had not made it by his twentieth birthday in a successful band, he’d give it up to support his family.  It was just before he was set to find a real job that he was asked to join Jimmy Page to create Led Zeppelin.  Plant soon finds himself separating his personalities in two directions — the devoted family man and the consummate rock star.  Several tragedies and the weight of drugs and violence lead to the band’s demise and Plant’s moving onward — creating more music.

Robert Plant: A Life by Paul Rees leaves analysis of the personalities behind and merely relies on outside sources, interviews, and other insights from those who were there to give shape to a tumultuous time of a rock star.  But beyond that, the biography offers up a human look at a rock god, though one with a limited view.  Readers will feel like its rehashed and glosses over the real man in favor of critiquing the music.  It seems like his early beginnings in music, Plant’s career after Zeppelin was up and down, but he never seemed to lose his love of music.  Just wish there was more fresh research.

About the Author:

Paul Rees has written about music for more than twenty years. In that time he has interviewed everyone from Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, and Madonna to Bono, Take That, and AC/DC. His work has appeared in many publications, including the Sunday Times Culture, the Telegraph, the Independent, and the Evening Standard. He was also editor of two of the UK’s most successful and long-standing music publications, Q and Kerrang!, for a total of twelve years.

This is my 80th book for the 2013 New Authors Challenge.

Mailbox Monday #241

Mailbox Monday (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch.  September’s host is Book Dragon’s Lair.

The meme allows bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received:

1. Ripper by Isabel Allende for review.

The Jackson women, Indiana and Amanda, have always had each other. Yet, while their bond is strong, mother and daughter are as different as night and day. Indiana, a beautiful holistic healer, is a free-spirited bohemian. Long divorced from Amanda’s father, she’s reluctant to settle down with either of the men who want her—Alan, the wealthy scion of one of San Francisco’s elite families, and Ryan, an enigmatic, scarred former Navy SEAL.

While her mom looks for the good in people, Amanda is fascinated by the dark side of human nature, like her father, the SFPD’s Deputy Chief of Homicide. Brilliant and introverted, the MIT-bound high school senior is a natural-born sleuth addicted to crime novels and Ripper, the online mystery game she plays with her beloved grandfather and friends around the world.

2.  Five Little Pumpkins by Dan Yaccarino, which my mom sent to the little one.

Five little pumpkins sitting on a gate.The first one said, “Oh my, it’s getting late.”Get ready for some wicked fun as these five pumpkins run and roll! Toddlers will want to chant along with this popular rhyme again and again. Dan Yaccarino’s vibrant and bold illustrations bring these pumpkins to life with personality and style. Toddlers are sure to laugh out loud as these pumpkins roll out of sight!

3.  Polarity Bear Tours the Zoo by Sue de Cuevas, illustrated by Wendy Rasmussen, which I received for review.

Polarity Bear Tours the Zoo is a beautifully illustrated book (suitable for ages 3-8) about an imaginary polar bear’s adventures in New York’s Central Park Zoo. Set at the time when the zoo made the transformation from cages to more natural habitats, it also celebrates three leading Central Park attractions: the sea lion pool, the Delacorte Clock, and the carousel.


4.  A Charlie Brown Christmas: The Making of a Tradition by Charles M. Schultz for review.

Charles M. Schulz’s A Charlie Brown Christmas: The Making of a Tradition is a lushly illustrated tribute to the beloved television classic that takes readers behind-the-scenes of the Peanuts holiday special that has aired each year since December 1965.

A Charlie Brown Christmas: The Making of a Tradition includes the script of the Emmy Award–winning A Charlie Brown Christmas, more than two hundred full-color pieces of original animation art, Vince Guaraldi’s original score and publication notes for the songs “Christmas Time Is Here” and “Linus and Lucy,” and a look at the making of the feature from producer Lee Mendelson and original animator, the late Bill Melendez.

No holiday season is complete without Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy, Snoopy, and the rest of the Peanuts gang giving a forgotten tree a little love, reciting the Christmas story, and singing “Silent Night.”

5.  Half Popped by Jeff Feuerstein, Dayna Brandoff, Alex Miller for review.

Half Popped is the heart-warming and whimsical story of Kenny the Kernel, a discouraged but friendly popcorn kernel who believes he never reached his full potential. As Kenny journeys through the kitchen, he helps cheer up other down-on-their-luck snacks by pointing out the bright side to their situations, all the while harboring a half-empty view of himself. Until…. With a silly, story-telling rhyme evocative of Shel Silverstein poetry and unique artwork that combines photography and illustration, the charming tale serves as a lesson in self-confidence and reminds young readers that a genuine compliment has the power to make a friend’s day. Sometimes it takes an outside perspective to see it, but there’s a place and a purpose in this world for everyone – even Kenny the Kernel, who was only half popped, and turned out that way when the microwave stopped.

6.  Robert Plant: A Life by Paul Rees for review.

Robert Plant by Paul Rees is the definitive biography of Led Zeppelin’s legendary frontman. As lead singer for one of the biggest and most influential rock bands of all time—whose song “Stairway to Heaven” has been played more times on American radio than any other track—Robert Plant defined what it means to be a rock god.

Over the course of his twenty-year career, British music journalist and editor Paul Rees has interviewed such greats as Sir Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, Bono, and AC/DC. Rees now offers a full portrait of Robert Plant for the first time, exploring the forces that shaped him, the ravaging highs and lows of the Zeppelin years—including his relationship with Jimmy Page and John Bonham—and his life as a solo artist today.

What did you receive?