How Robert Plant and Prince Shared a Whole Lotta Love
In the mid-‘80s, the memories of Led Zeppelin were fresh enough for fans to clamor for a reunion. They got together three times before Robert Plant said “enough” (on many, many occasions), even though none of the stand-alone performances were what those fans actually had in mind.
Prince was one of those fans, showing his appreciation for the band over the decades. His first notable name-check came at the end of 1985 as he discussed his album Around the World in a Day with Rolling Stone. Asked if he was bothered that the record was referred to as a psychedelic work, he replied, “I don’t mind that, because that was the only period in recent history that delivered songs and colors. Led Zeppelin, for example, would make you feel differently on each song.”
A few years later, Plant mentioned Prince during a TV interview. “I’m not really intimidated by too many people, but I’m very impressed by people,” he said. “Prince is probably the most impressive single person … he’s incredibly inventive, but he’s using a lot of old ... he’s coming from all sorts of areas of the past, and he’s really pushing them all through a blender. So they come out oozing and dripping with honey - sex.”
After that comment – which fits a lot of Led Zeppelin’s music, as well – he added, “I don’t know if I’d like to work with him because he’s so powerful. He’d probably intimidate me a bit.”
Watch Prince Perform ‘Whole Lotta Love’ in 2003
Plant had previously hailed Prince for “sheer entertainment and audacity,” telling Rolling Stone in 1988 that “Prince and [Jimmy] Page together would be great.” But Prince didn’t entirely agree, at least in 2014, when he told Mojo: “Jimmy Page was cool, but he couldn’t keep a sequence without John Bonham behind him.” Bonham’s death was the reason Led Zeppelin broke up; by their own admission, they “could not continue as we were” without the drummer, so Prince’s point was at least arguable.
Nevertheless, the Purple One’s appreciation for Zeppelin’s music is a matter of record. In 2003 he released a live version of “Whole Lotta Love,” recorded in Las Vegas. Even though he didn’t stick to the script for too long – abandoning the lyrics around a sixth of the way through – he ably demonstrated what he could do with the inspiration provided.
Watch Prince Perform ‘Whole Lotta Love’ in 2007
It also proved the connection between his delivery style and that of Plant in the ‘70s. As the British singer observed, “He’s not at all sexist, but he’s sexual.” Prince would revisit “Whole Lotta Love” on many occasions during the ‘00s, releasing another live version, recorded in London in 2007, with no vocals at all.
As fate would have it, that cover was recorded in the same venue where Led Zeppelin played it one last time a few months later during their final reunion show.