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Led Zeppelin/did robert plant lose his voice


Mike Caldwell wrote at 2006-09-03 15:25:47
Yes, he had the vocal chord surgery for unexplained reasons in late 1974.  He also was stupid enough to smoke cigarettes until the late 1980s.

Eva von Zeppelin wrote at 2006-12-19 08:03:24
I saw Plant in Sydney, Australia. I found that he had a lot of pitch problems - His voice lacked any genuine gravity. I don't know what enfeebled his singing so incredibly. I honestly think that his status as a quality vocalist ended in 1976. Coincidentally, with his heroin disease, Jimmy Page's status as monarch of rock'n'roll guitar ended at that time too. I think that there were a lot of people extremely disappointed when they bought a solo Plant or Page album. They were simply pathetic.

gy wrote at 2008-05-25 16:04:07
Plant's ability to hit the high notes was greatly diminished from late 1972 onwards as Led Zep toured Japan, UK, Europe and finally the USA.  His voice became gradually rougher as one can tell between the two live albums "How the West Was Won" and "The Song Remains the Same."  

In 1973 and 75, his voice cracked frequently as well during tours.  Plant probably lost his ability to scream at will and sustain his falsetto - so yes, although he did not lose his voice per se, his voice was altered through the nodules in his throat (as posted above); singing technique which probably wore his voice out; and age.

Gradually, he adopted a more cautious singing style throughout.  Although he was able to scream out songs like Rock and Roll in 1998, he continued to have problems with songs like Ramble On where he would crack repeatedly on certain notes.  

By the O2 tour in Dec 2007, he had lowered the keys to many of Zep's songs.   Plant's ability to hit certain high notes has been inconsistent over the years.

40 years of wailing wrote at 2008-05-27 03:42:45
What a crock. Plant live was horrible from 1974 onwards and has never been more than a pale reflection of his old, church hall screaming days.

Just watch "Song Remains the Same" his voice was thin, raspy, his little "Bush, bush ahhhhh" cop outs were embarrassing then and historically embarrassing now. But "FANS" seem to dismiss it.

And at the O2 reunion show last year 2007/08 he sound almost good at even the old stuff except that Pagey was tuned down by as much as 4 keys to allow Plant to sound again almost passable. Kind of like Tom Jones does Zeppelin.

AGE??? AGE??? He was 19 when Zeppelin broke in 1969 and was 23 when he lost his voice due to age and "the maturity" of Zeppelin. Again - a crock.

xxyzpo wrote at 2008-08-25 07:19:58
Robert plant, in his prime, was a belter.  He was the best belter there was in the 21 century, and probably the best there will ever be.  During 1968-1971, he performed and recorded some of the most hap-hazard, yet astonishingly groundbreaking vocal melodies.  When Led Zeppelin arrived on the musical schene, amplification was in a primitive stage, no matter how well the best albums of the time were mastered.  Robert plant, as well of the rest of the band, came of age during an exiting yet spell binding time in modern history.  If you listen to early led zeppelin recordings, the vocal style Robert possess is one that contradicts any modern handbook on sustainable vocal technice, and in fact seems to spawn most of the hysteria about bleting as a singing style; one that produces server throat problems.  

Led Zeppelin began as a substance tainted twisted take on the blues, a sort of psychedelic killing floor, which grew as recklessly as it began.  By the time the band had reached their late twenties, every member was enormously accomplished musically.  In the period of 2 years the band had overtaken the music scheene, released 4 timeless studio albums, gained a reputation as the best, but reckless, live rock band, and set musical precedence for rock music yet to replicated by any appreciative musical offspring.  If kind of rabeling because im really drunk, hah..., but my point is one of appreciative mutuial respect for everyone else in the forum, when I way just listen to disk one of the BBC sessions and you can understand why Robert Plant, to this day, has had to adopt a different vocal style.  I really do agree that physical graffiti was the changing point, and I also would like to comment that swan song is as amazing name if you get the reference.  It is actually a really dark reference. hah thats kindof a side point, thanks for allowing me to add to you conversation and I wish you all a good night.

mknight wrote at 2009-03-21 05:18:25
Man, there is a lot of misinformation in these 'expert' answers! Xxyzpo and gy have some good points mixed with wrong ones, and the others are bordering on being just haters, so you can discount most of what they say. If there is 1 or 2 things that I'm an expert at, this would be one of them. I'm an avid live bootleg collector of them and I'm on 2-3 forums related to that kind of thing (they do collect and talk about a few other bands, to be fair).

 Is there a 100% absolute answer on this? No! The only ones who are even close to knowing the exact truth are Plant and his "inner circle" at the time. One thing I want to dispel right here (a few already did) is that it has anything to do with age - if he was over 40 (during Zeps era), that would be different. Everybody's voice matures differently, but its generally not until then that the top of the range starts to slip a bit.

One thing that almost everyone can agree on with Plant, is that he was very careless/reckless with his great gift; his unique voice and range. You can't smoke, habitually, for even a semi-long period of time without it taking a toll, especially in combination with other factors. He DID get the flu alot, but most of the time he did not rest his voice during those instances, when he definitely needed to. He also never/rarely warmed up his voice, at least for most of the 70s. All vocal coaches will tell a vocalist they have to do that before long periods of singing. Lastly, Plant was reckless in a 'positive', giving sort of way from 68-71. They then toured frickin relentlessly guys, and Plant sang his butt off on almost every show.

It was on one show that most collectors/live music lovers agree was the starting point or "seed". On Aug 21 1971 they played a show at the LA Forum, a place where they almost always played legendary shows and you could say they 'owned it'. They played a very long show with several encores, with Plant still singing extremely high on Communication Breakdown and Rock and Roll (that night possibly being the best ever version of it!). He was practically tearing his throat apart, getting into it with the crowd and the music. By the next night's performance and the rest of the tour really, you could notice a slight crack when he went for the highest of notes, those that used to be effortless. He/They rested for about a week before going to Japan - and you could tell the difference that made. He could pretty much do what he did before, but he was slightly more cautious. They played awesome there and on the following UK tour. But again on the UK tour, he got one or two cases of the flu and 'played through them'. All of this plants (bad pun) the seed for the decline in 1972.

 Before talking about '72, its also important to note that the material Led Zeppelin IV featured very demanding, high-pitched singing throughout. Even before the 71 Forum show mentioned, Plant eventually had to alternate some verses with slightly lower ones to make it through a night without 'blowing his voice out'. Other high-pitched singers have had to battle this same demon; Sting with early Police, Axl with Guns N Roses and many other examples. You just can't run through all those demanding songs, night after night, without it affecting things (usually the 'blown-out' result is temporary, if not endlessly repeated). The material on Zep's first two albums, especially, were just not as demanding of Plant.

  Getting back to '72, Plant started pushing things again, feeling confident I'm sure from a few months rest. He still has the 'clear' voice from years before, but he now has to watch the very top of his range occasionally. By the time they played the "How the West Was Won" official live show (at the LA Forum, no less), they had just added a few songs off their unreleased album, Houses of the Holy. That night would be one of the only nights, if not the only, that Plant sang all of Over The Hills and Far Away with the 'original' high notes. Even the next few nights, he couldn't quite hit all of them. Again, along with Dancing Days, he was just adding more demanding songs to their list and it would cost him.

  He/They again had time to rest for a few months before going back to japan - this time, a casual listener could hear the cracking of his voice when reaching for the high notes of several songs. By the time they tour the UK at the end of 72, the 'clear' voice from before is starting to melt away. The rest of the band is playing absolutely awesome, constantly improvising parts of several songs nightly. Unfortunately, Plant is improvising in ways to avoid cracking his voice on notes. His new way of singing Over The Hills has him singing completely different notes at a lower pitch - it effectively ruins the song for many. Then we come to a fateful day on Jan 2 73 ...

 He apparently ended up trying to get to their show in Sheffield by foot/hitchhiking, in the cold rain. He got very sick with the flu and STILL did the show. Again, brave but ultimately another bad decision. This show is on tape and it is painful to listen to. Even though they canceled the next few shows, it was too late - he was voice was permanently damaged and never the same again. Gone was the 'clear' voice ... in comes the lower raspy, but effective with some songs, voice. His voice was horrible for a month (we have an excellent sound quality show from Southhampton on Jan 22 73 to prove this) but it did improve from this state gradually. By the time they played Paris for a few shows in early April, he had recovered his voice almost to a pre-Sheffield state (many people think its the best he ever would sound since the Sheffield show).

  Plant started using his voice differently and even more cautiously for the long US tour of 73. The last few shows of the tour were the notorious, but still better than 99% of bands out there, Song Remains The Same movie ones. In my opinion (lots of debate on this!), Plant would never even sound as good as this on any of the later tours of 75, 77 and 80. I have no idea if the 'vocal cord surgery' really took place in late 1974, but it would not surprise me if he did it. That takes us to 1975 ...

 This is Plant at his worst - not only does his voice sound different and lower, but hes constantly getting sick! And, as usual, no real rest. Its no surprise then that vocally, most of the shows from 75 are quite poor. He doesn't even sound as good on songs,as he did for the Physical Graffiti album versions he had just done recently. However, I do think that he was able to create another unique kind of voice with what he was left with. Kashmir would sure sound different without his raspy voice - I'm not sure it would work as well.

 From 1977 on, its really hit or miss, as some have pointed out. Interestingly, they cancelled all March shows due to "Plant vocal problems". So lo and behold, they return with his rested voice and by the time June rolls around, hes attempting to sing the original high notes of Over the Hills! If only they had taken these kinds of precautions in the past, perhaps his voice would still be intact (not counting age factors, post 40). Plant did pretty well during the huge 79 Knebworth Festival, but the 1980 tour revealed the now-typical hit or miss result, with his voice.

 If you were around to see them from 1968-1972 (or at all, with John Bonham really), I think you should consider yourself pretty damn lucky. They were if not the best, one of the top 5 best RnR bands ever ... at their worst, still better than 90% of whats out there now or the last 15 years.  

Peter wrote at 2010-02-06 03:10:08
Robert Plant may have had nodule surgery in 1974 that effected his voice, but one must not forget the sound engineers for the albums. A technique known as verispeed was used on some Zep albums which pitched up Plant's voice, along with everything else. Both the Zep 1 and Zep II seem to be immune from the verispeed technique--and surprisingly, songs on those LP's seem much easier for Plant to get through live through the years. However, starting with Zep III, the verispeed technique is used widely throughout. Page wanted to get Bonzo's drums recorded first, as the rest of the song could be build around the sped up drums--as in Achilles Last Stand on Presence. There, Bonzo's drums are really sped up. Anyway, just about all the songs on Zep III are sped up 1/4 and Plant's voice is much higher on songs like Out on the Tiles. Zep IV is also sped up as can be heard on Four Sticks (where Bonzo had trouble getting the drum track down in the first place#. On Houses of the Holy, verispeed is blatantly used on The Song Remains the Same and less blatantly on the other tunes. Curiously, the title track #which appears on Physical Graffiti) does not incorporate verispeed - nor do the other Graffiti tracks as well-at least on Plant's voice. Plant probably had a little more say in the engineering aspects by then. So, although Plant's voice did change do to injury, so did the engineering techniques of the studio albums.  Note that Page only admits to using verispeed on Bonzo's drums on Achilles and to slow Plant's voice on No Quarter. However, one listen to Song Remains the Same will let you know how fast it was sped up.

gy wrote at 2010-09-03 15:39:27
Good points all.  I'm revisiting this thread after a while.  Well, as Mknight noted - you can't really sing like the wild man Robert was - and hope to get away with it.  Coupled with insufficient rest, booze and cigarettes - a vocal short circuit was inevitable.  But incorrect singing technique certainly played a part - if Robert only had a vocal coach - as Bon Jovi did after he lost his voice on tour, the Plant we hear today might be very different.  Some rock singers like Sammy Hagar and David Coverdale have been fortunate to retain their range.  Who knows why?  Everyone's built differently.

Pete Rat wrote at 2010-10-26 02:16:39
I agree with mcknight and Peter, and don't have much to add.  

However talented, Plant was not a trained singer.  He aligned himself with a different tradition: the blues tradition. The first two releases reflect more than the rest of their catalog, and I think this also lends itself to one of the myriad of reasons why those were less problematic songs for him over the course of their career.

As Led Zep became more studio savvy (and more progressive), he doubtlessly spent more time perfecting his vocal lines in the studio rather than live. He can audibly be heard saying "stop!" after a verse in Out On The Tiles.  In such a way, line by line, he constructed vocal lines which are some of the hardest to sing in rock.  And painted himself into a corner as he would have to sing those same lines onight after night over Jimmy Page and John Bonham.  

And it hasn't been mentioned here (although I'm sure elsewhere), but it's always been a suspicion of mine with regard to his voice: cocaine.  It is one of the harshest drugs on the throat.  No more need be said.  It WAS the 70's after all...

He is one of my favorite singers and I am an avid bootleg collector of the band, but usually stop at '73 or listen to the first line of In My Time of Dying to see if he can pull off a closed vowel (and not the "ooooowwooo" thing he relied on to hit a high note from '75 on).  

dragonspirit wrote at 2011-06-04 21:19:20
Having listened to almost every concert before 1980, let me totally agree with mknight.  Between the Montreaux 1971 show and the first LA 1971 show (and also during the LA show), you can hear him start to fall from his peak voice.  That said, he recovers well by the UK tour.  Listen to him on the Manchester show from November 24th, 1971.  He will never sound that good again.  (In the Aussie 1972 tour, he is recovering from being sick at the beginning of the tour, and sings well, but not at the peak level of mid 1970 to Montreaux 1971).

To me, between the Aussie tour of 1972 and Amsterdam 1972 there is a marked, second drop in his voice.  You can hear it begin to crack at strange times.  It starts to crack on a lot of low notes.  To me, this is the beginning of the problem that would affect him through the end of 1973, into 1975, and even into 1977 to some degree.  In the NY shows in June 1972, you can definitely hear his voice cracking in this way on the songs before the acoustic set.  I don't think it was just a matter of not being warmed up.  It didn't crack like that before the summer of 1972.

Next, in between June 1972 and the Japanese 1972 tour, something must have happened.  In the first two Japanese shows, you can still hear him hit a lot of high notes, but something is definitely wrong.  By the fourth night on that tour, his voice is in the worst shape it's ever been up to then.  On the last two nights of that tour, he recovers a good bit, but as others have noted, he continues to decline from there on into January 1973.  In between June 1972 and October 1972 (maybe during the rehearsals for that tour), it seems like he further aggravated whatever was starting to go wrong with his voice during that summer.

One thing that should be noted is that he recovered a good bit in the U.S. 1973 tour.  In a lot of shows, you can still hear him go for and make some of the really high notes (e.g. on Since I've Been Loving You).  His range on other songs is occasionally impressive (The Ocean, The Song Remains the Same, The Rain Song, Whole Lotta Love, Stairway to Heaven), but his performance is quite inconsistent.

I think he sounded horrible for almost all of 1975 except for maybe one or two shows in March (Seattle being one).

I think in the long term, smoking had a lot to do with his loss of range and ability.  I think he may have had vocal nodules or polyps starting in 1972, which might have reoccurred in later years, although not as badly.  In all honesty, I think that smoking might have hindered his performance in the later years (after 1973) more than in the early years.  I've heard that smoking affected Chris Cornell's voice in a similar way, causing him to gradually lose his range until he finally quit.

Michael wrote at 2011-09-27 22:53:09
Although then you have David Bowie, a complete Cocaine addict during the 70's, and said to be smoking 4 packs a day during the Young Americans sessions, and he still sounded great, if very different than before.  

chris147 wrote at 2011-10-18 01:59:40
Robert's voice change is a simple answer. Robert did some crazy things with his voice. in an interview in 2004 he mentioned he didn't ever do a vocal warm up. In 1975 he had his nodules removed, it is a known fact that having nodules removed is a risk. many singers have never been the same after they have been removed. Do what Robert did is demanding on the voice. Anyway hope I've solved this for ya.

Alan James wrote at 2011-10-30 16:40:29
I was very let down when listening to Led Zeppelin live. Robert never seemed live up to the studio versions. I remember the song remains the same, and how I, and most were disappointed. If you noticed they cut out heart breaker. Presence was a total let down. I remember being depressed after listening to it. I did listen to it a few days ago, and found I liked nobodys fault but mine, but that was it. In through the out door was okay, it was better then presence, but it lacked in the creativity that Zeppelin was famous for. I just wonder if Plant had a little help, after they can trick up vocals through guitar smash boxes.  

Gervox wrote at 2011-10-31 07:13:17
  Many people seem to get the gist of it here, but entirely miss or even "make up" the point.

Robert had surgery in 1972, to remove nodules. It was entirely successful. (Mind you, people around him were worried enough get him to record a lot of music just in case he had to learn to sing again though his left nostril)!

I remember Elton John had a similar operation in the mid-80s, but that was only a partial success. He can still sing very well, but his voice sounds nothing like it did before the operation.

Robert, on the other hand sounded nearly the same after his, but he has lost some of his high notes since 1972.

I suspect this is entirely because he is not 24 years old anymore, and absolutely that is why I'm a voice in the wilderness.

Many people say his lost octaves is purely down to "The Groupies", who were a little like "The Monkees" but played other peoples instruments instead of not playing their own.

I suspect that is because he is now in his 60's, and a result of listening to too much Howling Wolf and not enough whispering Nigel.

Whether this is a result of nodes, or growing older is a moot point; everybody’s voices ages in time, but there is no reason to believe that Robert would have sounded different today with or without out the nodes.

Today, at the age of 63 he can still use his "special effects" on occasion, which is cool, but I've always loved his "normal" register too, and that has been getting better and richer these last few years.

Honest answer, Robert can’t reach the high notes like he is 23 anymore because he's 63. And he has done more than enough to be still important 100 years from now!  

BigDaddy8 wrote at 2011-12-28 22:21:03
Plant was never very heavy with his high notes, often he just resorted to falsetto. He wasn't like Roger Daltrey or Graham Bonnet, where the highs were often full voiced and pulling from the chest. He did have a big influence on many big names after him, such as Ian Gillan, David Coverdale, and countless 80s clones.

Unfortunately, his high singing was reserved almost entirely for studio work after 1972, and then quite sparingly compared to the first four zep albums. Even the super high vocals on the track Song Remains the Same are due to a sped up studio trick.

waterybint wrote at 2012-03-28 17:07:42
What is interesting in all this and that no one has mentioned yet, is the first two solo Robert Plant albums released in 1982 and 1983. Robert is more fluid here in his vocal delivery and seems to have regained some of the sustained high notes of his register. Check out "Slow Dancer" in particular.

angmarr wrote at 2012-08-03 13:36:41
robert plant was in london last month they were practically giving tickets away

some singers voices just go I could write a list starting with

diana ross mike hucknall

some keep their voice frankie valli the boss leonard cohen

i think anthony of red hot chili peppers is losing his Shame

xxyzpo wrote at 2012-08-11 04:31:38

It's been 3 years since I last saw this thread/commented but I feel I might have just come across something. ,mknight- I really enjoyed reading your post and I recently just read it again (after 3 years). ,Here is what I realized: The last concert before the Switzerland and LA shows (were the begriming of the problems may be) was Milan Italy. ,At this show Plant was subjected to a tear gassing by the Italian riot police. ,He spoke of this in an interview in 1971, and ,mentioned how it caused him to have a noticeable reaction. ,Check out these two links. Obviously tear gas alone will not destroy ones throat clemently, but this is something that happened at the specific time in question; the first time many notice the "seed". ,Also, it is worth noting that on the spring 1970 tour, the last concert in Vegas was candled due to "cumulative vocal problems"1. This began the night before when Plant (after a great concert) collapsed on stage in Arizona. ,Dispute the fact that he collapsed,

,there is however no sign of vocal damage in Arizona, only,of general fatigue. (the tonality of his voice is

really dark and deep, actually my favorite of his registers) ,Check out these links, the Milan incident is quite an interesting read- - plant interview,

1] Lewis, Dave and Pallett, Simon (1997) Led Zeppelin: The Concert File, London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-7119-5307-4, p. 45.

dragonspirit wrote at 2012-08-24 07:32:04
After re-listening to many boots over the last year, I've decided to expand on the above discussion.  If you REALLY want to know about Robert Plant's vocal decline in a lot of detail, then here we go.  First of all, read mknight's post from 2009-03-21, then read my above post from 2011-06-04, and finally read xxyzpo's post on 2012-08-11.

I would say that Robert Plant's voice peaked in late 1968/early 1969.  There were a handful of shows in which in his voice was a bit off or "blown", but the damage was very temporary.  Overall, his vocal agility and range were unbelievable in this period, which lasted through roughly the end of the second U.S. tour (May 1969).  After this tour, his voice would have periods in which it was nearly as strong and high as in this era, but not quite at that level.

After the second U.S. tour, through the end of the summer, his voice is weaker-- the higher notes coming less often and with generally less ease.  The beginning of the third U.S. tour finds him in pretty good voice, but with a gradual loss of range and ability as the tour progressed.  At least some of the BBC 1969 sessions come from this era, so you can see what I mean.

After having all of September off, Plant's voice makes a dramatic comeback in early October 1969.  Listen to him in the 1969-10-10 Paris show to see what I mean.  Unfortunately, the same thing happens to him by late November as during the third U.S. tour of that summer.  His voice declines dramatically by the end of the touring period.  However, this time, it would take him many months to fully recover.

Brief respites in the touring schedule in early 1970 would allow his voice to recover partially (but not fully) from the long term damage he had suffered by November 1969.  The Robert Plant from early 1970 is a far cry from the Robert Plant from the better periods of 1969.  The vocal damage is pretty apparent in a lot shows.  His voice is generally strong in his mid range, but his higher range is a bit shot.  He only goes for and makes the highest notes in Since I've been Loving You in one or two concerts in early 1970 (one is April 15, Memphis).  The famous Royal Albert Hall show is from this era, and though he sings pretty well, he's clearly not at his best.

With only a handful of shows played between April and August of 1970, Plant's voice has plenty of time to heal, and he enters a second "peak" period.  Some people say that it sounds like he's straining on the highest notes on Since I've Been Loving You in Led Zeppelin III (recorded in mid-1970).  This might be true, but there are plenty of shows from late 1970 and even some in 1971 (e.g. Copenhagen) in which he nails those high notes with plenty of ease.  So to me, his late 1970 voice was very nearly as good as his voice from early 1969.

Now we move into 1971.  There are three recordings in the sixth U. K. "Return To The Clubs" tour, including the famous 1971 BBC session.  Apparently some shows in this period had to be cancelled due to Plant's vocal problems.  To be honest, I think he does a great job in the two Ireland shows, overall.  However, he really strains to hit the highest of notes (e.g. Since I've Been Loving and I think Communication Breakdown).  It's like he can nail most of the highs in Black Dog and the end of Stairway, but the highest of highs are tough.  Also, in the BBC show, he sounds a bit hoarse to me.  At any rate, it seems like these slight vocal problems in early 1971 weren't anything serious.  His performance in both Copenhagen (1971-05-03) and Montreux (1971-08-07) shows a generally better voice than that of early 1971.

If you've read the above thread, you'll find that a few of us consider the LA 1971-08-21 shows to be the seed of Plant's real vocal decline.  This was the second or third show of the 7th U.S. tour.  To me, his voice sounds hoarse and a bit damaged from the beginning of this show.  I think it's likely that he overdid things in the previous two shows of that tour (for which there's no recording).  After doing it again on this night, he clearly messed up his voice for the rest of that tour.  Yes, mknight, he recovered a bit by the beginning of the Japanese tour, but I don't hear him at pre-LA form, and he was definitely struggling by the end of that tour.

Now we come to the winter U.K. 1971 tour.  To me, this tour shows the actual beginning of the serious vocal problems that he'd have by 1973.  I'll explain.  If you listen to him in the U.S. or Japanese 1971 tours, his vocal damage sounds different than it does in the U.K. tour.  Beginning in the U.K. tour, I can hear him having to force his voice-- give it extra strength in order to keep it from cracking on notes that aren't really that high.  This tour is the first in which I hear this.  The later Aussie/New Zealand shows of 1972 (Feb. 25, 27, and 29) also have him with this problem.  It's not that noticeable at this point unless you try hard to hear it.  It shows up mostly near the beginning of the shows before he's fully warmed up.  Some of the most noticeable moments are on Immigrant Song (1972-02-25) and Since I've Been Loving You (1972-02-29).  To me, this "weakness" on the middle to higher notes gets worse in time, eventually causing his voice to crack frequently on notes in this range.

Like I said in my earlier post, his problem gets more noticeable and worse during the U.S. 1972 tour in June.  By the time the Japanese 1972 tour rolls around, there's a huge decline in his voice, which gradually worsens through late December 1972.  That, coupled with the Sheffield show disaster, had Plant in quite poor shape in January 1973.  Read the rest of the above posts to get the rest of the story in more detail.

Regarding the vocal operation of late 1973 or 1974 (whenever it took place):  Some people have said that Plant sings really high in the early Physical Graffiti outtakes.  At any rate, by the end of the time in which they were recording, it seems to me like he's having similar problems as he did in 1973, with his voice cracking at odd times, like on middle range notes.

I also wish to disagree with what some people have said about Plant's abusing his voice-- at least in concert.  I hear him showing plenty of restraint in most shows that I've heard-- one very notable exception being the 1971-08-21 "seed" show in which he clearly pushed himself too far.

Finally, after his vocal operation of 1973-1974, I have never heard Plant hit non-falsetto anything in the range of the highest notes on Since I've Been Loving You or Communication Breakdown (with the sole possible exception being the early Physical Graffiti outtakes which I haven't listened to closely).  That operation appears to have put the nail in the coffin on his high range.

Nazgul wrote at 2012-09-21 18:55:08
Great posts on this site, especially the concert analyses.  I found my way here because the more I listen to Led Zeppelin albums and concerts, the more completely obvious it becomes to me that Plant's voice permanently deteriorated very rapidly during the 1970s, and I wanted to know what happened.  Most everywhere you turn on the internet (e.g., Wikipedia) there is no discussion of this, and now there's the new movie Celebration Day coming out...

At first I thought it was simply the apparent (but unconfirmed) vocal cord surgery in 1974 that caused the distinct difference in sound between the Houses of the Holy and Physical Graffiti albums, but after reading much of the posts here I now agree that there was a more gradual decline throughout the early to mid 70s. But I do think that 1974 (whether it was the vocal cord surgery or not) is the real definitive turning point. In The Song Remains the Same he's lost some high range and he sounds a bit raspy, but he still has a genuinely powerful voice.  In 1975 concerts, however, that power is really diminished, as well as his range -- there is a notable deterioration.

I think it's true to say that Plant creatively dealt with a problem that he must've been all too aware of, so he was able to attain different (but decent) sounds on the different albums:

I-II: Bluesy, raw, unadulterated voice

III: Transition to the higher pitched screaming sound

IV-Houses: Taking the high pitched screaming to the extremes

Physical Graf: Post-vocal cord surgery, raspiness, less power, less range, but still effective for songs like Kashmir

Presence: Further decline, less power, less range, more raspy; "Tea for One", is a song compared to "Since I've Been Loving You", and from this comparison the blatant difference in Plant's voice become all too apparent.  He sounds 30 years older, but he's only 5 years older!  Again, here he manages to achieve a distinct effective sound, so the studio version is still a good bluesy rock song, but it's no where near the same vocal caliber.

ITTOD: Pretty much the end of his screaming days, or what should've been.

His initial solo albums had "maturity" and were respectable on that level. IMO, he should've simply continued in that vein: Find talented musicians and write/sing good, mature music. Now and Zen was a decent album as well, but he was starting to move toward capitalizing off the Led Zeppelin legacy.

I agree with most everyone on here that it must've been the combination of not warming up, constantly overdoing it with screaming, not maintaining good health, habitual smoking (there's one video on youtube that actually shows him smoking as he's about to begin the concert), and that was most certainly NOT "age."

Lord Farnsworth wrote at 2012-09-26 19:19:23  

   Plant at his best.  Page's guitar equipment has suffered from the extremely cold weather so he's havinig problems...but all I can say is 14:20...WOW.  

justlistentome wrote at 2013-01-28 20:20:47
Very much in agreement with dragonspirit and mknight. The Montreux gig on 7th August 1971 is the last known recording of Plant in his full peak voice. Many reviewers are amazed by the LA 1971-08-21 gig but I find it rather painful to listen to, hearing his already a bit damaged voice being pushed as hard as ever.  If you listen to the excellent sounding Berkeley 1971-09-14 show he could barely pull off Immigrant song's wails, let alone ''Western shore'' and generally doesn't go any higher than C5. By the first Japan show in Tokyo it seems that he's recovered pretty well for the short time considering there were 2 Hawaii shows between Berkeley and Japan. He sounds really well on the first two shows as opposed to last night in Osaka where his voice is quite weak and to me he sounds only just a bit better than in Berkeley.

The funny thing with Robert Plant in 1972 is that his voice actually got worse over the long breaks. After the UK 1971 tour they took a 2 month break but after that he only sounds worse. The same thing after the short Aussie/New Zealand - he returns even with a weaker voice. Ok, I believe some of the HOTH sessions took place during this break but still.

IMO, the LA Forum 1972 show was the last good Plant's gig. For the last time he's hitting the high notes in Black dog, Stairway, Rock and Roll, Immigrant song. No wonder that the OTHAFA rhythm section was taken from this night because that was the only night Plant could hit them all properly. It sounds marvelous.  

And again there was a break, I'm not sure whether or not any recording sessions took place during this break but in Japan he sounds MUCH worse than 3 months ago, even on his best gig there.  

Percy wrote at 2013-07-22 23:18:50
Well I guess its all about ones opinion and I respect everyones. I will not judge Robert Plant because whats hes accomplished in his musical career and his legacy etched in history for all time is breathtaking. Would of could of should of is really a mute point, fact is he should be noted as the best vocalist of all time. If no one has sang in a band before and stood in front of a live crowd knowing that your voice is injured and bravely carry on with the show have no idea how much it hurts your pride, nevermind the pride of Robert Plant. Lets think about that. No one needs to say anything critical about him, but what about the money whores that surrounded him. Cmon Robert on with the show..only 4 more shows. I guess drugs is one way to trick the mind and ego itll be ok. But that only works to get you up and onstage first high part comes along you reach for it and it isnt there, so you instantly turn away from the crowd because youve fooled some but never yourself. Im Sure Sir Robert Plant has many regrets but im not here to point them out, im only here to help some understand, and to ask that they step into his shoes and a giant pair they were and imagine the rise and fall of his vocals/ego while the band and money machine wanted him to play on. He walked the razors edge and gave the crowds his all. But those who dont realize will celebrate when he falls.  

LedZeppeling wrote at 2013-07-29 15:46:26
The bootleggers are spot on. Their timeline is solid and it's easy to trace where RP was starting to feel the effects of his chosen vocal style. The damage was done between ‘71-‘72.

I'd like to add my two cents as a professional singer who has chosen to sing in a similar vein to Robert Plant. I have been singing since I was 16 and I'm now 22 and it has taken me years to build up my range and more years again to refine my control in the upper register. Singing high notes is hard. The male voice just plain isn't supposed do it. It's takes a lot of training to get male vocal chords to tense up and allow high notes to be hit with strong timbre and good resonance. I've already come to terms with the fact that by the time I'm thirty I probably won't be able to sing 'high' anymore.

I did a gig on the weekend where upon running out of our own original compositions to play we had to resort to our list of covers which contains some 30 Led Zeppelin songs; all of which I sing accurately with emphasis on Robert Plant's style and delivery. I'm not Robert Plant but it's in my job description to understand his style and the way he sang. We played Whole Lotta Love, Bring It On Home, Communication Breakdown, Black Dog, Immigrant Song and Rock N Roll on top of our originals which are also very demanding vocally. It was exhausting. I generally live and breathe Led Zeppelin everyday and take what I do as a professional guitarist/singer/drummer very seriously. I hope these pass as credentials for the information I'm about to give.

Vocal cords are just muscles that help produce noise when air passes over them. Like any muscles they can, and do, strain. When Robert goes to hit a high note and his voice cuts out for a moment; that is a sure sign of polyps/nodes on the vocal chords. I have no doubt that the contributing factors would've been smoking, cocaine, illness and just general usage over time. Olympic swimmers who excel at butterfly stroke eventually ruin their shoulders, that's just how it goes. Above all; Usage injured Robert Plant’s voice more than anything.

Substance abuse never helped anyone do anything either. Cocaine almost ruined Glenn Hughes' vocals. In the 70s doing cocaine was like drinking beer and Zep could definitely afford it by ‘72-‘73. It may not have been the 'cool' drug just yet but it was definitely around.

I disagree with BigDaddy8. There are not many times that Robert Plant is singing in a truly falsetto register. In fact the only one I can think of at all is at the end of You Shook Me from the first album when he's imitating the guitar line at the very end with the line "Babe!" etc. Those few notes are some of the highest he hits ever and they are in falsetto.

The only other time he goes that high or higher that I can think of (in my moderately sized collection of Vinyls, CDs, DVDs and bootlegs) is the Royal Albert Hall gig on the 2003 Led Zeppelin Double DVD release. When he does the vocal solo after the third chorus. In the studio version of How Many More Times he sings the "...Got you in the sights of my..." and on "guns" he glissandos (slides) up to a high F# before returning to the root note of the key of the song; a high E. On the DVD he glissandos up extremely high to a possible A or B. Far beyond the usual F# and far beyond the confines of his usual singing range. After this feat he sings/says enigmatically "I couldn't make it that time" possibly meaning he couldn't make it to the E the octave above. Which is strange because that is an extremely high note that I've never heard him or any other male singer hit. With the exception of Justin Hawkins of the Darkness who hits that note at the end of Stuck In A Rut in full Soprano (Castrate/Female) voice. So anyone who says that the 1970 RAH gig is vocally not one of Plant's best I would have to disagree completely.

I don't believe the sped up vocal effect in the studio was ever used to mask the fact that he lost some of his range, it was just used as a cool trick to add dimension to the song. Frank Zappa was doing the same thing except he was slowing them down. It's an effect. Nothing more.

By ‘73 it’s clear that he is not warming up before he hits the stage-Rock N’ Roll is his warm up. He has trouble singing the first few songs until his vocal cords are warmed up over time it takes to sing these song but the ‘break’ or ‘crack’ on some notes is still ever present.  

The problem persists from that point on. I notice no real change is his voice in ’75 or ‘77. Any perceived changes at that point probably were due to ageing. Recent study shows that the male body does not truly stop developing until around age 26.

Robert Plant was one of the greatest Male Rock singers of our time and, polyps or not, I’m eternally grateful for his contributions to Led Zeppelin’s vast body of work.

Rock On!

pjmcdono wrote at 2013-07-31 02:14:37
I would like to say that I agree in principle with LedZeppeling and MKnight (very detailed analyses) and I think Dragonspirit nails it, in my opinion, with the continual decline hypothesis. However, unlike Chris Cornell (similar voice), Plant's vocal decline was much steeper (and he never recovered, whereas Cornell is still singing very high notes at 48 yrs of age) and much faster. Plant "lost" his voice in approximately one year (If you start the decline as sometime around the 8/21/71 LA show), and he really sounded awful from the fall of '72 through all of '75. I agree that most of the damage was overusage and that everyone is different, but, having listened to almost all of the bootlegs and official live releases, Plant sang sick a lot. And it took a toll on his voice from the very beginning (Listen to the '69 shows in Denmark, the '70 show from Phoenix, the BBC sessions from '71; he was doing damage from the beginning). He was sick before the summer '71 tour (it's here where the first real drop off in his voice noticeable; he can still sing high, but cracks on the very high notes) and this is when the nodes began to haunt him. He got sick again in september and he started to sound really worn out in Japan. He mad an almost miraculous recovery by november though (11/16/71 and 11/24/71 sound almost as good as the 5/3/71 Copenhagen show), but then he got sick again at the end of the tour and the beginning of '72...

In '73 Plant did what everyone has to agree was irreversible damage. He sang while extremely sick (he sounded sick throughout january '73) and his voice was really a shadow of what it once was throughout the year (TSRTS soundtrack was doctored, the bootlegs show how bad Plant's voice really was), I really have a hard time listening to those shows (with the exception of Paris and Providence). I don't think he had vocal fold surgery in '74, because he was still plagued by slips and cracks throughout the '75 tour. However, he got really sick again at the start of the tour (listen to 1/25/75, simply awful, worse than 1/2/73 and definitely the nadir of Plant's voice). If he had the surgery, my bet is late '75 or early '76, before the Presence sessions. This would explain his more cautious and "mature" voice on Presence and the almost complete absence of slips in '77 (he voice still cracks if he goes really high, but his control is much better. Then he sick before Seattle and his voice was awful again...What is amazing is that Plant sounds so good (relatively) on the Celebration Day recordings (both boots and official release). He sings those songs as well as he had since '72 and he was 59 yrs old when they performed that gig. So, to sum up, I think that Plant lost his voice for a number of reasons. Certainly, smoking, cocaine, general partying and constant touring did not help and the lack of any real warm up added to the strain. However, I really feel that his constantly singing sick was what caused such a rapid decline in his voice.

Evster2012 wrote at 2013-08-04 17:16:45
Plant indeed had surgery for nodules following the 1973 tour. This was the primary reason for the 1974 touring hiatus. A careful listen to Physical Graffiti makes it quite plain.

The outtakes from the sessions lay bare that he was at the far end of what would be a long journey toward recovery. Stripped of studio processing, Trampled Underfoot is all one needs to hear to know exactly how bad it was going at the time.

The 1975 tour was an uphill struggle that had no lack of disappointments in the form of terrible cracking of his voice.

By the time they began work on Presence, Robert had found where his limits lay. It was a different instrument from then on. The Presence tour showed that Robert had clearly regained command. His power had returned, although his range and shaping of vowels showed that he was simply more experienced at navigating his new boundaries.

In many ways his voice has gained soulfulness. In my opinion people put too much emphasis on the high wails that so many have tried (and ultimately failed) to imitate. It's really only one facet of his young voice, and while certainly outstanding, there's so much more to what makes Robert Plant a great singer than the notes he could reach and the sheer volume with which he could reach them.

Anyway, this is not supposition on my part. It is confirmed that it is indeed what transpired.  

Nazgul wrote at 2013-09-23 14:09:22
I stand corrected on my post from a year ago regarding the Physical Graffiti album.  I did not realize this at the time, but although the PG album was *released* in 1975 (presumably post-vocal nodule surgery), the music on it was *all* recorded in 1970-1972 and Jan-Feb 1974, which was must have been pre-surgery.  PG was a double-album precisely because the material was accumulated over a number of years.  The latter recording period was for songs like Custard Pie, Ten Years Gone, In The Light and Kashmir, and indeed, these are the songs where his voice has a raspy, but still powerful, quality.  This is the same vocal quality that we hear in the mid-1973 Song Remains the Same concert.  It's been commented a couple times above that his voice on PG for songs like Kashmir was quite effective (the studio recording of Kashmir, including Plant's vocals, is one of their greatest achievements IMO), even though by the 1975 tour he would then have problems singing those very same songs.  That's because the "raspy" voice in 1973 and early 1974 (PG album) was a damaged voice that resulted in the later 1974 vocal surgery and the drastic change starting in the 1975 tour and the remaining albums.  His voice on the Presence and In Through the Out Door albums, and 1975, 1977, 1979 concerts, is notably different from anything previous -- it's generally lower range and less powerful even at that lower range.  Listen to later live renditions of their early work that did not use his ultra-high range (e.g., 1979 versus 1970 Whole Lotta Love) and one can hear the difference in raw power (independent of range) due to the vocal surgery.

Devilscucumber wrote at 2014-01-23 00:22:23
Just as aside saw Robert Plant & Strange Sensation in April 2013, most of his set was Led Zep covers and even though I'm just an extreme fan and no vocal expert he was on top form, hitting high notes (with a little assistance from electronic pitch shifting and sustain) but all in all, in fine fettle, well worth catching, and probably the closest we'll get to hearing these songs sung in another reunion (as this seems increasingly unlikely). Love the detailed analysis, btw.

guitarman wrote at 2014-01-31 21:40:32
I saw a Charlie Rose interview of Plant, Page, Jones about the O2 concert and Charlie asked Plant directly (I think he felt Robert was the reason they didn't tour), based on the success of that concert, why no followup tour? Plant seemed somewhat elusive and stated that the creative element was gone, it made no sense for him to persue that now. I really think it's due to what's been discussed in this forum, I just don't think his voice could have handled it.

Peter wrote at 2014-02-07 01:56:24
Back after about 4 years. All know that the officially released live albums have been enhanced to account for mostly vocal cracks and mistakes, and that is a good thing, frankly. Plant's voice on 1972's Immigrant Song on How the West was Won is impeccable, and one does not have to prepare to cringe upon expecting Plant's voice to crack (such as on the bootlegs). Anyway, I've wanted to find out if he could really hit all the high notes in some of the early songs, and I wish official releases would be forthcoming of those versions.

     For example, Plant gets through ALL the high notes on BLACK DOG during their short British tour in early 1971 at Belfast I only wish the recording quality was better. Also, FOUR STICKS from Copenhagen in 1971, and OUT ON THE TILES from New York in 1970 So he could hit the notes live even though varispeed was employed in many recording.

Peter wrote at 2014-02-20 05:26:08
Regarding waterybint who wrote at 2012-03-28 17:07:42: He aptly mentioned Plant's two solo albums and their comparison to his later solo works. There is definitely a difference. The 1982 album, Burning Down One Side is very Zeppelin like, and Plant's voice is right on track. I do not yet have direct sources, but it is my understanding that some of the material on Burning Down One Side originated with 1980 Zeppelin sessions, and that Page essentially gave them to Plant after Bonham's death. Zep tracks include the title track Burning Down One Side, Slow Dancer and Mystery Title, but could include more. In fact, Page did reportedly take Part in some recording sessions on that album in any case. Now back to Plant's voice: Note that a slight bit of varispeed was used on that album as can be demonstrated by listening to the MTV video of Burning Down One Side and then the album track. Apparently, the video was released quickly, and before the opportunity (or engineering decision was made) to speed up that track. MTV was all the rage at that time so tracks and videos had to be put out fast. The second album "Principle of Moments" also has Plant singing in a very smooth fashion and his voice stands up during his live tour, as is demonstrated from the readily available Texas concert in 1983 (where tracks from his first two albums are performed). Plant's superior smooth sound continues to the Honeydrippers material. However, after that, his voice goes through another stage of deterioration. By the time Little By Little is released in 1985, his voice is completely different, and that difference continues throughout the remainder of his solo albums. It is as if something occurred in late 1984. perhaps another surgery?

JohnBindon wrote at 2014-05-13 08:10:30
When an expert such as MKnight speaks - people should listen. With his knowledge on the shows - he's clearly an expert.

That being said:

I still think Plant's voice was pretty up through 1977. I agree 1975 wasn't his greatest year at all.

I'm a professional musician myself - I sang for years.

I started smoking cigarettes on Friday & Saturday nights when I was out drinking (for about one year). It takes a big toll on one's voice & quickly. I'm surprised Plant's voice wasn't ruined sooner - that's why his voice was amazing ! Nodule surgery or straining one's voice - has some merit, but smoking cigarettes  ruined my upper register.

I stopped smoking cigs about all together on Fri & Sat nights about 6 months ago & my voice is still not back to what it was -it's getting there slowly but surely, but heavy clear spit seems to still come up.

Jogging that crap out of my lungs will work, as I predict. I'll update in a month or two.

Plant's still one the best singers to ever grace the stages of Rock & Roll history.

Another voice that lasted his whole career - Elvis Presley - all the way up through his last concerts in June 1977 - his voice was golden.

I'm not posting this song for it's religious purposes - at all. Check out the inhuman notes Elvis hits at the 2:32 mark of this song.

Diana wrote at 2015-09-22 07:05:37
We know that Plant's voice was pretty up through 1977. I agree 1975 wasn't his greatest year at all.

His vocal was damage from smoking cigarette.

but now days all vocal problems can be reduce by vocal surgery

Rocky Dijohn wrote at 2016-03-05 20:57:55
When I listen to high quality bootlegs across the eras, sometimes I think I am hearing certain effects added to Plant's vocals. Especially echo. Am I correct that his vocals would somehow receive various electronic treatments, the most common being echo?

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Chris M. Zangara


I`m not only a Zeppelin fanatic, but I have been collecting Zeppelin - including Jimmy Page and Robert Plant solo music & information - for over 27 years. I am truly a lover of Page/Plant music in & out of Zeppelin simply because of the honesty & integrity of it all. - I have been studying them for as long as I have been listening to Rock/Blues Music. Their interpretation of the blues is unlike any other. I look forward to any question and will answer the very best I can - as above all - I am just a fan like you! (Please understand my interest is in the music and people of REAL life; NOT in rumor or fantasy).


Lover of blues roots and rock music from early 1900's to today. Musician for 30 years, mostly study of guitar and recording engineering.

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