Heart performs "Stairway To Heaven"

At the recent Kennedy Center Honors event that celebrated Led Zeppelin among other artists, Heart (with Jason Bonham on drums) performed a magnificent cover of "Stairway to Heaven." Yeah, you read that right. Make sure you stick around for "And as we wind on down the road…" (Thanks, Patrick Kelly!)



  1. They have been playing that for years.  I saw them play it as an encore in 1979 or so.  Though it may have been another Zep tune.  Memory is quite hazy from those days.   

    1. As well as “Battle of Evermore” as the Lovemongers on the “Singles” soundtrack.  I hope that Heart reunites for the Rock and Roll ceremony, but that may be just wishful thinking

  2. You have to have HUGE balls to play a Jimmy Page solo note for note right in front of Jimmy Page, but he pulls it off brilliantly.

    Plant didn’t look too impressed with anything, but you could see Jimmy getting excited and loving it.  He even put on his “guitar face” in a couple of spots, a sure sign that he’s getting into it.

      1.  this.  he’s tearing up in the very first close-up shot of him, and it gets more obvious with each one.  d’awwww!

        I seem to recall Ann Wilson has said that Plant was her biggest influence, vocally.  Nice to see it come full circle.

        just remembered I had paused “Levee Breaks” to watch the Memorex video posted earlier.  annnnnnd resumed.

    1. It wasn’t note for note, it followed the same contours, which is what you want to do with a guitar solo like that.  Everyone knows it, but you also have to play it your own way and not just duplicate the album track.  Page himself played it differently every night.  I think the guitarist did a great job, and also had a nice tone (not a “modern” overly distorted sound, but a classic rock gritty one)

      1. Exactly. It’s one of the awesomenesses about watching/hearing someone like David Gilmour – every time it’s a unique solo, but you feel you know every note.

    2. Plant looked real excited when the whole choir was shown and a bit surprised.  Letterman sitting next them looked like a rock that didn’t move.

          1. Still MY favorite cover of “Stairway”…..


            What’s really brain-altering about this whole thing is that, 30-odd years ago when I first saw Zep, is that if somebody had told me then that, in 2012, a black United States president and the Kennedy Center would be honoring one of the all-time great hotel-wrecking, groupie-exhausting, old-lady-horrifying, party-hard harbingers-of-the-apocalypse rock bands….

            I probably would have shook that guys hand, wished him well and congratulating him for a GREAT practical joke. Nice to be that wrong, is all I can say…

    1. I bought that in Australia in 1992 when it first came out – there were 22 tracks originally.  Rolf Harris and Leonard Teale are the two best IMO (and they are on the shorter version).

  3. Well, that finished up quite nicely I must say…

    Rock may be pretty much extinct as a culturally relevant art form, but that old mammoth of a track managed to escape the tar pits…

    Something about a rousing guitar solo…gets me right ~here~. (sniff)

    1. It’s the tempo increases that always get me. It’s such an overplayed song that I have a habit of doing a mental eye roll as the opening chords start up, but by the point the second guitar comes in I’m hooked because the beat is dragging me into it. 

      Then when the drums show up it’s a lot of “oh yeah this is why this song sticks around.”

  4. I had to watch several of these before coming back to comment. 

    All politics aside, it’s pretty awesome to see the the President of the United States singing along with a Lenny Kravitz cover of Whole Lotta Love.

      1. Is that our left-handed Commander in Chief gently playing air guitar on the First Lady’s shoulder at 3:08?  Why yes, I believe it is!

        Oh, if only the cameras had cut to him mouthing “I wanna be your back-door man!”

        1.  “This President is more concerned over rocking out than the republican majority in the House!  I must admit… against all better judgement… I like this Duke.  err, President”

  5. What a curiously American event. I’d have thought the Elder Brit-rockers would have felt rather self concious and embarrassed.

    1. Zeppelin owes America. Not only for the American art forms of Rock, Blues, Soul, Funk, without which they would never have existed, but also for giving them their biggest tours and best-selling albums. So if Page, Plant, and Jones have to be taken hostage to hang out with the President of the USA and watch some musicians play their music, their bashfulness is irrelevant: WE AS AMERICANS FUCKING EARNED IT!

  6. Well thanks for that.  When I get a chance I am for sure going to watch the whole show.  A thing of beauty is a joy forever – what a nice arrangement – strings, then horns! then chorus  – just great.  Plant was probably tearing up wishing he had that register back.

  7. I was hoping for one more reveal. Perhaps the entire back wall of the Kennedy Center would open up revealing 100,000 headbangers playing air guitar along to the finale.

  8. Ok..46 yrs old here and that brought a tear to my eye.  Seeing Page, Plant, and Jones nodding with approval, Jason on the drums and Heart giving a really solid performance.  Very cool.

    1. There’s p’bly a discoverable “scale of nostalgia” here — I’m 58 and had to bring the hankie up 6 times.

      Can’t quite tell from this edit, but damn — the staging! Did they really lift that 70-person chorus at the end, or was it just a really clever scrim? Amazing. (First big show I ever worked was an outdoor evening concert — one of the “Michigan Jams” — featuring Heart and Bob Seger. Electrical budget was tight, so the big light show trick was putting the sax player up in a tethered hot-air balloon; light the burner and WOW! No wireless in those days; that was one long-ass mic cord ;-)

      Wonderful to see the Wilsons again, looking and sounding so strong.

  9. My husband heard the DJ’s of his favorite radio show talk about this performance, on his way to work.  He played the video for me this weekend.  Man, the pressure to ‘get it right’ in front of that audience, with Led Zepplin right there listening to every note.  Really, Heart did a good job… though I couldn’t help but hear the absence of a quality that no middle-aged band can duplicate in playing a song recorded by  those once young band members back in 1971.  Plant was 23 when that song was released.

    1. I worked with a woman who saw them live “back in the day” when Robert Plant’s hair was all the way to his waist. She paid $7 for the ticket. Now that will make you cry!

          1. Five bucks. Barrels managed to hold that price point; when blotter and windowpane emerged you were lettin’ go of $8 (plus upcharge for a “good as Owsley” rating.)

            Edit for context: Minimum wage was $1.30 per hour. Gas was around 32 cents a gallon…although I remember a local “gas war” in ’69 or ’70 that saw gas at 4 cents for a day. Cigs were 40 cents. The hamburger shack wanted 19 cents; 29 cents with cheese. The day-old bread store wanted a nickel for a loaf. TV was free ;-)

          2. Thanks, s2redux, I learned something new today.  I was interested to read of someone describing some Owsley they had acquired that was ‘deep purple’ in color and had to go look for the origin of that band’s name:  Deep Purple

            ‘The band began in earnest in March 1968 at Deeves Hall, a country house in South Mimms, Hertfordshire.[24][25] The band would live, write and rehearse at Deeves Hall, which was fully kitted out with the latest Marshall amplification.[26] After a brief tour of Denmark and Sweden in April, in which they were still billed as Roundabout, Blackmore suggested a new name: Deep Purple, named after his grandmother’s favourite song.[21][26] The group had resolved to choose a name after everyone had posted one on a board in rehearsal. Second to Deep Purple was “Concrete God”, which the band thought was too harsh to take on.'[27][28]


  10. I love this.  I’m not even a huge Zep fan, but this is terrific.  So many great moments:  Plant being obviously moved; Page thrilled, totally into it, grinning, rocking out; Michelle Obama grooving; the choir at the end.  And so on.  A great performance/production.

  11. I was pretty much sick of Stairway to Heaven thirty years ago, and in reality it might be closer to thirty-five — or even forty :) Despite that, after seeing this I wish I could have been in the live audience. What a tremendous effort. 

  12. what really got me was Jason Bonham glancing skyward and tearing up (during the final pause towards the end of the song)

    also Yo-Yo Ma & Michelle Obama rocking out, Plant getting progressively more & more misty, Page digging the guitar solo, that giant chorus rising up all in Bonzo’s hat…

    and Ann Wilson has _always_ had an absolutely killer voice

  13. Meh.  Great song, and Ann Wilson is (still) a great singer, but IMO the strength of the song is in the careful details of the arrangement, which this version sort of bulldozes over.  I’m sure a full-length performance of the song by Heart would be awesome; I believe they started out as a Zep cover band, or at least used to play a lot of Zeppelin covers, and still do.  Do they normally do the full version of this song in concert?

  14. Thanks for sharing this I didn’t even know that show existed. I’m a big time led Zep fan. When I was a Kid my aunt used to play me Led Zep music. i love them.

    1. I disagree, but if you like Heart and you want something a bit heavier, might I recommend Alice in Chains with Nancy Wilson and Gretchen Wilson tearing up Barracuda.

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