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Led Zeppelin was an English rock band, and is one of the most successful and influential groups in popular music history. Led Zeppelin consisted of four men: Jimmy Page (guitar), Robert Plant (lead vocals, harmonica), John Bonham (drums), and John Paul Jones (bass guitar and keyboards).
Formed in 1968, Led Zeppelin were innovators who never lost mainstream appeal. While the band is perhaps best known as pioneers of hard rock and heavy metal, they also drew inspiration from many other musical genres, including blues, rockabilly, reggae, soul, funk, jazz, Celtic, Indian, Arabic, folk, pop, Latin and country.
Over 25 years after disbanding in response to drummer John Bonham's death in 1980, Led Zeppelin continue to be held in high regard for their artistic achievements, commercial success, and broad influence. To date, the group is reported to have sold more than 300 million albums worldwide, including 109.5 million sales in the United States.
The early days (1968-1970)
In 1968, while bands like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones still dominated the charts on both sides of the Atlantic, newer, heavier styles of rock and roll were being played by groups like The Who, The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Cream. In that same year, a new British band, Led Zeppelin, began to form their own distinctly thunderous sound, and would play a critical role in the creation of a new musical genre, hard rock.
The formation/The New Yardbirds
The beginnings of Led Zeppelin can be traced to Jimmy Page, who had joined the rock band The Yardbirds in 1966, to play bass guitar after bassist Paul Samwell-Smith quit the group. Shortly thereafter, Page switched from bass to lead guitar creating a lineup that featured both Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck playing dual lead (Chris Dreja moved from rhythm guitar to take over on bass). Following the departure of Jeff Beck in October 1966, The Yardbirds, tired from constant touring and recording, were beginning to wind down. Page discussed forming a supergroup with himself and Beck on guitar, and The Who's Keith Moon and John Entwistle on drums and bass, respectively. Vocalists Donovan, Steve Winwood and Steve Marriott were also considered for the project. The group never formed, although Page, Beck and Moon did record a song together in 1966, "Beck's Bolero", which is featured on Beck's 1968 album, Truth. The recording session also included bassist John Paul Jones, who told Page that he would be interested in collaborating with him on future projects.
The Yardbirds played their final gig in July 1968, after which vocalist Keith Relf and drummer Jim McCarty left the band, wishing to pursue a shared interest in folk music. However, The Yardbirds were still committed to perform several concerts in Scandinavia, so McCarty and Relf authorised Page and Dreja to use the Yardbirds name to fulfil the band's obligations. Page and Dreja began putting a new line-up together. Page's first choice for lead singer, Terry Reid, declined the offer, but suggested a singer he knew of who played on the Birmingham scene called Robert Plant. Plant accepted the position, and also recommended John Bonham from nearby Redditch who also played regularly in Birmingham bands. Plant and Bonham had recently played in the Band of Joy together. When Dreja opted out of the project to become a photographer (he would later take the photograph that appeared on the back of Led Zeppelin's debut album), John Paul Jones contacted Page about the empty position. Page, being familiar with his credentials, gladly accepted him as the band's new bassist.
The band completed the Scandinavian tour as the New Yardbirds. After some discussion, the name "Led Zeppelin" was chosen as a new name, based upon a name (Lead Zeppelin) that Keith Moon had suggested during his discussions with Page about a possible supergroup. Moon got the name from John Entwistle's term for a bad gig, describing it as "going over" (some sources say "going down") "like a lead zeppelin". The group deliberately dropped the 'a' in Lead at the suggestion of their manager, Peter Grant, to prevent people from pronouncing it as "leed".
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