The Origin of the Species: Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin The Origin of The Species

“Good artists borrow, great artists steal”

– Picasso

The manner in which rock fans argue in favour of their bands on internet forums is pretty juvenile. Perhaps it has got something to do with the fact that most rock fans are in fact – juvenile. However, the stronger hypothesis is that rock fans project some of their egos on to their favourite musicians and thus they argue so irrationally in favour of them. In this rock fans are no different from sports fan who project their egos on to their sports team (have you noticed that when your favourite team loses you sigh – they lost, but whenever they are triumphant you exclaim – we won!!).

Led Zeppelin is my favourite band. So I am inclined to argue in the favour for them being the greatest band of all times. However the rational part of my brain knows that that title only belongs with the Beatles. None the less Led Zeppelin does have a strong case. However there is one argument cited against the greatness of Led Zeppelin – plagiarism.

Many of the Zeppelins greatest songs were not written from scratch. They mined lot of old blues music, and turned some of them into what rock fans are familiar with as Led Zeppelin songbook. How can you call Zeppelin the greatest band in the world, when half of their tunes were not original?

Well the greatness of the band lies in the treatment of the material. Take for example one of the most famous thefts – “Whole lotta love”.  The original conjures an image of an old and poor factory worker returning home to his wife and demanding some romance. It is pretty, pleasing and cute. Led Zeppelins treatment makes it sinister and ominous.

And therein lays the explanation for one of the most clichéd quotes of all time – “Good artists borrow, great artists steal”. If you take a work of art, and turn it into something else which is good but not as good as the original – you borrowed a concept. But when you took something and turned it into something much more profound than original, you stole.

The book origin of species traces the background of many legendary tunes from Led Zeppelins first two albums, and how the band “stole” from the original blues music.

– Amaresh

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