This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.
KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #337: Whole Lotta Love by Led Zeppelin.
Alright! Now we’re talking! “Led Zeppelin” makes its’ first appearance on the list and does so with one of its biggest and most recognizable hits, “Whole Lotta Love”. The song was released in 1969 and was from their second album, simply called, “Led Zeppelin-II”. The band was comprised of singer, Robert Plant, lead guitarist, Jimmy Page, bassist, John Paul Jones and drummer, John Bonham. As a band, “Led Zeppelin” has sold almost 300 million albums worldwide, making them one of the most successful bands of all-time. They featured a heavy rock sound that incorporated many aspects of Blues (which becomes important, musically and legally, in this song, in particular). Some of “Led Zeppelin’s” hits are considered to be among the best songs of all-time such as “Stairway to Heaven”, Kashmir”, “All of My Love”, “When the Levee Breaks”, “Rock and Roll”, “Immigrant Song” and many, many more. “Led Zeppelin” was inducted into The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.
The song, “Whole Lotta Love”, like any song, has lyrics and it has a music structure. It is worth taking a little time and examining how the aspects of both played a part, both famously and infamously, in the history of this song. Let’s start with the musical structure. “Whole Lotta Love” is driven by one of Rock n’ Roll’s best loved guitar riffs. Jimmy Page is at his forceful, vital best on this song. His riff reminds me of a powerful locomotive chugging on down the tracks to its destination. Muscular. Strong. Insistent. The guitar work on “Whole Lotta Love” has been ranked at, or near, the top of numerous polls over the years.
While Jimmy Page was creating one of the classic guitar riffs of all-time, Robert Plant was stealing the lyrics…..quite literally! The lyrics to “Whole Lotta Love” were copied, almost verbatim, from a song by Bluesman, Willie Dixon, called, “You Need Love”…..and, by “love” both Dixon and Plant mean, “sex”! Lots of sex! Way deep down inside….sex! Anyway, Dixon was not given any songwriting credit on “Whole Lotta Love” when it was released. But, those who know music and, in particular, those who know the Blues, immediately noticed how similar the lyrics were in both songs. Here is a sample of Dixon’s lyrics from “You Need Love”.
“You’ve got yearnin’ and I’ve got burnin’ Baby,
you look so sweet and cunnin’ Baby,
way down inside,
woman you need love.
Woman you need love,
you’ve got have some love
I’m got give you some love.
I know you need love.”
Robert Plant writes:
“A-way down inside,
A-honey you need it.
I’m gonna give you my love
I’m gonna give you my love
Wanna whole lotta love (x4).”
The lawsuit was settled in Dixon’s favour and he now receives co-songwriting credit for “Whole Lotta Love”. After the lawsuit was over, Plant commented by shrugging his shoulders and saying, “It was a nick, happily paid for”.
“Whole Lotta Love” is a song about sexual intercourse. There is nothing subtle about it. In the video, there are long sections where Robert Plant does nothing other than moan and groan, as if in sexual pleasure, while Jimmy Page pounds away on the guitar. Yet, as much as the Blues are a part of the foundation of Rock n’ Roll, so is sex, as this song makes abundantly clear. “Whole Lotta Love” is one of “Led Zeppelin’s” signature songs and just the first of several appearances they will make in this countdown. So, ready or not, here comes “Led Zeppelin” with “Whole Lotta Love”. Enjoy.
The link to the video for the song, “Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Led Zeppelin, can be found here.
Thanks, as always, KEXP, for helping to inspire the writing of this post. The link to their wonderful website can be found here.