Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant appeared to be moved to tears as he and his two surviving band mates watched Heart perform a soaring rendition of the band's 1971 hit "Stairway To Heaven" at the 2012 Kennedy Center Honors ceremony, which featured a star-studded tribute to his iconic 1960s and 1970s rock group.
The annual event took place at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. on December 2 and aired on CBS on Wednesday, December 26. The others honored at the annual ceremony were CBS' "Late Show" host David Letterman, actor Dustin Hoffman, guitarist Buddy Guy and ballet dancer Natalia Makarova. President Barack Obama also attended the ceremony and met the honorees at the White House.
Jack Black, an actor who is part of the rock duo Tenacious D, gave a speech in which he called Led Zeppelin "the greatest rock n' roll band of all time," used Islamic references and cited an urban legend about the group and Satan before a video montage was screened before the crowd. Plant, 64; guitarist Jimmy Page, 68; bassist and keyboardist John Paul Jones, 66, sat beside Letterman, 65.
"Led Zeppelin. Bonzo. The greatest rock n' roll band of all time. Yeah," Black said, referencing fourth band member and deceased drummer John Bonham's nickname. "That's right. Better than the Beatles. Better than the Stones. Even better than Tenacious D. Yeah. "And if you don't agree with me, that's because you never did the Zeppelin marathon," he said. "The Zeppethon is when you sit you're a-- down and listen to all nine Zep albums in a row."
"Yeah. It's rock n' roll Hajj. The thing that every true fan must do at least once in their lifetime. The pilgrimage to heavy metal Mecca," he added. "The jams of Led Zeppelin are second to none. Just ask anyone ? from Oliver Stone to Paul Ryan and everyone in between. They sang songs about love, about Vikings. About Vikings making love."
Bonham, died in 1980 at age 32. His son Jason Bonham appeared at the "Kennedy Center Honors" event and accompanied the rock band Heart for a performance of "Stairway To Heaven," which featured Ann Wilson on vocals and her sister Nancy Wilson on acoustic guitar.
Plant appeared emotional and seemed to wipe away tears during the performance, which also featured violinists and a choir, and he, his band mates and Letterman gave a standing ovation. Heart has performed Led Zeppelin songs in concerts before.
Black is a longtime fan of the band. He mentions Led Zeppelin in the 2003 movie "School of Rock" while rattling off a list of "bands that rock" and the group is also cited in the 2012 Tenacious D song "Rock Is Dead." Black's group also performs a few notes from "Stairway To Heaven" in the 2001 song "Tribute," whose music video stars Foo Fighters member Dave Grohl as a demon.
In the 1970s, many conservatives claimed that Led Zeppelin's music contained subliminal satanic messages. An urban legend claims that the band members sold their souls to the devil in exchange for fame and success. Also, Page was a fan of Aleister Crowley, a writer, poet and occultist magician who reportedly practiced "black magic" before his death in 1947.
Page even bought Crowley's former home in Loch Ness, Scotland. The musician told Rolling Stone in 1975 that the house was "also a church that was burned to the ground with the congregation in it. Strange things have happened in that house that had nothing to do with Crowley. The bad vibes were already there. A man was beheaded there, and sometimes you can hear his head rolling down."
"You know, they say that Led Zeppelin sold their souls to Satan," Black said in his speech at the Kennedy Center Honors ceremony. "Come on guys, you know you did! There's no other way to explain your ungodly talent. I just want to say thank you because while you're in Hell, the human race will cherish your Heavenly jams until the end of time. It's a small price to pay. We love you. The best band ever."
The group Foo Fighters tackled the band's 1972 song "Rock n' Roll." Kid Rock sang the 1969 Led Zeppelin track "Ramble On," while Lenny Kravitz performed "Whole Lotta Love," which was also released that same year.
"They just kept building and building," Page told CBS News. "It was epic but it was so moving, it was wonderful."
"To watch how all our lives have developed from just wanting to do something in the first place ... watching that thing unfold this evening was quite something," Plant added.