The Only Led Zeppelin Song Robert Plant Shared With Another Lead Vocalist
If you want to run through the many ways Led Zeppelin was different from The Beatles, you have to spend a good chunk of time on vocals. On a Fab Four album, you’d hear lead vocals from every member of the band. (Yes, even Ringo got his share of the spotlight.)
Obviously, that wasn’t the case with Zeppelin records, on which Robert Plant sang every lead (and most of the backup vocals, too). Zep didn’t feature three singer-songwriters the way The Beatles did, so that didn’t factor into the equation at all.
In fact, if you run through the entire Zep catalog, you’ll only find Plant sharing the lead vocals on one occasion. On the band’s fourth album (Led Zeppelin IV, or “the one with the four symbols”), Plant and Fairport Convention’s Sandy Denny sang a stirring duet.
Plant sang ‘Battle of Evermore’ with Sandy Denny
Though Led Zeppelin III confounded fans and critics alike, Jimmy Page and his bandmates weren’t going to back away from the group’s folk side. So while the fourth album kicked off with two classic Zep crushers (“Black Dog” and “Rock and Roll”), listeners got “The Battle of Evermore” next.
As Zep’s folk ballads went, “Battle of Evermore” represented one of the peaks for the band. You have to credit Denny’s contribution to the track for a good part of that. After a gorgeous fade-in with Page on mandolin (John Paul Jones may also play mandolin here), we hear the first verse from Plant.
Once Plant sings the first four lines, Denny comes soaring into the mix. “Oh, dance in the dark of night,” she sings. “Sing to the morning light.” From there, the two singers trade couplets until the chorus section, which features Plant and Denny harmonizing in spectacular fashion.
That pattern holds for most of the song. Plant introduces a new section with four lines before he and Denny trade two lines each; then they tackle the chorus together afterward. Coming from the band that released “Whole Lotta Love” and “Heartbreaker,” Denny’s voice must have surprised fans.
Page wrote ‘The Battle of Evermore’ the 1st time he picked up a mandolin
There are hundreds of jaw-dropping Jimmy Page stories, and you have to put the tale behind “Battle of Evermore” on the list. In Led Zeppelin: All the Songs, the authors write that engineer Andy Johns and Page remember him picking up a mandolin for the first time and writing “Evermore” on the spot.
“I had never played one before,” Page said. Obviously, the mandolin didn’t even belong to him. Jones had been playing one as the group sat around a fire working on music for the new album. When Jones put it down, Page picked it up and learned a new string instrument.
Once Plant worked out some of the lyrics, he thought it needed another voice — a “Queen of Light” to his “Prince of Peace.” Plant thought of his friend Denny, who’d become known as one of the best singers on the folk scene.
So Zep had another vocalist featured for the first (and last) time. And the band also had its only appearance by a female vocalist. What’s more, Sandy Denny’s name appears on the record’s sleeve while Robert Plant’s doesn’t. (The same went for Jonesy and John Bonham.)
The story doesn’t end there, either. While Zep famously used symbols (instead of names) to represent each member of the group on IV, Denny got both her name and a symbol. You could say that was more than equal billing.