Why Joni Mitchell Thought Led Zeppelin Was ‘Courageous’ Compared to Other Bands

On the first Led Zeppelin tours of America, the band earned a reputation for raucous (at times tasteless) behavior between gigs. In Hammer of the Gods (1985), there’s a hilarious quote on the subject of Jimmy Page from groupie “Miss Pamela” that speaks to that.

After saying Page had pursued her (not the other way around), Miss Pamela explained why. “I just didn’t want to know from Led Zeppelin then,” she told Stephen Davis. “Because I knew about their reputation.” But as the ’70s wore on, the members of Zep grew up. And they were often gentlemanly.

At one point in the mid-’70s, Robert Plant had the chance to meet Joni Mitchell, an idol of his. But Plant was reportedly too shy to introduce himself. For his part, Page did meet Mitchell around the same time, and he was ecstatic about the encounter.

In a 1975 interview, Page spoke about his admiration for Mitchell’s work in a major Rolling Stone interview. That wasn’t lost on the legendary singer-songwriter. Thirty years later, she said Zeppelin’s compliments stood out, as musicians tended to avoid her.

Joni Mitchell said Led Zeppelin was 1 of the few rock acts who openly admired her work

Joni Mitchell
Joni Mitchell in Amsterdam, 1972 | Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns

RELATED: Robert Plant Thought People Were Right to Criticize Led Zeppelin in the late ’70s

While “Going to California” from Led Zeppelin IV was a clear homage to Mitchell, Page put his esteem for Mitchell into words during his and Plant’s ’75 interview with Cameron Crowe (“The Durable Led Zeppelin”). Page said Mitchell was one of the few writers capable of consistent brilliance.

“[Joni Mitchell] is the music I play at home all the time,” Page told Rolling Stone. “The main thing with Joni is that she’s able to look at something that’s happened to her, draw back and crystallize the whole situation, then write about it. She brings tears to me eyes, what more can I say?”

Mitchell wasn’t used to such kind words from musicians. “Other artists would cross the street when I walked by,” Mitchell told Interview magazine (via jonimitchell.com) in 2005. “Initially, I thought that was due to elitism, but I later found out they were intimidated by me.”

Mitchell said “straight white men” seemed to be most hesitant about offering her a compliment. “They would come up to me and say, ‘My girlfriend really likes your music,’ as if they were the wrong demographic,” she told Interview. “Led Zeppelin was very courageous and outspoken about liking my music. But others wouldn’t admit it.”

Mitchell once told a story about Bob Dylan falling asleep while listening to her ‘Court and Spark’ album

Led Zeppelin next to the Starship
Led Zeppelin poses in front of The Starship in 1973. | Hulton Archive/Getty Images

While Led Zeppelin was raving about Mitchell, the singer-songwriter wasn’t getting a lot of support for her latest record from David Geffen, then president of Elektra/Asylum. Mitchell once told a story about a night at Geffen’s house to illustrate that.

“There was all this fussing over Bobby [Dylan’s] project, ’cause he was new to the label,” Mitchell told Rolling Stone in 1979. “And Court and Spark [1974], which was a big breakthrough for me, was being entirely and almost rudely dismissed.”

That didn’t seem to be the case for Planet Waves, the latest Dylan record. “Dylan played his album, and everybody went, ‘Oh wow,'” Mitchell recalled. “I played mine, and everybody talked, and Bobby fell asleep.”