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In Memoriam – “Stairway To Heaven”

Stairway To Heaven
Released November 1971
Voted #3 in 2000 by VH1 on its list of the 100 Greatest Rock Songs

In Memoriam – “Stairway To Heaven” – Note

“Stairway to Heaven” is described as progressive rock, and hard rock.

The song consists of several distinct sections, beginning with a quiet introduction on a finger-picked six-string guitar and four recorders in a Renaissance music style and gradually moving into a slow electric middle section, then a long guitar solo (5:34–6:44), before the faster hard rock final section, ending with a short vocals-only epilogue. Robert Plant sings the opening, middle and epilogue sections in his mid vocal range, but sings the hard rock section in his higher range which borders on falsetto.

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Another interesting aspect of the song is the timing of the lead-up to the famous guitar solo. While staying in 4/4 throughout this section, most of the accents shift to the eighth notes. This makes the rhythm figure challenging for some musicians, but adds a feeling of anticipation to the approaching guitar solo.

Jimmy Page has likened the song to a sonic orgasm.

In Memoriam – “Stairway To Heaven” – Jimmy Page

Jimmy Page told Rolling Stone in 1975, “We were careful to never release it as a single.” So, Led Zeppelin refused to release the song as a single, which forced buyers to buy the entire album. Despite pressure from Atlantic Records, the band would not authorise the editing of the song for single release, making “Stairway to Heaven” one of the most well-known and popular rock songs never to have been released as a single.

The band’s final performance of the song was in Berlin on 7 July 1980, which was also their last concert until 10 December 2007 at London’s O2 Arena; the version was the longest, lasting almost fifteen minutes, including a seven minute guitar solo.

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