8 Saddest Things About Robert Plant's Life

This article discusses alcohol misuse.

Led Zeppelin has undoubtedly played a major part in shaping what we call the realm of rock and roll today, and its lead vocalist Robert Anthony Plant was one of the four pillars that helped Led Zeppelin do so. Producing super hit tracks like "Stairway to Heaven," "Kashmir," and "Immigrant Song," the band acquired and retained worldwide fame from its 1968 formation until its 1980 disbandment prompted by drummer John Bonham's tragic death. Following the band's breakup, Plant started over and built up a solo career that turned out to be just as successful as his work with Led Zep.

Despite having a long, prosperous music career, Plant's life wasn't all smooth and serene. Like many other rock stars of his time, the performer has suffered his fair share of tragedy. In fact, his life has, at certain points, been just as dark and complex as the themes he explored in his songs. Read on to find out some of the saddest facts about Robert Plant's life.

He upset his parents when he left school to pursue music

Born in 1948 in West Bromwich, Staffordshire, England, Robert Plant was raised in Halesowen, Worcestershire. As a child, he developed a passion for music and dropped out of King Edward VI Grammar School for Boys in the middle of his teenage years to pursue his music dreams. His father was a qualified civil engineer and a Royal Air Force veteran, and as such he wanted his son to become a chartered accountant. Initially, Plant followed his father's commands and started preparing for the same, but he abandoned the training within a fortnight. "I left home at 16, and I started my real education musically, moving from group to group, furthering my knowledge of the blues," he told Express & Star of that time. 

His decisions weren't exactly accepted by his parents. As he once noted during a Melody Maker interview (via The Guardian), their upset regarding his lifestyle eventually made the three of them grow distant over time. In 2020, Plant revealed that he'd discovered an unopened letter that his mother had written to him in 1967 which could have changed the course of his life. As he told the "Rolling Stone Music Now" podcast, "[The letter] said, 'Robert, you should come home now. Sue is waiting for you, and the accountant's office are happy to take you back.' It brought a tear to my eye because I thought ... 'Hmm, if I'd have opened that I might have taken it up.' Just imagine that!"

He has no songwriting credits on Led Zeppelin I

As shocking as it may be, Robert Plant didn't receive any songwriting credits on "Led Zeppelin I" — Led Zeppelin's 1969 debut album. Regarding the distribution of credits on that album, the band's guitarist Jimmy Page told Guitar World, "I initiated most of the changes and riffs, but if something was derived from the blues, I tried to split the credit between band members." Although Plant wasn't credited for the composition of any of the songs in the album, it wasn't Page discriminating or being biased against his bandmate. Instead, it was actually, a contractual issue, as Plant was signed to a record company called CBS. Led Zeppelin, on the other hand, had a contract signed with Atlantic Records. 

As Plant told Vulture, his songwriting experience prior to joining Led Zeppelin was minimal. As such he felt his approach to lyric writing at that time was a little simplistic. As an example of his contributions to the album, Plant was reportedly responsible for changing the lyrics in Led Zeppelin's version of "You Shook Me." The song was originally written in 1962 by Willie Dixon, with singer Muddy Waters recording it alongside an instrumental track composed by guitarist Earl Hooker. Led Zeppelin not only increased the song's duration but also had Plant modify the lyrics so that the lady in the track was presented to be abandoning the singer instead of committing adultery.

He suffered serious injuries from two car accidents

In 2016, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page were sued for allegedly copying the riff of their 1971 song "Stairway to Heaven" from an instrumental track by Spirit called "Taurus." The Led Zep frontman had reportedly watched the band performing the track live just a year prior to writing their hit. In 2016, at the Los Angeles trial for the lawsuit, Plant told the jury that he had been involved in a car accident with his wife the night he watched Spirit perform. He subsequently suffered a head injury that he claimed had erased his memory of the band's performance. "Part of the windshield buried in the top of my head, which was interesting. I don't remember a thing," he said, per the Independent.

In 1975, Plant was involved in a second car crash while vacationing with his family in Rhodes, Greece. His wife, Maureen, was driving the car with Plant in the passenger seat beside her. Behind them sat their children, Karac and Carmen, and Jimmy Page's daughter, Scarlet. The accident left Plant with a broken ankle, a fractured elbow, and multiple shattered bones in his right leg, causing him to spend his days in a wheelchair for a very long time. It also resulted in Maureen breaking her skull, pelvis, and leg. Three-year-old Karac and six-year-old Carmen suffered a fractured leg and a broken wrist, respectively. Fortunately, four-year-old Scarlet didn't suffer more than a few cuts and bruises.

His five-year-old son died while he was on tour

Following that 1975 car accident, the band had to take a long break to allow for Robert Plant to recover from his injuries. But by 1977, Led Zeppelin had set out on an American tour. In July of that year, the band stopped by New Orleans for a tour date performance. However, upon reaching their destination, Plant received a phone call from his wife, who told him their five-year-old son, Karac, was sick with a stomach virus. A second phone call came later that day — Karac had died. 

In a press release, Led Zeppelin announced the cancellation of the rest of the tour, along with the grave reason as to why. It read, "Karac was stricken by an unknown illness last week and collapsed Monday. Doctors decided to hospitalize him, but he died before they could do anything." The same announcement quoted Plant's father, who said, "Karac was the apple of Robert's eye. They idolized one another." Needless to say, the band's frontman never healed from the trauma. In 2011, he told GQ, "I lost my son when he was five, in '77. We lost our boy. Obviously, it's not something that we, as a family, have been able to get over yet, having lost him."

He almost quit Led Zeppelin to become a teacher

The trauma from his son's death was so intense that Robert Plant eventually reconsidered being in the music industry and decided to become a teacher. As he told Rolling Stone in 2007, "I lost my boy. I didn't want to be in Led Zeppelin. I wanted to be with my family." In due course, Plant applied for a teaching position in the Rudolf Steiner education system, and in 1978, he got the opportunity to attend a teacher training college.

However, Jimmy Page and John Bonham convinced their bandmate to drop the plan and continue his career in music. At the time, Plant told the German magazine, Bravo (via the Independent), "[Page] said without me, the band's nothing. He wanted me to take a break until I felt ready for playing again." He added that he'd realized his friendship with Page was much more than just a business partnership, and it was Page's words that made him stick to Led Zeppelin.

By the time the band's final studio album was released in 1979, Plant didn't feel as attached to the band as he was before. Speaking to Rolling Stone nine years later, he explained that he was already forging his own identity. "I didn't feel tied to them anymore. But I wanted to be," he reasoned. "There was a lot of love there. But I didn't want to do anything a minute longer than was necessary if I didn't like it."

He was distraught after John Bonham's death

Robert Plant met his then-future bandmate John "Bonzo" Bonham in 1965, and the duo remained inseparable until Bonham's death fifteen years later. The Led Zeppelin drummer was a heavy alcohol user, and he was reported to have consumed 40 units of vodka within 12 hours on the day he died. His death was ruled accidental with Bonham experiencing chronic alcohol poisoning during his sleep. Two months after Bonham's death, Led Zeppelin disbanded, announcing the news in a press release with a simple statement of affection for the late drummer. It concluded, "We could not continue as we were."

Understandably, Plant was devastated by the loss. As he explained during an episode of "Desert Island Discs," he and Bonham had experienced a lot together. "We really were kids and we grew up not having a clue about anything at all, just the two of us, loud, confident, and mostly wrong and it was really good." Bonham's death also officially marked the end of Led Zeppelin for him. "The band didn't exist the minute Bonzo had gone, to me," he told Rolling Stone. After all, Plant didn't just lose a bandmate — he lost a best friend. In an episode of "A Life on the Road" (via Cosmic Magazine), Plant noted that he wanted to have a fresh start after Bonham's death. He explained, "I wanted to take all the trappings away because I'd lost my best mate." 

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Did he once receive vocal cord surgery?

There are innumerable online forums full of people who claim that Robert Plant underwent vocal cord surgery at some point in the '70s. However, those forums aren't the only platforms that claim so. In 2012, the New York Post even listed Plant's name when mentioning the names of singers who had nodules extracted from their vocal cords. It isn't exactly known when Plant had the procedure. But many fans on Reddit have long argued that he may have had it done sometime between 1972 and 1974, alleging that his voice clearly underwent major changes during that time.

Later, in the early 90s, Plant was told his voice was basically done for. During an episode of "Big Interview" with Dan Rather (via Alternative Nation), he revealed, "One time I went to see a voice specialist in London on Harley street ... he put a camera down my throat and he said, 'In six months time, your voice won't even be able to show signs of surprise. It's over.'" Ironically, it was his own voice that Plant used to say all this. "That was 28 years ago," he added. As he explained during a 2021 "Raised on Radio," he's figured out how to maintain his voice after all these years. "It's all about dynamics," he said. "... With the technique, the last thing in the world that you can do is just blast like crazy."

He ended his 15-year-long marriage in 1983

Robert Plant and his future wife, Maureen Wilson, met at a concert back in 1966. The duo soon started dating and tied the knot two years later. Plant and his bandmates were even said to have performed under the name "Led Zeppelin" for the first time the day the couple got married, and both events took place at the same venue. The pair was seemingly inseparable, and Plant even dedicated "Thank You" to Wilson in 1969 — the popular song he wrote for Led Zeppelin's second album.

The couple went on to have three children — Carmen, Karac, and Logan — in 1968, 1972, and 1979 respectively. Despite having another child, Logan, after Karac's death, things were no longer the same between Plant and Wilson following the tragic event and they divorced in 1983. It's been speculated that Plant spending his days with his band — and away from Wilson — may have played a part in the split. Plant never got married again, but he did date singer-songwriter Patty Griffin for quite some time before splitting up in 2014.