How not to get old, jealous and bitter once you are famous

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Robert Plant, Photo Credit Rounder Records

I read a fantastic interview with Led Zeppelin member Robert Plant, conducted by Larry Rogers  in the Arizona Republic on July 16. The full interview is here.

Plant, who is coming to Arizona to play with Patty Griffin in advance of a new album dropping in September, described his current musical path.

Instead of touring under the legendary name Led Zeppelin, he chose Band of Joy. His reasoning:

Q: Why did you choose the name of a band from before Led Zeppelin for this project?

A: When I was a kid in the original Band of Joy, I wore my musical heart on my sleeve, and I really kicked ass, and that’s kind of how I teamed up with Jimmy Page back then. I stepped out of the rank and file of performers.

I’ve kept my vision of what . . . Led Zeppelin was, from album to album, in everything I’ve tried to do before, during and after that big time in my life.

So when I got to playing with Buddy on the Alison Krauss tour, I began formulating an idea of going back to how liberated I felt when I was 17, 18, 19 years old.

He also talks about his musical inspiration:

Question: What is it about American roots and folk music, much of which has its foundation in the British Isles, that appeals to you?

Answer: Hill music, whether you’re in Bulgaria, Wales, Scotland, Tennessee, there seems to be something about the altitude that keeps the music rarefied, like the air up there.

You can hear beautiful refrains and scales, which in some places are almost locked away like treasure from times gone by. I hear . . . the remnants of what this island had to offer many, many years ago, before Tin Pan Alley arrived.

I hear its ricochet through the southern states of America. It’s plaintive and touches a great place for me, a kind of nerve which inspired me and (guitarist) Jimmy Page when we wrote bits of “Led Zeppelin III” and we were touching on “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” on “Zeppelin I.”

I never thought about Hill music. I do now.

Here is what I learned from his example that applies to all of you, once you get rich and famous:
  • Never lose touch with the root of your passion
    “When I was a kid in the original Band of Joy, I wore my musical heart on my sleeve, and I really kicked ass, and that’s kind of how I teamed up with Jimmy Page back then. I stepped out of the rank and file of performers.”
    How powerful to recognize the conditions that caused your success! So instead of trying to write a song that sold a million records (or a book that sold a million copies, or a website that got a million hits), look to feed the conditions and feelings that inspired you to create a kick-ass piece of work.
  • Make decisions based on what the art needs, not what makes you look good
    Plant said: “Some old friend of mine, if you like (Rod Stewart), called an album “The Great American Songbook.” (Laughs) Well, that was “The Great American Schmaltz,” really.”

    Is there anything more sad than a rock legend pitching a soft drink (sorry Gene Simmons)? Or creating an album just because it could sell? Everyone has to eat, but if you are not a starving artist, trust your sensibility for what makes great art and use it to make creative decisions.

  • Don’t try to squash the next generation for fear they will eclipse you. Instead, find them, learn from them, and use your reach to get them more exposure.
    Asked about why he chose Patty Griffin to work with, he said: “I asked Emmylou (Harris) what was really happening on the American female-vocal scene, and she immediately referred to Patty.”

    Looking for the best in your field, even if they are younger than you and exceptionally talented, will strengthen your game, not weaken it. Being around talented people pushes you to grow. Don’t surround yourself with people who remind you of how great you once were.

So often, those who finally attain fame, wealth or exposure try to desperately hold on to what they have. It is a losing battle. Crazy luck, perfect timing and divine intervention combines with hard work to deliver breakout success.

Real success comes from feeling joy in the process of creation.

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11 Responses to “How not to get old, jealous and bitter once you are famous”

  1. Nicola says:

    Pam, I just found your blog through Hiro Boga and I’m so glad I did! This is a wonderful post about integrity and authenticity. It’s easy to become distracted by all of the things you’re told you have to do (especially in the blogging world) but it’s absolutely important to remember why you started and what feels right. If the first answer is “to make money,” then that’s a problem!

  2. Gaea Yudron says:

    The process of returning to the task of bliss, risk and experimentation is an integral part of fulfillment in aging. Returning to the origin, which is a big part of originality. I think that is part of what Robert Plant is talking about.

    A year ago I started an organization called Sage’s Play to explore what it means to age in a creative way, with wellbeing and connected to spirit. As an artist whether famous or little broadcast, it is essential to connect in a real way, and to step out of the hypnosis of cultural conditioning in regard to aging. And we are all artists.

  3. Alex says:

    “Real success comes from feeling joy in the process of creation.”
    Can I share this on my site successmeans.org? it’s truely inspiring…
    Also thanks for Sheryl’s words:
    “It is only by sharing what we know and not allowing fear to run our lives that we are truly free to create the lives we were born to create.”
    Thanks again,

  4. Sheryl Jones says:

    What great words to live by. I love the whole sharing theme that ran through this interview. It is only by sharing what we know and not allowing fear to run our lives that we are truly free to create the lives we were born to create. I’m truly inspired to live my life differently after reading this. Thanks Pam for sharing this.

  5. Great post Pam!

    LOVE THIS:

    “Don’t try to squash the next generation for fear they will eclipse you. Instead, find them, learn from them, and use your reach to get them more exposure.”

    Especially with today’s breed of under 25 year olds. So many of the boundaries that kept older generations apart really don’t exist with them. As long as the music is good, presumptions of race, etc aren’t as pervasive as they were when I was younger. I totally agree we can learn from the younger generation and in doing so, we’re modeling that when they’re elders they’ll get to listen to the up and comings.

  6. Julie Stuart says:

    Love this! And I’m so intrgiuged by the combination of Plant and Griffin. Can’t wait to hear what it sounds like.

  7. […] Robert Plant, Photo Credit Rounder RecordsI read a fantastic interview with Led Zeppelin member Robert Plant, conducted by Larry Rogers  in the Arizona Republic on July 16. The full interview is here.Plant, who is coming to Arizona to play with Patty Griffin in advance of a new album dropping in September, described his current musical […] Original post […]

  8. Great post, and brilliant that you can turn Robert Plant’s ideas about music into really useful advice.

    Thanks.

  9. Anne Nayer says:

    Great post Pam. I’m a long-time fan of Robert Plant (including his last with Alison Krauss). My take on things is that we (I) get younger as I get older – recover the sound-track of the Band of Joy and pull those threads into the present. I just finished painting a self-portrait of myself when I was 6: gap toothed, BIG smile, joy personified. Was from a photo taken a few days before a horrible accident my changed life forever. It was amazing to paint myself then, now – my own version of a band of joy. xxAnne PS – can’t wait to hear RP’s new album.

  10. Nate says:

    Cool interview – thanks for sharing. I’m a big fan of Led Zeppelin. I really think that musicians have a way of speaking from their heart…and that certainly seems to be the case here. I think it’s great that he remembers what created the initial spark and excitement in him to make music….and going back to those roots. Anybody, even musicians, can lose track of what it really means to stay true to yourself. Personally, I think this is a good reminder to take the time to stop…stop doing for a moment and really question what it is you are doing and what the purpose is behind it? Is it money? Getting ahead? Or is it something more real, genuine and heartfelt?

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