Throughout Led Zeppelin’s legendary career, Jimmy Page’s musicianship and guitar prowess rightfully earned him acclaim. However, behind the scenes, Page took on a secret role that helped shape the band’s early albums—contributing to the songwriting process and assisting Robert Plant with the lyrics.
While Page’s guitar skills were the cornerstone of Led Zeppelin’s sound, he was a versatile member who wore many hats. Not only did he assemble the band’s lineup after the Yardbirds disbanded, but he also produced their debut record and worked closely with album cover designers to create a cohesive visual identity. Additionally, Page played a crucial role in the songwriting process, particularly during the band’s early years.
On the first three Led Zeppelin albums, Page quietly collaborated with Robert Plant, helping him craft the lyrics that would accompany their music. Although Page hoped that Plant would eventually take on the responsibility himself, he played a significant part in shaping the lyrical content. He recalled Plant seeking his input on lines like “the bustle in your hedgerow” in the iconic track “Stairway to Heaven.”
Page’s involvement in songwriting was just one of the many responsibilities he shouldered during Led Zeppelin’s ascent to the pinnacle of rock ‘n’ roll. However, despite his contributions, the band faced accusations of plagiarism from various artists, leading to legal disputes. Led Zeppelin was sued by Anne Bredon, Willie Dixon, and Howlin’ Wolf, who claimed that their music or lyrics had been copied by the band. Page, who took care to modify songs inspired by other artists, placed the blame on Plant for these lawsuits.
Plant openly acknowledged borrowing lyrics in Led Zeppelin’s early days, admitting to using words from Dixon and mimicking Steve Marriott’s vocal delivery on “Whole Lotta Love.” He even expressed his admiration for Robert Johnson’s “squeeze my lemon” line, which he incorporated into Led Zeppelin’s songs “The Lemon Song” and “Travelling Riverside Blues.”
As Led Zeppelin’s journey continued, Plant evolved as a lyricist, crafting his own poetic gems for iconic tracks like “Tangerine,” “The Battle of Evermore,” “Stairway to Heaven,” “Kashmir,” and “Achilles Last Stand.” It was during the band’s earliest albums that Plant relied on Page’s secret job, collaborating on lyrics to bring their music to life.
In retrospect, Jimmy Page’s behind-the-scenes contribution to Led Zeppelin’s early songwriting process adds another layer to the band’s creative legacy, showcasing the depth of their collaboration and the evolution of Plant as a lyricist.