Houses of the Holier-Than-Thou: Rock and Roll Crashes Washington’s Elite Holiday Party
The native British band expressed great excitement (and perhaps some befuddlement) at being chosen for this prestigious award, because the Honorees are recognized for making unique contributions to American culture. Of the 178 recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors over the past three and a half decades, only one other British rock band has been chosen: The Who in 2008.
Led Zeppelin guitarist and sonic architect Jimmy Page considers the selection of Led Zeppelin in 2012 to be "a terrific honor."
"We owe such a massive debt to American music," Page said. "It's a thing that definitely seduced us all to be want to be part of the music."
"Everything that we talk about is American, from our music tastes more or less (and maybe north African and Egyptian)." Plant agreed. "Our mutual love of and absolute and total influence by American music whether it’s from Mississippi or Chicago in 1982 - it's great because we're sort of Americans but...not - of course."
Although Plant is still a British citizen, he now lives part-time in Austin, Texas with his musical partner and lady love Patty Griffin. “I do consider myself an American in many ways,” Plant said. “Austin feels like home to me now.”
"So the fact that we get to go to this thing and meet the most dynamic and charismatic American outside of America - Obama - bar none is a great, great privilege.”
A short time later Plant, Page, and Jones were shaking the president's hand during a White House reception preceding the Kennedy Center Honors. In a wildly mixed crowd that included celebrities such as Morgan Freeman, Lenny Kravitz and Page's old school chum Jeff Beck, there were still plenty of old-guard Washingtonians propped up on their walkers and canes, casting disapproving glances at these gray haired, tuxedo-clad hippies actually being honored in the East Room. There goes the neighborhood, indeed.
Dazed and Confused
"It's been said that a generation of young people survived teenage angst with a pair of headphones and a Led Zeppelin album," President Obama said in his remarks to the Honorees. “And a generation of parents wondered what all that noise was about.
“But even now, 32 years after John Bonham’s passing -- and we all I think appreciate the fact -- the Zeppelin legacy lives on,” Obama proclaimed. “The last time the band performed together in 2007 -- perhaps the last time ever, but we don't know -- more than 20 million fans from around the world applied for tickets. And what they saw was vintage Zeppelin. No frills, no theatrics, just a few guys who can still make the ladies weak at the knees, huddled together, following the music.”
The president's speechwriters couldn't resist that niggling temptation to rib the members of Led Zeppelin over their party-boy reputations.
“Of course, these guys also redefined the rock and roll lifestyle. We do not have video of this,” President Obama quipped. “But there were some hotel rooms trashed and mayhem all around. So it's fitting that we’re doing this in a room with windows that are about three inches thick and Secret Service all around. So just settle down, guys...these paintings are valuable.”