Did you happen to catch the Kennedy Center honors last week? It’s not something I usually watch, but since Led Zeppelin was an honoree I couldn’t resist. It’s safe to say that Zeppelin weighted the soundtrack of my youth and there are moments in my life that will forever be linked to their music (as well as Robert Plant’s solo albums), but that’s for another post.
As a sophomore in high school I took a communications class. One assignment consisted of each student bringing song lyrics and we collaboratively worked to decipher their meanings. Stairway to Heaven was among the songs. I quickly learned that liking Led Zeppelin music and understanding their lyrics did not always go hand in hand.Today I hear the Tolkien references peppered throughout their work (Ramble On, Misty Mountain Hop, The Battle of Evermore) and they take on a whole new meaning for me personally. But as a sixteen year-old girl I didn’t have to completely understand. Stairway to Heaven called to me.
I’ve made no secret of my battle with depression and at that time I didn’t know what was wrong with me, I just knew something wasn’t right. When Robert Plant sang, “‘Cause you know sometimes words have two meanings,” and “Sometimes all of our thoughts are misgiven,” I felt a kinship.
Most people who knew me then would probably use the word unique when speaking of me. Being unique meant I didn’t fit into one particular clique. I meshed with all of them, but felt apart. Led Zeppelin made the angst I felt at being different easier to deal with.
Now I look at the lyrics of their songs and find a theme among my favorites. Leaving. Moving on. I longed to leave the world of my childhood behind, to seek a place where I would be understood. “Gonna work my way all around the world / Baby, baby / Ramble on, yeah.”
When we studied the lyrics of Stairway to Heaven I had a tiny inkling of its meaning. Today when I hear, “And if you listen very hard / The tune will come to you at last / When all is one and one is all / To be a rock and not to roll” I know that rambling on, journeying to the Misty Mountains or searching for a stairway to Heaven won’t take me to a place where others understand me. I now know that until one is comfortable in their own skin, they will never be comfortable in the presence of others. And so I accepted that fitting in means very little; I’ve learned to be that rock and I don’t have to roll.