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Robert Plant: The Joy of Rocking

As a lad, Robert Plant was steered toward a career in accounting. Think of that. One of the consummate rock stars from a golden age when Jagger, Daltrey and Mercury reigned over coliseums could have settled into a life recording numbers into a balance sheet.

Bookkeeping is a noble profession, certainly, but Plant was cut out for recording numbers of another stripe. The golden god who prowled stadium stages and hit those unearthly notes was put on this planet to wake late in the afternoon, drink Chateau Lafite ‘til he’d had his fill and wear eye-catching finery that perhaps wouldn’t age so well. (When an interviewer from the Brit magazine Mojo asked him some time back to address a photo of himself from his Led Zeppelin heyday, he dryly replied: “I think he looks like a great guy, but I’m a bit worried about his wardrobe.”)

Plant’s newest project, Band of Joy, is currently available at Starbucks. Its predecessor, Raising Sand, was a counter-intuitive collaboration with bluegrass musician Alison Krauss that wound up being the big winner at the 2009 GRAMMY® Awards. Like that the platinum-selling Raising Sand, Band of Joy is an Americana-flavored triumph marked by artistry and intelligence.

Curiously, Band of Joy was also the name of an outfit Plant belonged to in the 1960s, back when “practical” career options were still up for discussion for a bright young man with an understanding of assets and liabilities.

Led Zeppelin’s last studio album came out nearly three decades ago. Plant has since strayed far and wide, alternately indulging a hankering for off-the-beaten-path projects and returning to his hard-rock roots. Unlike many of his larger-than-life ilk, however, he’s never lost his relevance or become a slave to past glories.

It’s tough to balance art and audience expectations. Plant makes it look easy … like a natural-born rock star with an eye toward long-term investments.

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