Robert Plant: Writing Like Bob Dylan Is More Than I Can Imagine
Robert Plant expressed awe at songwriters who were able to “voice somebody else’s condition” in their lyrics, saying the concept was beyond his imagination.
In the latest episode of his Digging Deep podcast, the Led Zeppelin legend singled out Bob Dylan as a prime example of writers with such an ability, heaping praise on the singer-songwriter’s latest album, 2020's Rough and Rowdy Ways.
Plant and show host Matt Everitt discussed the different values of songs with words and instrumental compositions, with Plant noting he took a “sweet and sour” approach to the separate disciplines. Turning to the topic of lyrics, he noted, "Whose soul are you really baring? Are you baring your own soul? … Do you go into character, or do you refer to people who you care about who are in trouble? And the song pours out from another angle. That’s quite something.”
After Everitt showed some surprise at this, Plant added: “My songwriting’s pretty … it goes in a straight line. The idea of me actually taking on the guise of somebody who’s been in some kind of situation that you can only watch from afar – it’s more than I can even imagine, to voice somebody else’s condition and actually be them in the song.”
You can listen to the show below.
Plant described Rough and Rowdy Ways as containing songs about “people who’ve lived a life and they are actually telling it.” He said Dylan was “able to – whimsically, almost, I would say – tell us the story of what he sees of himself and how he sees other people.” Recalling the first time he heard the album's opening track, "I Contain Multitudes," he noted he "just went, ‘This is the story of all of our lives! Except he’s taken the bends in a totally different way, the curves.’”
He speculated that Dylan “could probably have written for about a week in that idiom, that way of seeing it all,” describing the result as “tremendous, very moving” and “very special writing for now.”
The subject of the latest episode was “Rude World,” Plant’s collaboration with Jimmy Page from the 1997 album The Inner Flame, an all-star tribute to Rainer Ptacek, a German-born, American-based guitarist player who died in 1997. “Jimmy’s guitar is absolutely out of this world,” Plant said. ‘We were able to spin effects and overcook the snare and do stuff that Jimmy and I would not have done in our normal relationship as songwriters and players.”