B-Sides: Is Stairway to Heaven a new mark of divadom?

The laundry machine breaks, your bike gets a flat, you have to cover a shift for your co-worker (who you think is faking being sick since you know her boyfriend is town)…What I’m trying to say is, sometimes you aren’t always able to catch the Oprah Winfrey Show. And if you didn’t catch it yesterday, you missed the one and only Mary J. Blige speaking with the big O about giving back to the women of her Yonkers neighborhood. You know what else happened? She covered Led Zeppelin, and it ruled.

What’s interesting is that she’s not the first pop diva to cross genres into 70s rock, Dolly Parton covered “Stairway” as well at the Grand Ole Opry in 2002. The YouTube gods have taken down the live video, but at least you can still listen to it, though the New Age-y clip art does not compare with Parton belting out the finale.

Now, I’m not saying that women need to cover canonical dude rock bands to achieve some sort of I Covered Robert Plan Badge of Holiness–women like Dolly and Mary J. Blige have established their own legacies already through their songwriting and prolific recording careers. Covering Led Zeppelin only proves how versatile and talented they are. Plus, as Dolly mentioned in an interview, one of the reasons she was drawn to the song was its gospel tendencies. Having R&B and country singers give their own take on “Stairway” in a way returns the song to its roots–as even though Led Zeppelin was revolutionary in a lot of ways, many of their songs were influenced–if not direct covers of–traditional genres of blues and folk, as are the works of many popular white artists of then (Elvis) and now (Amy Winehouse).

But back to the divas. They say two is a coincidence but three is a trend. Who will be the next singer to give their personal spin on Zep? Personally I’d like to see takes by Jill Scott, Sharon Jones, and Beth Ditto, since they have the vocal chops and “Stairway” filtered through their respective genres of R&B, soul, and dance-rock would definitely make for some magical moments. Joanna Newsom would have a great version too, since she seems to be into seven minute ballads these days and a harp rendition would be pretty fabulous. OH WAIT.

Your thoughts? Does “Stairway” have staying power or is this the stupidest measuring stick you’ve ever heard? Let me know!

by Kjerstin Johnson
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Kjerstin Johnson is a writer and editor in Portland, Oregon. She is the former editor in chief of Bitch. She tweets at @kajerstin

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3 Comments Have Been Posted

As someone who loves both

As someone who loves both Dolly Parton and Led Zeppelin (and who frequently has sex to Stairway to Heaven, tmi?) women-led revisiting of classic rock anthems is long overdue!

Here I'd thought I was the

Here I'd thought I was the original. I kid. I kid. It's a rather odd coincidence though, that my partner played Stairway on his guitar last night, and I sang along. Alas, I was intoxicated. Did I mention, I can't sing! It was spectacular, I'm sure. :)


I'd like to hear PJ Harvey

I'd like to hear PJ Harvey do Stairway. She would do awesome guitar as well.

Amanda Palmer and her piano.

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