NANCY WILSON Looks Back On HEART's Emotional 'Stairway To Heaven' Performance At KENNEDY CENTER HONORS
October 29, 2020
Back in December 2012, HEART's Ann and Nancy Wilson delivered a moving rendition of "Stairway To Heaven", LED ZEPPELIN's signature song, at the Kennedy Center Honors. They were joined by Jason Bonham, son of original drummer John and the drummer for LED ZEPPELIN's 2007 reunion show. Their version of the track gradually grew to include a string section, a horde of backup singers and the Joyce Garrett Youth Choir. Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones sat watching from the balcony and were visibly moved, particularly Plant, who had tears welling up in his eyes.
Nancy reflected on the experience of performing for ZEPPELIN members in a new interview with Guy "Favazz" Favazza and John Ulett of the St. Louis, Missouri radio station KSHE 95.
She said (hear audio below): "That was so interesting to do that. We were honored to do that, to honor them, and it was a surprise to them.
"When you go to do the Kennedy Center Honors show, everybody says, 'Don't tell anybody that you're here. Hide out until the moment that you actually walk onto the stage and do the performance for the person that's being honored.' Of course, the night before, we saw John Paul Jones at the restaurant at the hotel. He was just, like, 'What are you doing here?' I'm, like, 'Oh, nothing. I think we've got a show or something.'
"Anyway, it was just one of those moments where we had to take a really deep breath before we walked out there," Nancy continued. "And we didn't even know what just happened until a couple of weeks later when we actually got to watch the show — the edited broadcast of the show. And we saw what happened then. It was, like, 'Oh my god!' That was such a moment. And also the other thing about it was that Jason Bonham, who's the son of their original drummer, John Bonham, was the drummer. And [Jason] grew up around those guys when they were young LED ZEPPELIN. So I'm sure that was part of their emotional reaction — was to see young Jason Bonham with a bowler hat that John Bonham used to wear all the time; he was notorious with his bowler hat. So all of those things combined, I think, led to them feeling emotional with that performance.
"It was really one of those life moments that you're never gonna forget," she added. "Just like, 'Okay, I was part of that, and that was really cool.' [Laughs]"
Asked if any of the LED ZEPPELIN members said anything to HEART about their performance after the event, Nancy said: "They did. There was a big sort of a dinner thing afterward, and each one of them came around to our table. And John Paul Jones was just, like, 'That was awesome.' And then Robert Plant said, 'You know what? I've come to hate that song so much, 'Stairway To Heaven', because everyone just murders it. But you guys did great.' And then Jimmy Page walks up, and he goes, 'Okay, you played that really perfect.' And I said, 'No, you can't tell me that.' 'Cause he's Jimmy Page — 'cause he's one of my best guitar idols of all time. I was, like, 'Okay, I can die now.' I'm a superfan."
Earlier in the month, Nancy released her version of Bruce Springsteen's "The Rising".
Nancy's first solo album, on which she plays guitar and sings on all the songs, will be released through Carry On Music.