Famed guitarist Steve Vai joined R&B singer Mary J. Blige and her all-star band — BLINK-182 drummer Travis Barker, "American Idol" judge and bassist Randy Jackson, Michael Jackson's guitarist Orianthi and Ron Fair — last night (Wednesday, April 21) to perform the LED ZEPPELIN classic "Stairway to Heaven" on "American Idol"'s annual charity event, "Idol Gives Back!"
Watch the performance below.
Vai, Blige, Barker, Randy Jackson and Orianthi got together in February 2010 to record a new version of "Stairway to Heaven". Vai told told VH1 Radio Networks' Dave Basner that he was nervous to cover the song, but once he heard Blige was on board, he was ready to go.
"You know, you gotta be really careful when you're gonna consider playing a song like this because it's just steeped in folklore and respect and it's been played by everybody," Vai said. "I believe it's the most requested song in history. So I was trying first to imagine how it was going to sound and then the moment that I heard that Mary J. was doing it, I actually have her records, so I went, 'Oh my God, this is going to be great.' And we got into the studio and just blasted it out. It was amazing. It was really special."
Steve told VH1 Radio Networks what exactly makes this version special.
"We're doing it in D Minor which is up a major fourth, which is much higher," he said. "So it's breathing a completely different kind of an air than any version you've ever heard and that in itself just gives it a whole different quality because now it's like, it's sparkly. And what you can do up in that register, it just sounds like a whole different beast."
Working on the song was difficult for Vai, but he explained it was all falling into place.
"My challenge with this is — what am I going to do for this song, this sacred piece of music to make it the best that I can do, and I'm just putting together this series of adjectives, you know," he said. "It's just gotta be the most beautiful, respectful, amazing thing that I could possibly do and then I tell myself I'm capable of doing it and it's just all coming to me now."
Photo credit: Andrew McLeod (courtesy of Vai.com)