Today, I post the last song in my "Undercover Summer" series: "Going to California" by Led Zeppelin. As with all the other artists and songs featured in this series, Led Zeppelin is an important influence on me. But unlike the others, Led Zeppelin was not a band I grew up with. Honestly, I lumped them together with a certain kind of classic rock that just wasn't my style as a folk-rock singer. What I didn't know is that Led Zeppelin is folk-rock -- in the coolest, most original combination of those two genres.
Adam, my husband, introduced me to Led Zeppelin properly, and I'm so glad. The way they take a traditional folk song, sing and play some blues over it and then layer all the rock elements we know and love on top is utterly unique. When I finally understood what they do, I felt a deep kinship -- especially when we started covering their songs at some of our shows. (See exhibit A: Ramble On) I soon discovered that I love singing Led Zeppelin songs and that Robert Plant's style of blues singing is exactly what I never knew I always wanted. (In my head, we're BFFs, and we trade singing and hair tips. :)) As a result of covering them in concert, Led Zeppelin has become an important songwriting influence for me.
"Going to California" is my favorite for sentimental reasons. A few years ago, on our anniversary, Adam and I went to see Robert Plant in concert, and my only real wish for the evening was that he would play "Going to California," but I didn't think he would. To my delight, he played it, the whole audience sang along, and it was magical. "Going to California" evokes deep longing and joy all at once. How else can you explain a girl who "plays guitar and cries and sings" at the same time? Or the title phrase -- "Going to California with an aching in my heart?" Moreover, the mix of imagery that is both modern ("took my chances on a big jet plane") and fantastic ("ride a white mare in the footsteps of dawn") embodies the pull I think we all feel between the way things are and the way we know they should be. And for that reason, too, this song was the perfect way to end my summer of cover songs. I want to stay stretched in the sun with salty hair and a book in hand forever, but even summer can be "a woman unkind."
Thanks for listening this summer. It's been fun going undercover with you.