Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven," released in the early 1970s, is a rock anthem that is still wildly popular today. While individual opinions of the song will vary, with some seeing it as both overrated and overplayed, "Stairway to Heaven" has made history as Led Zeppelin's, and perhaps even rock music's, most popular song.
"Stairway to Heaven" is the fourth, and last, song on Side One of Led Zeppelin's fourth album, which was released in November of 1971. While this album is typically referred to as "Led Zeppelin IV," the actual title devised by the band members consists of four drawn symbols. These symbols represent the four band members, Robert Plant, John Bonham, John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page. "Stairway to Heaven" is eight minutes long, and was written by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. According to the Super Seventies website, the album featuring the song "Stairway to Heaven" has sold ten million copies.
SuperSeventies.com states that the sheet music for "Stairway to Heaven" is the biggest-selling in rock music history. Over 1 million copies of sheet music have been sold to musicians wishing to learn how to play this Led Zeppelin song on various instruments. "Stairway to Heaven" is still played over 4,000 times per year by the largest classic rock-oriented radio stations in the United States.
The meaning behind Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" has been frequently debated and analyzed since its release in the early 1970s. Whereas some resources have stated that the song was written in reference to the author J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy fiction series "Lord of the Rings," others interpret the song literally and see it as biblical in nature due to its reference to Heaven. In an interview with NPR Music in 2004, Robert Plant said that the song is about a woman who receives everything she desires without giving anything back in return.
"Stairway to Heaven" has also been the subject of controversy. According to SuperSeventies.com, a 1982 California State Assembly hearing featured testimony from individuals who claimed that, when played backwards, "Stairway to Heaven" references the devil. This is commonly referred to as "backward masking," where a song, when played backwards, is interpreted as communicating an entirely different message: in the case of "Stairway to Heaven," the line "my sweet Satan" could allegedly be heard. This was initially brought to light at the 1982 California Consumer Protection Committee hearing, but is little more than a point of interest regarding "Stairway to Heaven" today.
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