Chart Watch Extra: Led Zep’s Road To The Kennedy Center Honors
Led Zeppelin was the premier hard rock band in the world in 1978 when the Kennedy Center Honors were first presented. But if someone had told you then that Led Zep would someday be selected to receive the honor, you’d have thought he was out of his mind. That first crop of honorees included such old-guard legends as Fred Astaire, composer Richard Rodgers and conductor Arthur Rubinstein. It took the Kennedy Center’s Board of Trustees nearly 20 years to acknowledge rock, in the person of Bob Dylan. At that rate, it seemed likely that they would never get around to hard rock, metal, rap and other edgier forms of music.
Never say never. On Wednesday (Dec. 26), we’ll see Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones, the three surviving founding members of Led Zeppelin, become the first hard rock musicians to receive a Kennedy Center Honor. This year’s other honorees are David Letterman, Dustin Hoffman, blues great Buddy Guy and ballerina Natalia Makarova.
Kennedy Center Honors recipients are “recognized for their lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts—whether in music, dance, theater, opera, motion pictures, or television,” according to a statement on the site.
Led Zeppelin is one of the biggest acts in music history. The Recording Industry Assn. of America credits them with sales of 111.5 million album units, the fourth highest total of any act, behind only The Beatles (177 million), Elvis Presley (134.5 million) and Garth Brooks (128 million). (The RIAA counts each disk in a multi-disk package as a unit.)
Led Zep has had seven #1 albums on The Billboard 200, a total matched by only three other bands in history. The Beatles are in the lead here too with 19 #1 albums, followed by The Rolling Stones with nine and U2, also with seven.