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Communication Breakdown: An infant’s take on Led Zeppelin

Twin of the Week – Penelope: It’s never too early to start helping your child build a foundation of faith — which is why I recently introduced Penny & Clemmy to my personal salvation — Led Zeppelin. I’ve been an unabashed Zep fanatic since high school — I only wish someone had introduced me to them earlier. I enjoy a wide range of music, but Zeppelin is the only band of which I can listen to every album from cover to cover. My personal favorite is Zeppelin III, which was released in 1970. Zeppelin III begins with the heart pounding Immigrant Song, followed by a mix of blues and folk. Clementine’s favorite is “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp”, a folksy foot-stomping tune about Robert Plant’s dog. Penny seems more drawn to “Since I’ve Been Loving You,” a slow, bluesy number that seems to stretch time itself.

“Daddy, I don’t get it.”

“Get what, sweetie?”

“The lyrics — they don’t make sense.”

“Sweetie, people don’t listen to music for the lyrics… it’s all about the mood.”

“Ok, oblige me, then.”

“Fine. What’s the problem? Which part?”

“When he says “working from 7:00 to 11:00 every night, it really makes life a drag.”

“Ok. And? What’s your gripe?”

“Well, he’s complaining about his work schedule, right?”

“Well, it is about work… but Robert Plant isn’t complaining about his work schedule, you know…”

“Oh, I get it, daddy. He’s an artist… like Bruce Springsteen.”

“Yes, even though Bruce never worked in a factory, he accurately captures the struggle of the working class.”

“Yes, I remember, daddy — artists have the ability to transcend their own experience, bla bla bla…”

“Right. So, what’s the problem?”

“Well, this particular song is about a guy who bemoans “working from 7:00 to 11:00 every night.”

“And?”

“You don’t see anything wrong with that?”

“Everyone hates working, sweetie — especially at night.”

“I understand, but something is off here. Either this guy works from 7:00pm to 11:00am — so pretty much every waking hour. Or he’s complaining about working a four-hour evening shift.”

“Oh, I see. Sweetie, Led Zeppelin would often sample lyrics from older songs… I believe this is one of those songs.”

“Sampled? You mean plagiarized? Stole? Ripped off?”

“Calm down, sweetie. I’m googling it. Ok, it says here that “Since I’ve Been Loving You” borrows some lyrics from the song ‘Never’ by Moby Grape.”

“Who the f*** is Moby Grape?”

“Exactly!”

“Either way, they’re thieves! It’s still cheating if you copy off the dumb kid in class.”

“Hmmm. Actually, this is interesting — Zeppelin’s version opens with ‘Working from 7:00 to 11:00 every night, It really makes life a drag.’ Moby Grape’s version is ‘Working from 11:00 to 7:00 every night, Ought to make life a drag.”

“Shit on a stick! I stand corrected, daddy. Moby Grape’s version actually makes sense — 11:00pm to 7:00am — he’s complaining about working the graveyard shift. Not only is Mr. Plant a thief — he doesn’t even seem to comprehend what amounts to a hard day’s work. At least Bruce understood the plight of the working class.

“Honestly, sweetie, I don’t think Plant thought about it that way. He probably switched it up just  to conceal the plagiarism.” 

“UGH! That’s even worse, daddy. I was willing to give him a pass on being ignorant — but not as a conniving thief!”

“Again, sweetie, people don’t really pay attention to the lyrics. It’s more about the overall structure and feel — “Since I’ve Been Loving You” is far superior to “Never.” Nothing against Moby Grape — Zeppelin is the greatest rock band of all time — they played on another level.”

“Oh, they’re the greatest alright — the greatest cover band.”

“Sweetie, it’s not fair to judge Zeppelin by today’s moral standards — you have to view their actions in its historical context.”

“Careful, daddy. That’s a slippery slope. How about Hitler? Sure, he exterminated millions in his quest for a “Master Race,” but the concept of a white, blond-haired, blue-eyed master Nordic race was created in the United States decades earlier.”

“That’s preposterous, sweetie, and I refuse to address it any further. Here’s a reasonable analogy: My dad never changed a single diaper. But that was typical of his time. By today’s standards he’d be viewed as a deadbeat.”

“I thought he was a deadbeat?”

“He was… but nothing to do with diapers. He was a degenerate gambler — he actually designed a pyramid scheme in which he was the victim.

“Oy vey, daddy! Good thing you’re half Jewish.”

“Yes. Yes. But do you get my point?” 

“Oh, I almost forgot. Your point — Zeppelin’s not that bad because everyone was doing it?”

“Exactly! Plenty of other bands borrowed without giving credit — Zeppelin got caught because they were successful. If they’re guilty of anything, it’s of being too good!”

“Whatever, daddy — true artists create! Take away the plagiarism and ZEP is ZILCH!

“Sweetie, the majority of their songs were original! And the ones they borrowed from were transformed into something new, and wayyy better!

“Better? When? What about the historical context, daddy-o? All those blues riffs they ripped off were killer in their own time.”

“Touché, sweetie. Touché.”

“Look, daddy, I understand why Zep’s your favorite. Who doesn’t enjoy a killer riff!? But I’m just learning this beautiful language of ours, so I really like to digest the lyrics of a song.”

“Hmmm… maybe poetry’s your thing?

“Funny that you mention it — I wrote an original poem: Working from 11 to 7 every night, it really makes life a drag… so does poetry.”   

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