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dalepetrie's avatar

What's so great about Stairway?

Asked by dalepetrie (18007points) December 5th, 2008

OK, in another discussion today, someone (name withheld to protect the guilty), quipped something to the effect of “Is Stairway to Heaven really that great of a song, anyway?”

In my opinion yes, it is one of the foundations of every bit of hard rock and heavy metal that has come since. But it is not my “favorite” song, nor is Led Zeppelin my “favorite” band. But I do recognize that Stairway is universally considered by seemingly the majority of rock fans and historians to be the best song ever written.

Again, I wouldn’t personally go THAT far, and I could write on and on about what I think is great about it. But I’d rather get some other viewpoints here, maybe we have some uberfans who can explain in great detail what it is exactly that makes Stairway such an enduring and powerful song that it invariably ends up at the #1 spot in pretty much every countdown of the greatest classic rock songs of all time.

So here’s your challenge, prove to the skeptics who just don’t see what’s so great about Stairway why it is indeed a great song, worthy of the reverence it is paid. Please make intelligent arguments and back them up…I did an internet search to see why Stairway was so great, and all I could find is sniping back and forth between those who had nothing more intelligent to say than “Zeppelin were gods,” and “Zeppelin sucks and you’re an idiot if you don’t see that.” I guess I’m just hoping for more analysis than emotion.

Conversely, if you can intelligently argue why it’s overrated, I welcome that viewpoint as well.

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17 Answers

El_Cadejo's avatar

IT WAS MEEEEEEEEE!

sorry i just watched liar liar.

dalepetrie's avatar

I sped. I followed too closely. I ran a stop sign. I almost hit a Chevy. I sped some more. I failed to yield at a crosswalk. I changed lanes at the intersection. I changed lanes without signaling while running a red light and speeeeeedinggggg!

AstroChuck's avatar

Back in the seventies, when I was in high school, Stairway To Heaven was, by far, the most popular song on campus. The only song that kind of came close was Freebird.
Although I’ve always liked the song (and, as everyone else at the time, learned to play it on my guitar), it’s been overplayed to a point where it’s become a parody of itself.
As to your question, I couldn’t say. It is a pretty good song, though, and Zeppelin rocked on it.

generalspecific's avatar

ha, awesome question. I’m totally excited to read these answers. my boyfriend is way obsessed with Zeppelin so I should have some interesting conversation material..
on another note, I drew a picture for him a couple weeks ago based on Stairway :)

dalepetrie's avatar

I guess one answer we could draw so far it “it inspires people.”

Judi's avatar

The melody conveyed the mood of the mid 70’s. It also brings people (like me) right back to that time in their life. It’s one of those songs that reminds you of who you were and where you’ve been and also makes you realize how far you’ve come. Fast forward a few years and Hotel California does the same thing.

chyna's avatar

Its a great song because I can remember exactly where I was standing and what I was doing the first time I heard it in the 70’s. Not many songs make that kind of impression.

Judi's avatar

@chyna;
I don’t remember the first time I heard Stairway, But I do remember the first time I heard Olivia Newton John. I thought she had the most beautiful voice I had ever heard. She was on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.

binary's avatar

I like the song because of its message, but I am not one of those aging stoners who call it the best song of all time. It’s a good song because I like acoustic guitar, and the dynamic composition is rather well put together.

Past that, Led Zeppelin has done way better songs.

fireside's avatar

I’d have to say that it was considered so great because of the variety of pacing, the length and the type of sound that hadn’t been heard before. Now, it is probably more about the airtime and associated mystique. Definitely agree that Zeppelin has better songs though.

Some analysis:
Released by Led Zeppelin in 1971, the eight-minute song is considered a musical masterpiece and is one of the most-played rock tunes of all time. Proving its longevity, “Stairway” hit the U.K. charts again last fall [2007] and was a top download in the U.S., after Zeppelin’s first downloadable album launched on iTunes…

Zeppelin has played “Stairway” at every gig since 1971…

“Stairway” has been played on the radio an estimated 2,985,000 times (equal to more than 45 years of uninterrupted airtime)...

Last fall, Zeppelin, surprisingly, signed a deal ­believed to be worth $2 million with Verizon Wireless that made ringtones, alert tones, and full-song downloads of “Stairway” available…

“It’s associated with every last dance you ever had. Prom—it was the makeout song. If you were still dancing slow at the end of the song, you were in.”

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

@AC, Stairway was big, but let’s not forget the other perennial favorite from that time period, “Color My World.” Back-to-back prom theme songs at my school.

El_Cadejo's avatar

@generalspecific awesome picture

@binary i take offense to that stoner comment, after all im the one who said the song sucked :P

generalspecific's avatar

@uber; thanksss :)

binary's avatar

@uberbatman

I wasn’t calling you a stoner. But statistically (and, keep in mind, I’m completely making this up) the majority of Zep’s listening base are stoners.

El_Cadejo's avatar

@binary i know i was just joking :P

Strauss's avatar

I think it’s a great song, a good amalgam of folk and hard rock, which is the basis of what Jimmy Page wanted when the group started: an mix of traditional folk and ground-breaking rock ‘n’ roll.

I don’t think it’s their best ever, but it is an excellent song and deserves the praise it receives to this day. The imagery of the lyrics and the strength of the music combine to form an inspiring treat for the ears and the soul.

I was a college student when the song hit #1, and it was so often requested that the college radio station banned it from the request list—meaning it was only able to be played in the regular rotation.

I was enrolled in a creative interpretation class, and when we were assigned to analyze and interpret any poem we would choose, at least 4 out of the 16 students chose “Stairway”. The professor didn’t think the lyrics were that good as far as being poetry, which led us to a discussion of the difference between lyrics and poetry.

Earthgirl's avatar

I was going to write what I like about the song, how it is so lyrical and quietly beautiful in the beginning and how it builds and builds and then explodes into a passionate climax. But I found this wikipedia account of how the song was written and developed that I found so fascinating and descriptive that I realized there was no way I could ever say anything to better illustrate why this song is great. It just shows how the different elements all come together and how the collaboration strengthened and built it. I have so much respect for how artists approach their art and the interplay of inspiration and craft.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stairway_to_Heaven

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