GQ: Did you really seriously think about giving it up and becoming a teacher?
Robert Plant: Yeah. I lost my son when he was five, in ‘77. We lost our boy. [Karac Plant, his oldest son, died of a viral infection.] Our family had always been close to the Rudolf Steiner Waldorf education in the West Midlands and I just liked the way it all worked. Obviously, it’s not something that we, as a family, have been able to get over yet, having lost him. So I just thought there was something far more honest and wholesome about just digging in and putting the ego away in the closet. Because no matter what we say, entertainers are usually quite insecure, wobbly characters underneath, and maybe that bit of glory or that bit of expression or whatever it is compensates in some area. But I thought I should be rid of it. Yeah, I thought it was not a bad idea. Sometimes I still feel like that. Alison Kraus’s boy, Sam, he goes to a Steiner school, a Waldorf school in Tennessee, and I’ve been with her a few times to pick him up from school—I must admit that the smell of carbolic soap, and the clamor of joy of kids, doesn’t hurt at all.
GQ: What would you have taught?
Robert Plant: It would be pretty general if it was young kids, but I’ve got five grandchildren, and they marvel at my madness. I think I would just have told them great stories. I can put people to sleep on a twelve-hour journey on a bus. Talking about the Black Shield Irish walking two-by-two from Cardigan Bay to Hereford to ransack the cathedral—I can put Patty to sleep in seconds.
GQ: Those aren’t the wild tour stories I used to read about!
Robert Plant: [Laughs] This is a different time, pal. I mean, everybody is aware of those stories, and they are stories—they are fables.
GQ: After all these years, how on earth have you managed to keep your hair like that?
Robert Plant: Well, I don’t know. We could be quite serious about it. I just have been very lucky. My mother was a gypsy, and she had a lot of dark blood in her, and her hair was very, very thick—she couldn’t even get a brush through it. So I have been very fortunate. And every time I go to cut it off, hairdressers refuse to do it.
"Don’t be hard on yourself. And take as many chances, risks, as you can. You’ve got to be out there adventuring with the voice. Because if you’re just a singer for the sake of it, it’s not quite enough."