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 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.
Here are some key events in Led Zeppelin’s unlikely journey to the Kennedy Center Honors.
Dec. 27, 1969—The band’s second album, Led Zeppelin II, reaches #1 in its eighth week. The album is either #1 or #2 for 18 consecutive weeks. Its chief rival is The Beatles’ Abbey Road in 15 of those weeks.
January 1970—The group becomes the first hard rock act to receive a Grammy nomination as Best New Artist. The Grammys were far less friendly to rock then than they are now, so this was a real achievement. The other nominees were Crosby, Stills and Nash (who won), Chicago, pop singer Oliver and one-hit-wonders Neon Philharmonic.
Oct. 31, 1970—Led Zeppelin III rockets to #1 in just two weeks, faster than any other album in 1970. The album spawns the top 20 hit, “Immigrant Song.”
November 1971—“Stairway To Heaven” appears on the band’s fourth album. Though it was never released as a single, it goes on to become the most played rock track of its era, a song that become synonymous with AOR (album-oriented rock) radio. It receives more airplay than either of the two hits from the album, “Black Dog” and “Rock And Roll.” The song has sold 1,386,000 digital copies, more than any other Zeppelin song.
May 12, 1973—Houses Of The Holy (the band’s first album with a non-eponymous title) hits #1 in its fifth week. The album spawns the top 20 hit “D’jer Mak’er.” The album also features “Over The Hills And Far Away.”
March 22, 1975—Physical Graffiti, the band’s first two-disk album and its first on its own Swan Song label, hits #1 in its second week. The album spawns the Top 40 hit “Trampled Under Foot.” The album also features “Kashmir.”
May 1, 1976—Presence hits #1 in its second week, even though the album doesn’t spawn a Hot 100 single.
Sept. 15, 1979—In Through The Out Door rockets to #1 in just two weeks, faster than any other album in 1979. The album spawns the top 30 hit “Fool In The Rain.”
Sept. 25, 1980—Drummer John Bonham dies of asphyxiation. He was just 32. The band disbands three months later.
Aug. 7, 1982—Plant cracks the top five with his first solo album, Pictures At Eleven.
Dec. 18, 1982—Coda, a collection of previously unreleased tracks, cracks the top 10.
March 30, 1985—The Firm’s debut album, The Firm, cracks the top 20. The band features Page, Paul Rodgers, Tony Franklin and Chris Slade. The album includes the top 30 hit “Radioactive.”
April 3, 1993—Coverdale-Page, a collaboration album by Page and David Coverdale (vocalist of Deep Purple and Whitesnake) cracks the top five.
Nov. 26, 1994—Page and Plant crack the top five with No Quarter, their first album as a duo.
1995—Led Zeppelin is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Other inductees that year include Janis Joplin, Neil Young and Frank Zappa.
July 25, 1998—Page returns to the top five on the Hot 100 as the featured artist on Puff Daddy's “Come With Me.”
Feb. 24, 1999—Page and Plant receive their first Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance for “Most High,” a track from their top 10 album Walking Into Clarksdale. (Eight years later, Plant would revisit another track from the album, “Please Read The Letter.”)
Feb. 13, 2005—The band receives a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. (Crosby, Stills & Nash, who beat them for a Grammy as Best New Artist, have yet to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award, though they probably will in time.)
Dec. 1, 2007—Mothership, a two-CD compilation, debuts and peaks at #7.
Dec. 1, 2012. The three surviving members of the band receive Kennedy Center Honors medallions at a State Department dinner hosted by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The TV show was taped on Dec. 2 for broadcast on CBS on Dec. 26.
Dec. 16, 2012— Led Zeppelin becomes just the third hard rock/heavy metal band to reach the 25 million mark in U.S. album sales since 1991. The band follows Metallica (53,618,000) and AC/DC (31,901,000). All three of these bands pre-date the Nielsen SoundScan era. But here’s the big difference: Led Zeppelin released its last studio album in 1979. Metallica and AC/DC both released their most recent studio albums in 2008.
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