The peace deal even Bill Clinton couldn’t broker – a Led Zeppelin reunion

Former President’s appeal for heavy metal legends to play benefit gig fell on deaf ears

Tim Walker
Monday 06 May 2013 21:52
Bill Clinton with John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page as the band were made Kennedy honorees
Bill Clinton with John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page as the band were made Kennedy honorees

He played a crucial role in the Northern Ireland peace process. He flew to Pyongyang to personally negotiate the release of American prisoners by the intractable North Korean government. He brokered the first face-to-face agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Yet even Bill Clinton could not convince Led Zeppelin to reunite.

According to a report by the CBS television network webcast, 60 Minutes Overtime, Mr Clinton personally approached the British blues-metal megastars to ask them to perform together at last year’s benefit concert for the victims of Hurricane Sandy in New York City.

David Saltzman, of the Robin Hood Foundation, which organised the concert, said he and the film executive Harvey Weinstein flew to Washington DC late last year to enlist Mr Clinton’s assistance.

Mr Clinton agreed to cajole the surviving band members Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones, who were all in Washington to attend a celebration of their work at December’s Kennedy Center Honors gala, just days before the Hurricane Sandy benefit. But they could not be persuaded to perform.

“Harvey Weinstein had this great idea that we could enlist Bill Clinton to convince Led Zeppelin to reunite,” Mr Saltzman said. “The President was terrific – ‘I really wanna do this, this will be a fantastic thing, I love Led Zeppelin’. And Bill Clinton himself asked Led Zeppelin to reunite, and they wouldn’t do it.”

The concert at Madison Square Garden was co-produced by the Democrat donor Weinstein and went ahead without the Seventies rock gods on 12 December 2012.

The show raised around $50m (£32m) to help those affected by the superstorm, which devastated large swaths of the North-eastern US and Caribbean in October 2012. Broadcast live across six continents, the event featured several British Led Zep contemporaries, including The Who, Eric Clapton and Roger Waters of Pink Floyd.

The surviving members of Nirvana, Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic and Pat Smear, reunited for the first time since the death of frontman Kurt Cobain in 1994, appearing alongside Paul McCartney as he closed the show.

Performing a pair of songs with the Rolling Stones, 69-year-old Mick Jagger joked: “This has got to be the largest collection of old English musicians ever assembled in Madison Square Garden.

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“I’ve got to say, if it rains in London, you’ve got to come and help us, OK?”

Led Zeppelin disbanded following the death of drummer John Bonham in 1980, though Page, Plant and Jones reformed briefly for the US leg of Live Aid in 1985.

The band’s surviving members played their only full-length concert together at the O2 Arena in London in December 2007, at an event in memory of the music executive Ahmet Ertegun. Bonham’s son, Jason, played drums in his place.

Mr Clinton, himself a proficient jazz saxophonist, is known as the most musical of ex-presidents. In 2011, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of his William J Clinton Foundation, stars including Bono and the Edge, Lady Gaga and Kenny Chesney appeared on the bill for the “Decade of Difference” concert at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. Before the event, Mr Clinton released a list of his 20 favourite songs of all time.

Though none of Led Zeppelin’s tracks appeared, Mr Clinton did name some favourite rock and pop acts from the same period, such as Van Morrison, Carly Simon, Simon and Garfunkel and Elton John.

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