Jimmy Page is best known as being a musician for one of the most iconic rock bands in history. Even though the name Jimmy Page is synonymous with being a famous musician, did you know there is more to his story than the one you have heard countless times? You also might be wondering what Jimmy Page has been up to for the last several years. Continue reading to learn more about Jimmy Page and more about what he has been doing in 2016.
Jimmy Page’s Early Life
James Patrick Page was born in West London, England on January 9th 1944. His early suburban life was comfortable and uneventful until he was inspired by Elvis Presley’s ‘Baby Lets Play House’, released in 1954, to learn to play the guitar himself. He knew only one other guitarist, a friend from school who taught him a few chords to get him started, and he then proceeded to develop his own style through listening to records.
In 1957, aged just fourteen, Jimmy appeared on the BBC in The Huw Wheldon ‘All Your Own Talent Show’ and when asked what his future career plans were, he surprised the audience by announcing that he wanted to become a scientist specializing in biological research to help find a cure for cancer. After a few more years of school, during which he would faithfully take his guitar to class every day, only to have it confiscated until school was over, Jimmy got an interview for a laboratory assistant position, but fortunately for the future of rock music, he eventually decided to pursue his dreams of working in the music industry instead.
Jimmy Page’s Early Musical Career
Jimmy had trouble finding other musicians he could play with regularly. He did a lot of busking to make ends meet, and played in a number of bands before coming to the notice of Neil Christian, who had his own band, The Crusaders. Christian would become briefly popular in 1966 with the one-hit wonder ‘That’s Nice’, which reached number 16 in the US charts, but in 1960 he and the Crusaders were touring a series of small concert halls throughout England, and Christian invited Jimmy to join them for the tour.
Jimmy finally began to earn reasonably good money through his music, but fate intervened, he became dangerously ill after collapsing on the tour and was diagnosed with glandular fever. Too weak to continue touring with Neil Christian and the Crusaders Jimmy decided to follow his other passion, painting. He enrolled in Surrey Art College as a result but after a year or so, with his health recovered, he began to miss the excitement of playing for a live audience, and returned to music once again.
This time Jimmy, with the added experience of touring alongside the Crusaders behind him, had no shortage of work available to him, and he became a producer and session musician in the thriving British rock scene of the mid sixties. He worked with The Who, The Kinks, The Rolling Stones and Van Morrison, as well as many other big stars of the time, but in 1965 he was offered the chance to join The Yardbirds, after the departure of Eric Clapton. Unwilling to give up a lucrative session career, and still concerned about his health during touring, Jimmy declined the offer, but began discussing the possibility of forming a new rock group, with Jeff Beck, drummer Keith Moon, and The Who’s bass player John Entwhistle. The idea fizzled out and Entwhistle remarked the idea would take off like a ‘lead balloon’, and Keith Moon jokingly replied that they should call the group ‘Lead Zeppelin’.
Jimmy Page and Led Zeppelin
The Yardbirds founder and bassist, Paul Samwell-Smith left the group in 1966 and Jimmy eventually joined them as a replacement, playing both bass guitar, and lead guitar alongside Jeff Beck on occasion. Unfortunately The Yardbirds never repeated the success they had enjoyed with Clapton at the helm, and several band members left the group. Jimmy was left needing to find new members to complete an unfinished Scandinavian tour, and subsequently recruited vocalist Robert Plant, drummer John Bonham and bassist John Paul Jones to complete the group. They finished the tour as ‘The New Yardbirds’ but Jimmy thought it was un-inspirational and not fitting to the new sound he had created, he remembered Keith Moon’s offhand comment and renamed the group ‘Led Zeppelin’.
Led Zeppelin’s influence on rock music cannot be understated. They have come to be considered as the forefathers of heavy metal, and a large part of their legendary sound came directly from Jimmy’s pounding riffs and brilliant production skills. Their début tour was supporting ‘Vanilla Fudge’ in the United States in 1968, and they received a thunderous and welcoming reception. The band’s first album ‘Led Zeppelin’, known these days as ‘Led Zeppelin I’, was released the following year, and although some pundits criticized the offering, calling Page a ‘limited producer’, and claiming his songs ‘were weak and unimaginative’, the fans didn’t agree, and bought it in the millions.
The only element of Led Zeppelin’s output that wasn’t dripping with originality and creativity was their early eponymous album titles, but it was never a problem for the band, when ‘Led Zeppelin II’ was released in 1969 it was a huge success, reaching the top spot in the album charts on both sides of the channel, and it also produced some of the most beautifully written and performed rock tracks in history. The pounding ‘Whole Lotta Love’ contains what is to many the most memorable rock riff of all time and the single reached number one in the United States, as well as several European countries, but it was strangely never released as a single in the UK, where imported copies were able to command hugely inflated prices.
‘Led Zeppelin III’ was released in 1970, and was more folk-influenced, yet still retained the legendary Zeppelin sound, it was commercially successful but the groups fourth album, and you can probably guess the name of it, was released in 1971 and it received an enormous amount of praise from fans and critics alike. Widely considered by many fans to be the groups finest work, ‘Led Zeppelin IV’ contained the classic ‘Stairway To Heaven’, which surely needs no introduction, even now, almost fifty years after it was recorded. The band managed to inject a little originality into their album titles after that, with ‘Houses of The Holy’ released in 1973 and ‘Physical Graffiti’ in 1975.
Jimmy Page – Drugs, Led Zeppelin’s Decline and the Death of John Bonham
During the height of Led Zeppelin’s fame, they sold at least 200 million records, possibly as many as 300 million, and they remain even today as one of the best-selling groups of all time. They are still the second best-selling group in the United States, behind only The Beatles, and their nine studio albums all reached the top 10 of the Billboard chart, with six of them topping the chart at least once. But Zeppelin will still be most fondly remembered, by those who got a chance to see them live. They are remembered as an impressively electrifying presence on stage, their multiple concert tours were always sold out as soon as tickets became available, and the bands wild lifestyle became the stuff of legends.
Although it was fellow British rockers The Rolling Stones who first began the stupidly irresponsible habit of throwing TV’s out of hotel windows, Led Zeppelin were never far behind in the trashing hotel stakes. Jon Bonham drove motorcycles along hotel hallways and Zeppelin would rent entire floors of hotels for their entourage, to ensure their wild partying wouldn’t be interrupted, but the wild-living would eventually lead to tragedy and the break up of the group.
In 1980, after a heavy day-long drinking session, first at a recording studio, and then later at Jimmy’s home in London, drummer John Bonham was found dead the following afternoon, he was 32. Jimmy was deeply depressed at the sudden death of his friend, and was unable to play music for some time after the event, the other Zeppelin members were equally sickened at Bonham’s death and the legendary Led Zeppelin, the fathers of modern rock who spawned an entire genre of music quietly split up.
For Jimmy it was a sobering time, not only was he devastated by the death of Bonham, but he was also recovering from years of heavy drug and alcohol abuse. He has admitted that during the mid-seventies he was regularly using both heroin and cocaine and ‘doesn’t remember much’ about the time. When asked, in 2003, if he regretted the wild years, Jimmy revealed that the drugs had made him more focused, far more productive, and in his opinion far more creative, but the fact remains that his performances in Led Zeppelin had lost some of their former passion by 1977, and he was a shadow of himself after losing a considerable amount of weight. He was arrested for possession of cocaine in 1982, and again in 1983, which was when his long-term relationship, with French model Charlotte Martin ended, after 13 years. Since then Jimmy has shown the strength of character to give up the drugs, and enjoy some of the phenomenal wealth his musical ability has earned him.
What’s Jimmy Page Doing Now in 2018 – Recent Updates
Jimmy’s personal wealth is approximately $80 Million, earned mainly through his song-writing and live tours with Zeppelin, and he today devotes much of his time to charities that benefit poverty-stricken Brizilian children. He has been married twice, most recently to Jimena Gomez Paratcha, who he met on a Brazilian Tour and he has five children in total.
The years after Led Zeppelin have seen a mellower, more reflective Jimmy Page emerge. As a survivor of one of the most destructive eras of show-business he has had more than enough time to reflect on the number of his contemporaries who didn’t live long enough to get their first grey hair, while Jimmy himself has gone fully grey now. He still thrills audiences from time to time and has collaborated in a number of eagerly anticipated projects. In 2007 the survivors of Led Zeppelin played with John Bonham’s son at a charity concert in London, TV interviews caught middle-aged rockers exiting the arena with tears rolling down their cheeks, caught up in the nostalgia of a Led Zeppelin live performance, or as close to one as would ever be possible now.
Jimmy and John Paul Jones joined the Foo Fighters on stage in 2008, and suddenly appeared alongside The Black Crowes in London in 2011, to the delight of the audience. In December 2012 Jimmy, Robert Plant and Jones were on their best behaviour at the White House, when Barack Obama presented them with the Annual Kennedy Center Honors, the highest award for artists who have added to American culture.
Unfortunately for the millions of Led Zeppelin fans, myself included, who never got the chance to see Led Zeppelin play live, the chances of a reunion before it really is too late seems ever more distant. Robert Plant and Jimmy grew distant after Bonham’s death and the two have occasionally appeared to blame each other in the media for the break-up of the group, and now in 2018 it seems unlikely that 72-year-old Jimmy and Plant will ever fully reconcile their differences.
In June 2016 it was reported that Robert, who is now 68, had turned down $14 million to reunite with the band for a one night performance, alongside other legends of their era such as The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and Neil Young. He has repeatedly expressed his complete disinterest in playing with Jimmy and the band again, and for us hopeful Zeppelin fans it really does appear to be the end of an incredible, legendary road.