Why Did Led Zeppelin Break Up?

Why do bands break up? Sometimes there are clear reasons and sometimes the reasons are a bit more numinous. Sometimes it’s money, frayed relationships, or the music just isn’t hitting anymore.

Videos by American Songwriter

But in the case of one of the greatest rock bands of all time, Led Zeppelin, the reason is a bit more straightforward than some of their classic rock contemporaries. Below, we will dive into the history of the band and examine why the group ultimately split up.

[RELATED: Then & Now: Aerosmith’s Journey to Rock Legends]

The Beginnings

Founded in 1968, the group first played together in a basement room underneath a record store on Gerrard Street in London. A year later, Led Zeppelin—comprised of guitarist Jimmy Page, lead singer Robert Plant, bassist John Paul Jones, and drummer John Bonham—released its self-titled album.

That LP was packed with hits, featuring tracks like “Dazed and Confused,” “Good Times Bad Times” and “Communication Breakdown.” And later that same year, in 1969, Led Zeppelin released its next album, Led Zeppelin II, which featured another bevy of popular songs, including “Whole Lotta Love” and “Ramble On.”

The Middle

From 1970 through 1979, Led Zeppelin released six more albums, including Led Zeppelin III, Led Zeppelin IV, and Houses of the Holy. Thanks to these albums, the band became—in the wake of The Beatles splitting up the decade prior—the biggest band in the world. Led Zeppelin IV remains one of the best-selling rock records ever and it includes perhaps the most famous rock song of all time, “Stairway to Heaven.”

In the late ’70s, Robert Plant suffered a broken ankle and the band went on hiatus from touring. But once it healed, Led Zeppelin went out on the road again in 1977 and began to set concert attendance records.

The End

All the while, despite or perhaps because of the massive success, the band was getting a reputation for being a bit too out of control. While some said that rep was blown out of proportion, at least some of the rumors were confirmed with the spiraling health of drummer John Bonham due to alcoholism and substance abuse issues.

Bonham’s health continued to get worse up to his death in 1980. The band had rescheduled a 1977 North American tour for sometime in 1980 and as they were preparing to rehearse for that trek, tragedy struck. On October 17, 1980, after stopping for breakfast and drinking some 16 shots of vodka, Bonham rehearsed with the band and continued to drink. That night, Bonham died in his sleep, choking on his own vomit. And less than two months later, on December 4, 1980, the band issued a statement that read, “We wish it to be known that the loss of our dear friend, and the deep sense of undivided harmony felt by ourselves and our manager, have led us to decide that we could not continue as we were.” It was signed by Led Zeppelin.

And that marked the end for the legendary band. A few years later, in 1982, the band released its final album, Coda, which included tracks that didn’t make the prior records.

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Leave a Reply

The 6 Best Classic Rock Songs About Rebellion

Jelly Roll performing

3 Wild Ideas to Help Country Music