Ann Wilson looked back on her iconic performance of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” with Nancy Wilson at the 35th Kennedy Center Honors in a new interview.
The Kennedy Center Honors usually takes place in December. Of course, this year’s ceremony has been postponed for obvious reasons. However, Vulture took it upon themselves to reach out to Ann Wilson and get some insights on the legendary cover, which also featured Jason Bonham on drums.
“I actually felt every second of it as a real, not to overstate it, but pretty damn close to orgasmic in terms of bliss,” said Ann reflecting on being in the moment of the performance. “I felt wide awake and alive, and I felt the emotional content of the song all the way down to the ground. It was really authentic. The emotions involved in performing that were wide awake and in the moment.”
Considering just how perfect the performance was, you’d think there was a ton of rehearsals for it, but Ann said she and Nancy had about “30 or 45 minutes, not even a full hour” of rehearsal with the accompanying choir the day before the event.
Besides just the grandness of it all, the reactions from Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones, who were being honored that evening, during the performance also add to its legend. While Ann had to wait to see Zeppelin’s reactions during the performance, she said she was able to hear from the band afterwards.
“After the show there was a dinner for all of us, and all of the people who performed were there with the honorees,” said Ann. “Robert, Jimmy, and John Paul were having dinner next to us and Robert said to me, ‘I usually hate it when people try to cover ‘Stairway to Heaven.’ But I like your version.’ That meant so much to me, because it could’ve gone any way, you know? I’ve worked with John Paul before, and he’s such a gentleman. He was also friendly and open about it, as was Jimmy. Listen, Robert and Jimmy are the guardians of the Zeppelin gate. You really want approval from them.”