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3 Lessons Every Writer, Speaker, Blogger, and Musician Can Learn from Led Zeppelin

Once in a while we bloggers will get someone (virtually never a regular subscriber) who’ll flip out over one word or sentence in a post, completely missing the big point we’re making.

Soooo . . . for those of you who will read what follows hot-under-the-collar with smoke blowing out of both ears and eyes blurred by rage just because I dared mention a “non-Christian” rock band as an illustration, hold your fire.

The Blog Manager says that comments like “Led Zeppelin is demonic” or “Haven’t you ever played Stairway to Heaven backwards?” (or words to that effect) will not be approved. The reason is because such comments benightedly miss the point. (The point of this post has nothing to do with the band’s personal life or beliefs.)

That said, if you’re an artist of any kind – whether an author, blogger, speaker, musician, painter, etc. – there are three things you can learn from Led Zeppelin:

1. Don’t sell out to pop culture. Zeppelin didn’t compromise their values for the sake of pop culture. Consequently, they refused to cut singles (at least in the UK). Their feeling was that if someone wanted to get into their work, they had to buy their albums. 

An album is a body of work. So take the whole thing or leave it, they felt. In this regard, Zep went against the grain of all other bands during their time. They stayed true to their art. They wanted to be an underground band, thus they seldom did interviews. Rolling Stone (the voice of the music establishment at the time) was brutal to them.

Take Away: If you want your book, blog, music or other art to be a bestseller, then make it “pop.” But if you want to stay true to your message, conviction, and vision, go for depth. Refuse to go “pop.” Refuse to appease the establishment and leave the sales to God.

Ironically, Zeppelin is regarded by many experts to be the most popular hard rock band in history. Their influence was seminal, changing the face of modern music. All this despite the fact that they refused to go “pop.” Sometimes staying true to your art grabs the multitudes. But more often it does not. Staying true to yourself and faithful to your calling should always be the goal (1 Cor. 4:2; Luke 16:10-12).

2. Don’t be afraid to debunk the conventional wisdom. For their fourth album, Zep decided to do what had never been done before or since. They gave the album no title. And they didn’t even put their name on it!

Their record company said that this was “commercial suicide.” Yet Led Zeppelin IV (which fans called it) went on to sell over 32 million copies and has been hailed as one of the greatest albums in music history.

Take Away: Don’t be afraid to go against the conventional wisdom. Dare to do the unthinkable and that which has never been done before. Not for shock value, but if it’s in your heart to do so. Follow your convictions, not the praises of mortals.

3. Speak well of your competitors. In 1970, Zep surpassed The Beatles in popularity. When Zeppelin was asked about this, they only had good things to say about “The Fab Four.” The last part of this interview  doesn’t appear on YouTube. But at the end of it, Jimmy Page is asked, “How do you feel about The Beatles?” His answer:  “I think they’re great . . . they’ve made some fantastic statements.”

This kind of well-speaking about one’s peers (and competitors) is profoundly admirable. But among Christian ministers it is so rarely seen today.

We more often see the opposite . . . such as Elvis’ alleged posture toward The Beatles. According to Ringo Starr, while Elvis was nice to The Beatles in person, the rock and roll “king” tried to have them deported because he was so threatened by them.

What makes this even more disturbing is that The Beatles idolized Elvis, regarding him as a distant mentor. Tragically, in the Christian world, it’s not uncommon for mentors to turn on their mentees when they excel them.

Take Away: Always speak well of your competitors and even your enemies. (I read the New Testament once and Jesus had something to about this in Matthew 5:44 and Paul in Romans 12:14, 19-21 – “bless” means to “speak well of”.) You can always find something complimentary to say about another believer – without “damning them with faint praise.”

Ironically, whenever I’ve publicly spoken well about someone who was throwing spears at me, I’ve gotten flack from some Christians. They felt it was wrong for me to respond this way. They wanted me to attack them back. Sadly, they had no idea what I was doing or why. Taking the high ground almost seems to be a lost art in the Christian world today.

As Benjamin Franklin so beautifully put it, “I resolve to speak ill of no man whatever, not even in a matter of truth but rather by some means excuse the faults I hear charged upon others, and upon proper occasions speak all the good I know of everybody.”

Now . . . for you artists (and Zep fans) out there, check out these clips:

Eddie Cochran 1: Come on Everybody

Eddie Cochran 2: She’s Somethin’ Else

Now compare those to this one:

Eddie Cochran ZEPPIFIED:  Zep Performs both songs back to back – Note that this is early Zep. The electrifying energy, extraordinary talent, and emotional power of the band bleeds through, as well as their ability to take old tunes and make them uniquely their own.

Btw/ you may want to watch these clips soon because YouTube will probably pull some of them after the amount of hits to each video that this post will generate.  I hope I’m wrong, but we’ll see soon enough . . .

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FRANK VIOLA has helped thousands of people around the world to deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ and enter into a more vibrant and authentic experience of church. His mission is to help serious followers of Jesus know their Lord more deeply, gain fresh perspectives on old or ignored subjects, and make the Bible come alive. Viola has written many books on these themes, including God's Favorite Place on Earth and From Eternity to Here. His blog, Beyond Evangelical, is rated as one of the most popular in Christian circles today.