This is it: the one song that has been played on FM radio more than any other. Ever.
Kinda surprising, considering that "Stairway to Heaven" doesn't exactly fit the usual recipe for commercial radio success. It's eight minutes long. It has a musical structure closer to classical music than to your typical verse/chorus/verse pop song. It starts off with a slightly goofy Mellotron part that sounds a bit like what you'd hear from ye olde towne piper at the Renaissance Faire. And the lyrics talk about things like bustles in your hedgerows and spring cleans for your May Queens. (What?)
But this unlikely collection of elements somehow adds up to one of the most beloved songs of all time. You might even call it the Holy Grail of classic rock. Read on to find out why.
About the Song
Robert Plant (vocals), Jimmy Page (guitar), John Paul Jones (bass, Mellotron), John Bonham (drums)
Explore the ways this song connects with the world and with other topics on Shmoop
A rather harsh critic once described "Stairway to Heaven" as a song full of "corny medievalism." That critic may have a point – "a new day will dawn / for those who stand long / and the forests will echo with laughter" probably won't win any awards from the Profound Lyrics Society – but we think he's forgetting one important thing: corny medievalism is awesome. And we're not the only ones who think so. After all, isn't the ultimate corny medievalism the timeless Grail Journey Myth, which has lent its plot to countless great works of literature? Weren't the great Romantic poets – Wordsworth, Coleridge, Keats – all a bunch of corny medievalists, too? Ooh, it makes me wonder…
On the Charts
Though never released as a single, "Stairway to Heaven" is the most played song on FM radio to date.
As of the year 2000, "Stairway to Heaven" had been played on the radio over 3 million times. At eight minutes per play, that adds up to about 46 years of continuous playback.
"Stairway to Heaven" sheet music has sold more than one million copies—more than any other single piece of sheet music.
Led Zeppelin IV, the album upon which "Stairway" appears, has sold over 23 million copies in the USA alone.