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Led Zeppelin II dies of a heart attack


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Led Zeppelin II has died.

Not the album ... the man.

Zeppelin, of downstate Bethalto, near St. Louis, was known most of his life as George Blackburn before officially changing his name last fall.

"He and Mom got divorced and he wanted to start his life over, like a new chapter," said his daughter Mindy Baker of Seattle, adding that her father had seen Jimmy Page and Robert Plant's English band probably about 20 times in its heyday of the late 1960s and early '70s. "He had always liked Led Zeppelin since they came out, and it was just time to do it.

"My mom says that he talked about it for probably five years before the divorce."

The 64-year-old Zeppelin "climbed the Stairway to Heaven" May 18 at Alton Memorial Hospital, according to a death notice published in newspapers, including the Tribune. He died of a heart attack, his daughter said.

Zeppelin was born in Milwaukee in 1947 and was raised in Chicago. He worked 32 years for TWA in Chicago until about 1983, his daughter said, and then in St. Louis. He retired in 1997.

Led Zeppelin II, released in 1969, included such familiar songs as Whole Lotta Love and Ramble On. It was the band's second studio album and the first to reach No. 1 in the U.S.

"That's the one he just really related to," his daughter said, "just the whole thing."

She said her father redid his living room in album covers following the divorce, his third. That included, of course, Led Zeppelin's, but also those of AC/DC, Jethro Tull and Pink Floyd, among others.

"I reinvented myself," Zeppelin told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch last fall, after the name change was made official in Madison County court. "Since I became Led Zeppelin, my life has improved a thousand fold."

Zeppelin told the newspaper that he was enchanted by zeppelins as a child, and grew equally fascinated with the band that took its name from the large airships. He cited a 1960s performance in Chicago as a personal turning point.

"They changed my life forever," Zeppelin said, "and that's my whole reason for doing this.

"I don't want to appear to be some off-the-wall, drug-addict idiot. I just changed my name from the standpoint that I can be a better person than I used to be."

Zeppelin is also survived by another daughter, Melissa Gray, of Phoenix.

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