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Jimmy Page: The Song That Changed My Life

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Led Zeppelin guitarist waxes about Lonnie Donegan in excerpt from music journalist Bob Boilen's new book, 'Your Song Changed My Life'

By Jason Newman | April 15, 2016

Bob Boilen, veteran music journalist and host of NPR's popular music show All Songs Considered, had a deceptively simple question for musicians when he began compiling his new book: What song changed your life?

In Your Song Changed My Life, dozens of musicians, from Dave Grohl, David Byrne and St. Vincent to Sturgill Simpson, Michael Stipe and Carrie Brownstein, took on the challenge, revealing how one track influenced them and their musical style during their formative years. The best chapters are the least obvious connections: Philip Glass waxes on Spike Jones, while Jenny Lewis recalls her obsession with early hip-hop.

In this exclusive excerpt from the book, Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page discusses his love of influential skiffle musician Lonnie Donegan. "So many Brits of that age talk about skiffle music [and] Donegan was king," Boilen tells Rolling Stone. "But it wasn’t till I began to think of how Donegan changed the blues and ‘skiffled it up’ that I made the connection to how Jimmy Page took Donegan and electrified it to shocking and long-lasting effects."

"I wanted to have my own approach to what I did. I didn't want to ... do a carbon copy of B.B. King, but I really love the blues. The blues had so much effect on me and I just wanted to make my own contribution in my own way." As a young kid growing up first in the West London suburb of Heston, then a few miles away in Epsom, Surrey, Page mined, appropriated and appreciated the depths of American blues. The move with his family from Heston to Epsom turned out to be a life-changing one. In their new home, he found a guitar that had been left there by its previous owner. At the time, the instrument did not excite the eight-year-old James Patrick Page. It was 1952, rock & roll wasn't even on the radio yet, and no one in his family was a musician.

That guitar, found by a young Jimmy Page, could have been tossed or taken up by his mom or dad, but it wasn't. It remained in the house until, three years later, it became the medium that changed his life and, honestly, the lives of a million others.

Jimmy's story as a musician begins with the song that changed his life: Lonnie Donegan's "Rock Island line," a big hit in England in 1955 as performed by the Scottish-born singer. it's an American blues to and about the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad line. It was first recorded by John and Alan Lomax in Arkansas prison, and later made famous by the Louisiana blues legend Lead Belly. Jimmy had heard Donegan's version many times on the radio, and even owned the record, but he wasn't inspired to pick up the guitar until the day he heard Rod Wyatt, a kid at school, play it on his. Jimmy told Rod about the guitar he had at home, and Rob promised that if Jimmy brought it in, he'd show him how to tune it and play a few chords.

 

 

"It was a campfire guitar ... but it did have all the strings on it which is pretty useful because I wouldn't have known where to get guitar strings from. And then [Rod] showed me how to tune it up ... and then I started strumming away like not quite like — not quite like Lonnie Donegan, but I was having a go."

Donegan took the past, owned the present, and influenced a generation of great rock musicians. "He really understood all that stuff, Lonnie Donegan," Page says. "But this is the way that he sort of, should we say, jazzed it up or skiffled it up. By the time you get to the end of this he's really spitting it out ... he keeps singing 'Rock Island line, Rock Island' [and] you really get this whole staccato aspect of it. It's fantastic stuff! So many guitarist from the Sixties will all say Lonnie Donegan was [their] influence."

http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/jimmy-page-the-song-that-changed-my-life-20160415

From Your Song Changed My Life by Bob Boilen. Copyright © 2016 by Bob Boilen. Published by HarperCollins.

 

 

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Lonnie is probably the most important and pivotal musician to emerge in the UK during the 1950's. He was a great guitarist and his fast and pacey strumming style could be seen as early riffs.

Shame he does not get more recognition.

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2 hours ago, anniemouse said:

Lonnie is probably the most important and pivotal musician to emerge in the UK during the 1950's. He was a great guitarist and his fast and pacey strumming style could be seen as early riffs.

Shame he does not get more recognition.

Without a doubt, between Lonnie & Davey Graham, you have the whole thing right there, the beginning and foundation for it all really, at least as far as approach and structure are concerned.

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I always thought that it was Elvis Presley's "Baby, Let's Play House" that was the song that changed Jimmy Page's life and the song that started him on the "path" or "road" that would eventually make Him the Most Influential Guitar Player of All-Time. 

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Lonnie Donegan is cited by many British rock pioneers as their "bell whistle" that turned them on to what was possible - along with all the American rock and roll of course.

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Interesting text - Jimmy Page: The Song That Changed My Life.

Everyone thinks that his inspiration was sciffle musick, guitar, etc.,  I directed my attention to the "libretto" lyrics - Rock Island line.

What is this text about? A small deception driver who passed through tollgate without paying a fee. Indeed, this essentially trivial song, not because of its music was the pretext for the entire work of Jimmy, but it is "small cheating" with lyrics Donnegan, was the inspiration for another "big cheating" - substitution of the text of all the songs the band Led Zepp, another symbolism, which I in my previous posts I wrote a lot. :rolleyes:

And this is the whole mystery of Jimmy Page.

Edited by Gregor

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