Led Zeppelin receive Polar Music Prize in Stockholm

The surviving members of legendary rock band Led Zeppelin received the prestigious Polar Music Prize from Sweden’s king today in the city where they recorded their final studio album 27 years ago.

Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones crossed the stage of the Stockholm Concert Hall – also the venue for the annual Nobel Prizes – to accept the award they shared with Russian conductor Valery Gergiev. John Bonham, the group’s drummer, who died in 1980, was represented by his daughter, Zoe.

In a short acceptance speech, Plant recalled that Led Zeppelin recorded their last studio album, In Through the Out Door, in a Stockholm studio in 1979.

“It’s a long time ago. Music has been a fantastic passport to us all,” he said.

The award, which is typically split between pop artists and classical musicians, was founded in 1989 by Stig Anderson, manager of Swedish pop group ABBA, through a donation to The Royal Swedish Academy of Music. Each prize winner collects 1 million kronor (around €100,000).

The name of the prize comes from Andersson’s record label, Polar Records.

John Lord, a former member of Deep Purple, read the academy’s citation, calling Led Zeppelin “one of the great pioneers of rock.”

Bonham, Page, Jones and Plant formed Led Zeppelin in 1968. The group disbanded in 1980 after Bonham died, but their music remains hugely popular worldwide.

Before King Carl XVI Gustaf handed over the award diplomas, Swedish band Soundtrack of Our Lives performed Zeppelin hits such as Kashmir and Whole Lotta Love.

To honour Gergiev, the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra played classic music by Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Mikhail Glinka and Sergeij Prokofiev.

The Russian is artistic and general director of St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre, and will be principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra starting in January 2007.

Gergiev said he was “honoured to be on the same stage as my friends Led Zeppelin” and thanked his mother “who made it possible for me to become a musician.”

The prize ceremony is followed by a banquet at Stockholm’s Grand Hotel.

The award winners were announced in November.

Past winners include Paul McCartney, Isaac Stern, Bruce Springsteen, Pierre Boulez and Quincy Jones. Last year’s prize was shared by Brazilian pop star and Culture Minister Gilberto Gil and German romance singer Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau.

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