Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven” Lyrics Meaning

First off, it should be noted that Led Zeppelin’s lead singer Robert Plant, who actually wrote the lyrics to this song, has himself stated that – with the exception of to some extent the first verse – it is open to different interpretations. So here, we will try to derive the meaning “Stairway to Heaven” in the most basic ways possibly.

Verse 1

The first verse is based on the tale of, according to Plant, a materialistic and selfish woman. It is clear that this individual equates “heaven” with shopping. And apparently even if stores are closed, she can still get access to “what she came for” “with a word”, insinuating that she is so powerful and wealthy that with just a phone call, the shops will be opened for her.

Lyrics of "Stairway to Heaven"

Verse 2

The second verse is based on Plant envisioning “the west” apparently being destroyed by “rings of smoke” that are visible “through the trees”. Again this is something that is occurring only in his thoughts, but still his “spirit is crying for leaving”. What geographical region Plant considers “the west” is unspecified, with some even putting forth theories that it refers to the Wild West. But considering that the song was written in England, the implication would be somewhere west of the United Kingdom. This verse is climaxed by a group of people “who stand” and witness of this fire.

Verse 3

And apparently these same people are referred to in the third verse as “those who stand long”. The story being told in this section is that if these individuals have a mutual desire “the piper will lead (them) to reason”. And instead of the trees burning now, “the forests echo with laughter”. It is never specified who “the piper” actually is, though all things considered, it definitely plays out like a religious reference.

Verse 4

The beginning of the fourth verse brings up the character of the “May queen” and accordingly is about fertility and the advent of Spring. Later the concept of heaven is again brought up though implicitly, as in people having a choice to choose between “two paths” upon which to tread. And once again, “the piper” is present, this time as someone who is “calling you to join him”, as in follow the same path that he is on.

In all honesty, “Stairway to Heaven” plays out more or less like a gospel track, admonishing the listener to repent as in choose the road which leads to “a lady we all know who shines white light”. However don’t expect Led Zeppelin to acknowledge this.  Instead when pressed on the song’s explanation they often gives answers which are difficult to derive any definitive meaning from.

Quick Facts about “Stairway to Heaven”

  • Writer(s): Robert Plant and Jimmy Page were the sole writers of this song.
  • Producer(s): Jimmy Page produced the song.
  • Release Date: November 8, 1971 was the official release date of “Stairway to Heaven”.
  • Album/EP: The song appears on Led Zeppelin’s fourth studio album titled Led Zeppelin IV.
  • Interesting Stuff: Led Zeppelin have been accused of “stealing” parts of the song “Taurus” by the band Spirit and using it in “Stairway to Heaven”. And indeed when you listen to the beginning of “Stairway to Heaven”, it sounds remarkably similar to a certain part of Spirit’s “Taurus”. The case eventually went to court.

Does the song contain any samples?

No. However, it has been sampled in over dozens of songs.  

Interpretation of “Stairway to Heaven”: By Another Hand

“Stairway to Heaven” brings to our attention the hard truth that true happiness in life derives not from accumulating material possessions. The song tells a story of a woman who made so much money only to realize, in the end, that her life was meaningless even with all her wealth, and she won’t make it to heaven. In some respects, the song can be seen as a call to give back to the poor, needy, society, etc. when one has been blessed with many. Of course, the mystics among us might find it the perfect nudge to consider the afterlife because it matters.

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3 Responses

  1. Adam says:

    “There’s a feeling I get when I look to the west / And my spirit is crying for leaving.”

    “What geographical region Plant considers ‘the west’ is unspecified, with some even putting forth theories that it refers to the Wild West. But considering that the song was written in England, the implication would be somewhere west of the United Kingdom.”

    Lol. Dude, mid-career Zeppelin -> Tolkien. In LotR, after the War of the Ring, the elves get on radiant magical ships to leave Middle Earth and sail to Aman, a Heaven-like “blessed land” to the West.

  2. alchemist says:

    did some spirit entity use plant in what is called automatic writing to write the lyrics for the song? look up what plant says he remembers about coming up with the lyrics for the song

  3. Mark Walton says:

    I think the the lady who shines
    The white and wants to show
    Is that she never made it into heaven
    So her punishment for being greedy in life
    Is to lead others to heaven
    Lighting the stairway.
    Showing them the way.
    Which she has to do for ever.

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