The Guitarist Who Played Stairway To Heaven’s Solo In Front Of Jimmy Page
Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’ is considered one of the most influential songs in rock history and has been covered by many musicians including, legendary names like Frank Zappa and Dolly Parton. None of the song’s covers had satisfied its creators as much as Heart‘s performance at the Kennedy Center in 2012.
The performance became recognized as one of the most successful covers of the iconic song, and the band performed it in front of Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, and John Paul Jones. Aside from its creators, Barrack and Michelle Obama were also there to watch the show. Jason Bonham joined Heart as the drummer to honor his late father, John Bonham, and was accompanied by the successful Joyce Garrett Youth Choir.
Since it is known for its remarkable solo, probably the biggest responsibility lay on the lead guitar‘s shoulders, and that role was given to the guitarist Shane Fontayne. Robert Plant and Jimmy Page watched the entire performance with tears in their eyes and it was probably the first time they approved a cover of ‘Stairway to Heaven.’
Who Is Shane Fontayne?
Page’s reaction was worth seeing once Fontayne started to play his solo during the performance. Jimmy Page nodded at Plant and approved the guitarist’s efforts on stage, which was a huge accomplishment for Fontayne. In a 2020 interview with Rolling Stone, the guitarist stated that his Kennedy Center appearance was unexpected, yet one of his proudest performances.
Here is what he stated in 2020 about the performance:
“Again, it’s like playing ‘Can’t You Hear Me Knocking’ with Mick Taylor or playing with Bruce. It’s so iconic and precious to so many people. Fortunately, I wasn’t that aware until later about the whole thing with the ‘Stairway’ solo. There had been talk of bringing someone in for that event to play the solo. For me, it was one of my proudest performances.“
He also talked about how Jimmy Page inspired him to not dye his hair and grow it out to its natural white colour. He stated that they had met after the show and had a chat about his earlier days and what grabbed Fontayne’s attention most was his beautiful white hair.
Here are Fontayne’s words about Page’s appearance:
“I actually met Jimmy that night after the show for a few minutes. I got to ask him about his session played days, ‘Did you play on ‘You Really Got Me?” Seeing him and how great he looked, I was like, ‘Fuck it. I’m not going to color my hair anymore.’ That was the moment since Jimmy looked so great with his white hair. And I was playing with Crosby and Nash, so it was probably time to join the band.”
Fontayne had worked with Bruce Springsteen during his 1992-1993 Other Band Tour. After the disbandment of his E Street Band, Springsteen went on tour with other musicians, one of them being Fontayne. Being active in the music scene since the 1970s, the guitarist had a career span exceeding 50 years, working with various other artists including, Crosby, Stills & Nash. However, his popularity increased significantly after his performance of ‘Stairway to Heaven.’