Led Zeppelin

Babe I'm Gonna Leave You

Song Review by

From their 1969 debut self-titled LP, "Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You" lays out the road map for what Led Zeppelin would be about for the next decade: a blues-based hard rock/heavy metal band that was interested as much in acoustic guitars as they were in screaming amplifiers; Celtic, Middle Eastern, and other folk music traditions as much as the American blues tradition; heavy drumming as well as quiet interludes; and using the recording studio and experimentation to the full advantage -- resulting in rich, hard-hitting, multi-layered, and multi-faceted records. The song is based around a Jimmy Page minor-key acoustic figure over which vocalist Robert Plant croons a well-worn warning about being a rambling man. The rhythm section -- one of the greatest and most influential in rock & roll history -- of John Paul Jones on bass and John Bonham on drums, kicks in on an almost flamenco pre-chorus riff and, finally, a descending, syncopated, and hard-rocking chorus that incites Plant into his trademark upper-register howl. Perhaps only Jimi Hendrix and the Experience, who also worked with engineer Eddie Kramer, had as versatile a sound at the time, varying from soft acoustic balladry to pounding hard rock -- many times within the same song. Indeed, the drastic swoops of dynamics within their songs laid out a game plan for rock music that could still be heard in the post-punk and alternative rock scene as the 1990s gave way to the new millennium. For Led Zeppelin, "Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You" helped propel their debut into the Top Ten in the U.S. at a time when album oriented rock radio was in its infancy. One bothersome issue about Led Zeppelin is that, unlike their colleagues in the Rolling Stones and other British bands that took a great deal of influence from traditional music and often went to great lengths to pay respect to older artists and writers -- Led Zeppelin often placed their own names on works that can easily be attributed, at least in part, to other songwriters. Thus you have "Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You," which on the album is credited as "traditional, arranged by Jimmy Page" when it was in fact written by Anne Bredon (aka Annie Briggs). Apparently, it took legal action to change the credit to "Bredon/Page/Plant." There is quite an extensive list of other instances where it can be argued that Led Zeppelin went far beyond merely incorporating their blues and folk influences. Joan Baez did a mournful version of "Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You" in 1962, well before Led Zeppelin, on the live record Joan Baez in Concert, Pt. 1, based on the 1950s Bredon version. Great White, who was almost a Led Zeppelin tribute band, covered the Zeppelin version.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Led Zeppelin 1969 Atlantic 6:41
Led Zeppelin [Box Set] 1990 Atlantic 6:40
Led Zeppelin Remasters 1992 Atlantic / Swan Song 6:40
Complete Studio Recordings 1993 Atlantic / Swan Song 6:41
Early Days: The Best of Led Zeppelin, Vol. 1 1999 Atlantic 6:41
Another World 2000 Sire 6:11
Early Days & Latter Days: Vol. 1 & 2 2002 WEA International 6:42
Mothership 2007 Atlantic / Rhino 6:42
Definitive Collection Mini LP 2008 Rhino 6:41
Led Zeppelin x Led Zeppelin 2018 Atlantic / Rhino / Rhino Atlantic
Promo Only: Alternative Club (November 2000)
Various Artists
Promo Only
The Complete Led Zeppelin Collection Rhino / Rhino Atlantic 6:42