Jimmy Page

Jimmy Page will be remembered forever as the trailblazing guitar ace

behind the heavy-metal crunch of Led Zeppelin, arguably the most

successful hard-rock band of all time.

But Page has spent the past few years working in an offshoot group,

with his ex-Zeppelin songwriting partner Robert Plant, and teaming

with younger acts such as Puff Daddy and the Black Crowes.

James Patrick Page was born Jan. 9, 1944, in Heston, England. He began

playing guitar as a teenager in London, where he was a session

musician on a few mid-'60s rock records.

In 1965, guitarist Eric Clapton quit blues-rock pioneers the

Yardbirds, and Page was asked to replace him. Page refused and

suggested Jeff Beck, who accepted. But the following year, Page agreed

to replace departing Yardbird Paul Samwell-Smith on bass. Soon, Page

was back to guitar, sharing leads with Beck, when Chris Dreja switched

from guitar to bass for the Yardbirds.

In mid-1968, the Yardbirds split, and Page formed the New Yardbirds, a

hard-rock group that fulfilled the contractual obligations of the

original band. Page recruited session keyboardist/bassist John Paul

Jones and Plant on vocals. Plant, in turn, recommended John Bonham for

the drums slot.

The New Yardbirds quickly changed their name to Led Zeppelin,

allegedly in response to a joke by Who drummer Keith Moon, who said the

group would sink like a lead zeppelin. Led Zeppelin's eponymous debut

(1969) took only two months to reach the top 10 of the

Billboard 200 albums chart. It included the classics

"Communication Breakdown" and "Dazed and Confused," which featured

spellbinding guitar work from Page.

The same year's #1 Led Zeppelin II and the following year's

Led Zeppelin III further defined the band's groundbreaking mix

of folk elements and heavy metal. The band's untitled 1971 fourth LP is their best selling, thanks to radio favorites such as "Stairway to Heaven," "Rock and Roll" and "Black Dog."

By the release of the double LP Physical Graffiti (1975), Led Zeppelin were the undisputed kings of rock 'n' roll and its most popular touring group. Led Zeppelin were notorious for rock star excesses, such as trashing hotel rooms, during the peak of their success. The band's mystique was enhanced by Page's supposed interest in the occult.

The band broke up after the death of Bonham, in 1980. Two years later,

Page issued the soundtrack to the film "Death Wish II." He then formed

the band the Firm, with former Bad Company singer Paul Rodgers. The

Firm issued two moderately successful LPs before disbanding in the

late '80s.

In 1988, Page issued his first solo LP, Outrider, which

featured Plant and, on drums, Bonham's son Jason. In 1993, Page

formed Coverdale/Page with former Whitesnake singer David Coverdale. But the following year Page abandoned the

project to reunite with Plant for an "MTV Unplugged" special, which

yielded No Quarter (1994). The former Zeppelin partners

launched a world tour (with an orchestra) behind the album, which

featured less ear-shattering versions of Zeppelin songs.

Page and Plant toured again, behind Walking Into Clarksdale

(1998). Plant said about the duo's songwriting, "I take notes all the

time, like [a reporter] would. Jimmy gets something drifting, and I

open my notebook to see what I've been writing about that suits it."

That same year Page collaborated with Puff Daddy on "Come With Me"

(

HREF="http://media.acddict.com/music/Puff_Daddy/Come_With_Me-Featuring_Jimmy_Page.ram">RealAudio excerpt), a reworking of Zeppelin's "Kashmir," for the soundtrack to the remake of "Godzilla."

Last year, Page joined roots-rockers the Black Crowes for a few gigs.

He also participated in the NetAid concert for charity, with Puff

Daddy, Bono and others.

Led Zeppelin issued their first greatest-hits LP, Early Days: The

Best of Led Zeppelin Vol. 1, at the end of 1999. Volume 2 is

scheduled for release this year.

Zeppelin also recently became one of only three acts to have four or

more Diamond albums, according to the Recording Industry Association

of America. Diamond status signifies more than 10 million copies

shipped. The four high-mark albums were II, the untitled LP,

Houses of the Holy (1973) and, most recently, Physical

Graffiti.

Other birthdays on Sunday: Les Paul, 85; Joan Baez, 59; Kenneth

Kelly (Manhattans), 57; Scott Engel (Walker Brothers), 56; William

"Bud" Cowsill (Cowsills), 52; Tim Hart (Steeleye Span), 52; David

Johansen, 50; Crystal Gayle, 49; Eric Erlandson (Hole), 37; and Dave

Matthews, 33.