Stairway to Heaven is easily Led Zeppelin’s most famous song.
Is it their best?
That is certainly debatable. They created an insane number of amazing songs.
But it is the one song almost everyone recognizes as being theirs.
Despite that, few people actually know what Robert Plant is singing about.
He uses a lot of metaphors, so it is not always easy to decipher.
But we’re going to help with that.
Keep reading to learn exactly what the Stairway to Heaven lyrics meaning is.
Table of Contents
- 1 Stairway To Heaven Lyrics And Meaning
- 2 Stairway To Heaven Lyrics Meaning: Final Thoughts
Stairway To Heaven Lyrics And Meaning
Stairway to Heaven is a landmark piece by Led Zeppelin, composed by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant in 1971. Unlike other very popular songs, such as Another Brick in the Wall, Stairway to Heaven was not promoted by an official video.
Despite that, it achieved immense success and is now considered one of the best rock songs ever written. Let’s take a closer look at the lyrics and their meaning.
Stairway To Heaven Lyrics
There’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold
And she’s buying a stairway to Heaven
When she gets there she knows, if the stores are all closed
With a word she can get what she came for
Ooh, ooh, and she’s buying a stairway to Heaven
There’s a sign on the wall, but she wants to be sure
‘Cause you know sometimes words have two meanings
In a tree by the brook, there’s a songbird who sings
Sometimes all of our thoughts are misgiven
Ooh, it makes me wonder
Ooh, makes me wonder
There’s a feeling I get when I look to the West
And my spirit is crying for leaving
In my thoughts I have seen rings of smoke through the trees
And the voices of those who stand looking
Ooh, it makes me wonder
Ooh, really makes me wonder
And it’s whispered that soon if we all call the tune
Then the piper will lead us to reason
And a new day will dawn for those who stand long
And the forests will echo with laughter
If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow, don’t be alarmed now
It’s just a spring clean for the May queen
Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run
There’s still time to change the road you’re on
And it makes me wonder
Your head is humming, and it won’t go, in case you don’t know
The piper’s calling you to join him
Dear lady, can you hear the wind blow? And did you know
Your stairway lies on the whispering wind?
And as we wind on down the road
Our shadows taller than our soul
There walks a lady we all know
Who shines white light and wants to show
How everything still turns to gold
And if you listen very hard
The tune will come to you at last
When all are one, and one is all
To be a rock and not to roll
And she’s buying a stairway to Heaven
Stairway To Heaven Meaning
The meaning of Stairway to Heaven is developed throughout the three sections that make up the song: the first verse covers the first section, verses two and three cover the second, and verses four, five and the final bridge make up the final section.
This is all accompanied by the progressive increase in tempo and volume of the guitars and drums.
Like many other 70s progressive rock songs, this one also borders on the classic 4-minute pop and commercial rock of the 80s, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the sonic atmospheres created by Led Zeppelin.
The first section of Stairway to Heaven begins with a very slow rhythm, interwoven by the game between the arpeggio of the guitar and the sound of the flutes.
The listener is transported into a magical atmosphere, made of forests and rural soundscapes, as the voice of Robert Plant tells the story of a naive woman.
The protagonist of the song is a woman who believes in everything she sees, never doubting her beliefs. For this woman, all that glitters is always and only gold.
The woman is fully convinced of thi. In fact, she continues to accumulate more and more money. She believes that she can achieve happiness, climbing the ladder that should take her to heaven one rung at a time.
In the second verse, the woman begins to have doubts about what she believes and tries to resolve them. Everything should be clear to the woman, because reality is obvious.
But she does not want to accept reality and completely resolve her doubts. She refuses to see reality as it is and instead, begins to seek confirmation of what she believes.
In this part of the song, the dangers of seeking wealth at all costs have disappeared. The atmosphere of the second section of Stairway to Heaven begins to darken. It is as if the sun began to slowly set over the forest.
The woman looks to the west, the direction the setting sun takes, feeling anguished. She would like to leave, since she thinks she sees smoke rings rising in the trees, and her doubts continue to assail her.
If she wanted to, she would be able to hear the voice of a pied piper, leading her down the path to a new and better day. If the woman gave up her ambitions for wealth, the forest would resound with laughter and shouts of joy.
Meanwhile, the hedges in the forest are stirred by a sudden commotion. We are at 4 minutes and 23 seconds, when the drums enter and the third section of the song begins.
It is time to choose between money and happiness. Robert Plant’s song is directed directly at women. The noise that the woman hears in the woods and that scares her is nothing more than a stream running through the hedges.
Robert Plant sarcastically sings “it’s just a spring clean for the May Queen”, and continues to warn the woman.
It’s never too late to change direction, especially when someone is willing to help you. The woman knows this very well, and she also knows that the gold-paved stairway she is building is a stairway that is supported by the wind and could collapse at any moment.
Robert Plant’s voice turns into an angry grin rising to near falsetto keys. He sings in metaphors. The path towards which he and the woman in the text are heading is the path of life.
Along this path, Plant and the woman’s shadows grow larger and larger as time goes by. But the careless woman continues to behave selfishly, pretending to show others how everything she touches turns to gold.
The singing is now distorted by the effects of the electric guitar and the notes of the drums, almost as if to want to definitively rip and erase the image of the selfish woman, headed for the path of wealth.
Then suddenly, all the instruments abruptly stop playing, and Plant also goes silent for a second.
It’s the second charge of anticipation and emotion, marking the end of the song. Here Plant’s voice rises sad and plaintive, singing “and she’s buying a stairway to heaven.” All the protagonist’s attempts to restore reason to the woman have failed.
The woman is dedicated to the pursuit of luxury and money. She is completely captivated by her selfishness, and she doesn’t seem to care about the protagonist of the song, or the other figures (the little bird, the piper) who try to make her understand that money doesn’t always come with happiness.
Stairway To Heaven Lyrics Meaning: Final Thoughts
Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven might not have the deepest lyrics you’ve ever heard. They are admittedly a bit preachy and hit you over the head with something that is blatantly obvious.
But what do you expect from a band like Led Zeppelin? They wrote some amazing songs, but deep lyrics was never their forte. And that is perfectly fine!
Another song from this era that also talks about the decadence of the times (in that case, specifically in los Angeles), is The Eagles’ Hotel California. We analyze the lyrics and their meaning here.
For someone going the opposite way, i.e. from heaven down to earth, checkout our breakdown of the Iris lyrics and meaning. This hit by the Goo Goo Dolls was written for a movie in which an angel gives up his wings to be with the mortal woman he loves.