Photo Credit: Kris Connor/Getty Images
The annual gala -- which was held on Dec. 2 but broadcast Dec. 26 -- honors lifetime contributions to American culture in the performing arts through tributes and performances. Each of Led Zeppelin’s members received the honor: Plant, guitarist Jimmy Page and bassist John Paul Jones. The evening’s other honorees included late-night talk show host David Letterman, blues guitarist Buddy Guy, ballerina and choreographer Natalia Makarova, and actor Dustin Hoffman.
The show concluded with an all-star tribute to the English rock band. Tears filled Plant’s red-rimmed eyes when Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart performed "Stairway to Heaven," backed by a gospel choir and rock drummer Jason Bonham, the son of Led Zeppelin's late drummer John Bonham.
"It kept building and building," Page said afterwards, "and it was epic but it was so moving."
Lenny Kravitz also performed "Whole Lotta Love," a number that had President Barack Obama, seated next to the evening’s honorees, bopping along with arm draped around the first lady.
"These guys redefined the rock-and-roll lifestyle," Obama said, to laughter from the audience. "We do not have video of this, but there was some hotel rooms trashed and mayhem all around. So it's fitting that we're doing this in a room with windows that are three inches thick -- and Secret Service all around. So, guys, just settle down."
After the concert, the Zeppelin members described their reactions to show’s climactic tribute performances in their honor. "Watching that thing unfold this evening was quite something," Plant said.
Watch the tribute below!