What Do the Lyrics of the Led Zeppelin Song “Kashmir” Mean?

Duh-duh-duh Duh-duh-duh-duh! You can just hear it. Those big drums, those strings. The onset of the onslaught that is the Led Zeppelin song, “Kashmir.” The song that, in the ’90s, Puff Daddy just had to take and remix into a rap tune.

Yes, it’s an imposing track. But outside of the brooding and bombastic music, what do the lyrics to the track mean? What are Robert Plant and the gang trying to tell us?

Released in 1975 for the group’s album, Physical Graffiti, the song was written over the course of three years—paused at one point when bassist John Paul Jones temporarily left the band. Penned by Plant, guitarist Jimmy Page and drummer John Bonham, the song quickly became a staple for the band during live shows. In fact, it’s a song Plant has said he wishes the band was known for, more than others like “Stairway to Heaven.”

The writing of the song began in 1973 while Plant was driving through the “waste lands” of Southern Morocco down “this dilapidated road, and there was seemingly no end to it,” Plant said. Though the song is called “Kashmir,” it does not have anything to do with the region in Northern India.

The Lyrics
“The whole deal of the song is… not grandiose, but powerful: it required some kind of epithet or abstract lyrical setting about the whole idea of life being an adventure and being a series of illuminated moments,” Plant said of the lyrical meaning.

The lyrics themselves highlight time travel, celestial bodies and even reference the occult, something Page fancied. Plant begins the song,

Oh, let the sun beat down upon my face
And stars fill my dream
I’m a traveler of both time and space
To be where I have been
To sit with elders of the gentle race
This world has seldom seen
They talk of days for which they sit and wait
All will be revealed

Talk in song from tongues of lilting grace
Sounds caress my ear
And not a word I heard could I relate
The story was quite clear

The whole song feels like a sun-soaked daydream, a primordial scream as much as a modern work of art. Sings Plant in more of the song’s verses,

Oh, pilot of the storm who leaves no trace
Like sorts inside a dream
Leave the path that led me to that place
Yellow desert stream
My shangri la beneath the summer moon
I will return again
As the dust that floats high in June
We’re moving through Kashmir

Oh, father of the four winds fill my sails
Cross the sea of years
With no provision but an open face
Along the straits of fear
Oh, when I want, when I’m on my way, yeah
And my feet wear my fickle way to stay

As Plant said of his band’s beloved song, It’s “not grandiose, but powerful.” And he’s totally right. It’s a specific line to walk, but, as we can hear, an effective one.

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