Deborah Frost
June 04, 1993 AT 04:00 AM EDT

His former band Led Zeppelin may be responsible for most of the power chords and perm jobs on this planet, but at 44, the song of rock-god prototype Robert Plant hasn’t remained the same. Where the legendarily debauched Zeppelin set standards for raping the world, Plant’s just-released sixth solo album, Fate of Nations, showcases a kinder, gentler, and more articulate Plant. Perhaps its most deeply emotional moment is ”I Believe,” which mourns the death of his son in 1977 from a stomach infection, something he has never publicly referred to and is still reluctant to discuss. ”Ultimately, you have to stand back up, gather everything around you that has the intimation of love, and keep moving along,” says Plant, who now has a 20-month-old son. ”I’m just trying to say, no matter what, there’s hope.”

What’s his take on the state of the genre he helped create? ”The commercial requirements of hard rock now seem more important than the music,” says Plant from his home in England, where he’s rehearsing for a European tour with Lenny Kravitz, the Black Crowes, and Def Leppard. ”The artists no longer know whether they’re expressing themselves or the will of the corporate quarterly reports.”

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