Led Zeppelin wins Polar Prize

British hard rockers Led Zeppelin have won the prize dubbed the “Nobel Prize for Music” – the Polar Music Prize.

The group, which in its 1970s heyday was almost as well-known as for its members’ off-stage rock’n’roll excess as it was for its music, was described in the judges’ citation as “one of the great pioneers of rock.”

Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf will present the group with the award at a ceremony in the Stockholm Concert Hall next May. Led Zeppelin will share the prize with Russian conductor Valery Gergiev, whose work was said by the award committee to have “renewed our relationship with the grand tradition.”

Led Zeppelin is perhaps best-known for its hit song Stairway to Heaven, although the band was characterised by the diversity of its material and its innovative approach. The group has sold more than 300 million albums worldwide, and remains popular today.

The band split in 1980 after the death of drummer John Bonham, although the surviving members have performed together occasionally since then, including at the 1985 Live Aid concert in New York. The band won the 2005 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Led Zeppelin is sharing the Polar Music Prize with a man from a very different musical background. Valery Gergiev was appointed earlier this year as conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, and is known for his love of melodrama. He is also renowned for a tendency to grunt while conducting.

Gergiev will perform Schostakovich’s 11th Symphony together with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, on the day of the prize ceremony.

The Polar Music Prize was founded in 1989 by the late Stig Anderson, Abba’s legendary manager. Previous winner include Sir Elton John, Dizzy Gillespie, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, B.B. King and Sir Paul McCartney.