Previous winners include McCartney, Elton John.

Legendary rock act Led Zeppelin and Russian conductor and artistic director Valery Gergiev were named laureates of the prestigious Polar Music Prize for 2006 yesterday (Nov. 7) in Stockholm by Ake Holmquist, chairman of both the board of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music and the prize's award committee.

The citation issued by the Academy called Led Zeppelin "one of the great pioneers of rock" and commented that the band's "playful and experimental music combined with highly eclectic elements has two essential themes: mysticism and primal energy."

Gergiev, the founder and artistic director of many international music festivals, was cited for "the way his unique, electrifying musical skills have deepened and renewed our relationship with the grand tradition; and for how he has managed to develop and amplify the importance of artistic music in these modern, changing times."

The Polar Music Prize is awarded annually based on nominations submitted by the board of the Stig Anderson Music Award Foundation, consisting of representatives from the late Anderson's family, the Swedish Society of Popular Music Composers (SKAP) and the Swedish Performing Rights Society (STIM).

His Majesty King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden will award the one million Swedish kronor ($123,023) prizes May 22 at a gala ceremony at Konserthuset, the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra's concert hall, where the annual Nobel Prize ceremony is held. It will be televised nationally in Sweden on TV4 and activities encompassing exhibitions, forums, film screenings and tribute performances throughout Stockholm will take place prior to the ceremony under the annual Polar Music Prize Week banner.

Anderson's daughter, Marie Ledin, says a distinguishing feature of the 2006 prize is that for the first time it is not only being awarded to a band, but also to "a real rock group." "It's a new era for the Polar Music Prize," Ledin said. "I don't think anyone could have guessed it would be Led Zeppelin."

Previous winners include Sir Paul McCartney, Dizzy Gillespie, Quincy Jones, Sir Elton John, Joni Mitchell, Bruce Springsteen, Ray Charles, Ravi Shankar, Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, Isaac Stern, Burt Bacharach, Robert Moog, Miriam Makeba and Keith Jarrett.