"When the Levee Breaks" is a blues song written and first recorded by husband and wife Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie in 1929. The song is in reaction to the upheaval caused by the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927.
It was famously re-worked by English rock group Led Zeppelin as the last song on their fourth album, released in 1971. The lyrics in Led Zeppelin's version were partially based on the original recording. Many other artists have also recorded versions of the song or played it live.
While the Led Zeppelin version is still under copyright by the band, the original song by Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie is currently in the public domain.
The original "When the Levee Breaks" was recorded by the blues musical duo Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie. In the first half of 1927, the Great Mississippi Flood ravaged the state of Mississippi and surrounding areas. It destroyed many homes and ravaged the agricultural economy of the Mississippi Basin. Many people were forced to flee to the cities of the Midwest in search of work, contributing to the "Great Migration" of African Americans in the first half of the 20th century. During the flood and the years after it subsided,...