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 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, credited to Memphis Minnie and the individual members of Led Zeppelin, were partially based on the original recording. The song was recorded at a different tempo, then slowed down, explaining the “sludgy” sound, particularly on the harmonica and guitar solos. Because this song was heavily produced in the studio, it was difficult to recreate live. The band only played it a few times in the early stages of their 1975 U.S. Tour.
Led Zeppelin “When The Levee Breaks”
The song has been sampled a bunch of times but it doesn’t get much better than when The Beastie Boys and Rick Rubin put it to use it on Rhymin’ & Stealin’ which featured on The Beasties 1986 classic long player debut Licensed To Ill.