Song of the Day: When the Levee Breaks (by Led Zeppelin)


Who would’ve thought that Ben Affleck, the same guy who was in one of the most ridiculous romantic scenes ever put on film (hint: animal crackers), would be turning out to be one of the brightest directors these last few years. He hasn’t missed yet with two directing gigs with Gone, Baby Gone and The Town. With Argo he makes it three solid hits in a row.

One thing that really struck me about the film Argo was Affleck’s use of licensed music to cue up particularly important scenes throughout the film. One such musical cue used one of my favorite rock and blues song ever. It’s Led Zeppelin’s cover of the Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe McCoy song of the same name. Most young people seem to know this song from it’s constant use to score scenes and sequences about the Katrina disaster, especially scenes of a flooded New Orleans when the levees broke during the hurricane. It was nice to hear the song used in a scene not dealing with the aftermath of Katrina but to highlight the mental situation of the characters in Argo. I won’t say which scene exactly, but for those who have seen the film will know what I mean and the lyrics to the song should become even more weighty once they put two and two together.

I really love this song. From the use of harmonicas by John Paul Jones (and probably another sessions player) to Robert Plant’s emotional wailing right up to one of the best drum work by the great John Bonham. You can almost literally feel those drum sticks drop heavy on those drums. One would almost think Bonham was using tree trunks to play this song.

When the Levee Breaks

If it keeps on rainin’ levee’s goin’ to break
If it keeps on rainin’ levee’s goin’ to break
When The Levee Breaks I’ll have no place to stay.

Mean old levee taught me to weep and moan
Lord, mean old levee taught me to weep and moan
Got what it takes to make a mountain man leave his home
Oh well oh well oh well.

Don’t it make you feel bad
When you’re tryin’ to find your way home
You don’t know which way to go?
If you’re goin’ down South
They go no work to do
If you don’t know about Chicago.

Cryin’ won’t help you prayin’ won’t do you no good
Now cryin’ won’t help you prayin won’t do you no good
When the levee breaks mama you got to move.

All last night sat on the levee and moaned
All last night sat on the levee and moaned
Thinkin bout me baby and my happy home.
Going go n to Chicago
Go n to Chicago
Sorry but I can’t take you.
Going down going down now going down.

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3 responses to “Song of the Day: When the Levee Breaks (by Led Zeppelin)

  1. My personal favorite Zeppeling song, among many notable contenders for the honor. Dark, oppressive, immovable, with just a dash of Delta blues to “liven up” the proceedings. Cryin’ won’t help ya, prayin’ won’t do ya no good — the hammer of the gods, indeed.

    • This song is why I always tell people that Led Zeppelin is what I like to call proto-metal. Black Sabbath really invented what would become metal, but Led Zeppelin had a heaviness to their music when they wanted it there. Bonham’s drum work sounds soooo heavy despite his playing being laid back.

      • Agreed, Zeppelin could be downright oppressive at times — and I mean that in the best possible way. This song really set the stage for “Presence,” which I feel to be their “heaviest” overall album.

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