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Led Zeppelin — When The Levee Breaks
Album: Led Zeppelin IV
Avg rating:
8.6

Your rating:
Total ratings: 4633









Released: 1971
Length: 7:04
Plays (last 30 days): 3
If it keeps on rainin', levee's going to break
If it keeps on rainin', levee's going to break
And when the levee breaks, have no place to stay

Mean old levee, taught me to weep and moan, moan
Mean old levee, taught me to weep and moan
It's got what it takes to make a mountain man leave his home
Oh, well, oh, well, oh, well-a, ooh-ooh

A-don't it make ya 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 and there's no work to do
Then ya go north to Chicago, aaah, aaah, aaah, hey

Cryin' won't help ya, prayin' won't do ya no good, no
Cryin' won't help ya, prayin' won't do ya no good
A-when the levee breaks, mama, you got to move, a-woo-hoo

All last night, I sat on the levee and moaned
All last night, sat on the levee and moaned
Thinkin' 'bout my baby and my happy home, oh-hoh

Ah-ah-ah, ah-ah-ah, ah-ah-ah, ha
Ah-ah-ah, ah-ah-ah, ah-ah-ah, ha
Oh, oh
Goin', I'm goin' to Chicago, goin' to Chicago
Sorry, but I can't take you
Goin' down, goin' down, now, goin' down, a-goin' down, now
Goin' down, goin' down, goin' down, goin' down, yeahh

Goin' down, goin' down, now, goin' down, goin' down, now
Goin' down, goin' down, now, goin' down
Goin' down, down, down, down, down
Ooh-woo-ooh, ooh-woo-ooh
Comments (466)add comment
Top 10 of the desert island list. 
 Greyerwrit wrote:
I contend that this was written by people who weren't sober, for people who weren't sober.  
 
I can't speak about those who wrote the song, but I'll give you that this cover version was made by people who weren't sober for people who weren't sober.
What a stomping good tune from the Mighty Zep
appropriate for this south Florida day, we have about 4 days of rain in the forecast loving it sure knocks the temperature down
This song was written and performed by Memphis Minnie & Kansas Joe McCoy in 1929. It was about the Great Mississippi Flood  in 192 6,
Feelin' Alright, Rip It Up, Pressure Drop and When the Levee Breaks.
Four songs in a row from the canon.
Thanks Bill
Who plays the harp on this one? Plant?
Perfect to hear in this very moment - thank you RP!
Minority opinion here: couldn’t stand them then, and can’t stand them now. LZ is one of the few groups that induce me to lurch toward my music playing device to turn it off.
You can compare Led Zeppelin with any other band. What for!?!
 Spiderwoman wrote:
8 Most Excellent
9 Outstanding
10 Godlike
11 Spinal Tap
 
My name is cosmiclint and I endorse this proposed change to the RP ratings system.
This band seems pretty good but let's see if anyone is still listening to this in 50 years. 
definition of rock by a British band. Pity they played in USA mostly but can’t blame them
One of the greatest Songs of all time 😍
8 Most Excellent
9 Outstanding
10 Godlike
11 Spinal Tap
 cbrandtbuffalo wrote:

And now we know the identity of the guy with the sticks!

https://www.npr.org/2023/11/09...



What a great find, thanks for sharing!!
CLASSIC! Forever reminds me of one day in summer of '79, when me and Richard G, R.I.P., were sitting parked in my mean green '70 Cutlass at the Lane Street Turnaround, smoking a giant White-Owl doobie and jamming this song, this album, on 8-track tape, volume cranked, windows down...right before we snuck onto a long straightaway of the not-yet-finished highway, where the beast pegged the speedo and then some...
 wwgordon wrote:

The older I get, the more extraordanary Zepplelin's songwriting becomes.



Ummm.....they did not write this
And now we know the identity of the guy with the sticks!

https://www.npr.org/2023/11/09...
Even the harmonica on this song takes no prisoners and wallops one in the head.  It does not get any more rock n' roll than this. 
Fabulous track  which neds to be played at maximum voloume.
dickmahoon wrote:
Could '71 be the best year for rock music ever?

 lizardking wrote:

I was wondering the same recently, 69, 70, 71 all great, hard to pick just one.

Long Live RP and all the great music created before I was!!

My 2nd reply now, and this is a thought that's been rolling around in my skull for a coupla years now:  If I had to choose my favorite span of 7 consecutive years of all musicalrecordings, it would probably be 1967 thru 1973.

Lots great albums including this one!!

LLRP 
Blast those amps apart Jimi👍
every time I listen, really listen to this - my mind is blown
Plant and Page.  Both so gorgeous and I never knew which one to look at.
Man,it doesn’t come better than Zep.
led zep IV, my first led zep albumf
 rpdevotee wrote:

I think this may arguably be the best rock and roll song of all time...anyone else feel the same way?  An 8.6 RP listener rating says a lot.



An argument could be made that this is THE most 'rock'n'roll" song ever.

Allow me... Rock has as its origin, southern blues music. This has been historically documented. Whether you want to call it cultural appropriation, plagiarism, or creative expansion -what you can't debate is rock'n'roll is a different genre of music. The blues elements still remain ever present, but the heavier overtones, vocal delivery, and aggressive drumming create a musical expression all its own.

As a song, WTLB was originally written and recorded by Memphis Minnie and Kansas City Joe as blues ditty -see below (credit was given on the record). LZ took that ditty and rockified it. The most sampled drum beat of all time by maybe the heaviest drummer of all time. The god  tier guitar work on bass and lead. The scream song vocal delivery -a vocal range seldom matched in pop music to this day- adding even more gravitas. All of this add together to create a song that blows the roof off the building -and right or wrong- obliterates the songs origins into a new a powerful rendition. Ladies and gentlemen -Rock'n'Roll.

Critique the events, outcomes, and the motives all you want. Healthy debate elevates us all and adds to the flavor. Either way, Rock'n'roll is what it is and I am here for all of it! I, for one, will rate this as a 10 and turn it up to 11.
 lynn01 wrote:

I was just wondering where all that good Led Zep was that I used to hear more frequently here... thank you (you can play that one too...).



I saw what you did there. 
Great idea, and i 'Thank You' for that 
I was just wondering where all that good Led Zep was that I used to hear more frequently here... thank you (you can play that one too...).
If there was ever a song that has ALWAYS tested the volume limit of whatever player of mine its on this is it. Good lord what a powerhouse. 
Miharangi kills Plant on "Song around the World/When the levee breaks." Just saying like,.
 dickmahoon wrote:

Could '71 be the best year for rock music ever?




I saw LZ in September '71 at Madison Square garden, a month before this album was released. Great show! '71 was a good year! I'm 67yrs old.There is a lot of great music being produced NOW! Keep an open mind. RP is a great place to discover new music.  Thank You RP!!  
 NeuroJoe wrote:


Behold the next generation. There is still hope for RnR into the future. 

Pigtail had written "The most awesome drummer of all time!"
Great drummer but what about Ginger Baker, Keith Moon, Charlie Watts..

I saw Ginger Baker play with Cream in 1967 and with GB's Jazz Confusion shortly before he died, and he was a drum genius. IMHO the most awesome but everyone is entitled to their own opinion.
 rpdevotee wrote:

I think this may arguably be the best rock and roll song of all time...anyone else feel the same way?  An 8.6 RP listener rating says a lot.



It's a great song - the "Best" not even close - sorry - you must have bought Licensed To Ill before you heard this.
 pigtail wrote:


The most awesome drummer of all time!


Behold the next generation. There is still hope for RnR into the future. 
is there a song with a higher rating?
"Cryin' won't help you, prayin' won't do you no good".  Just turn this one up loud and let it roll over you like the locomotive it is.
For comparison and conversation. 

Memphis Minne - When the Leave Breaks
 dickmahoon wrote:

Could '71 be the best year for rock music ever?


I was wondering the same recently, 69, 70, 71 all great, hard to pick just one.

Long Live RP and all the great music created before I was!!
So good.
I wouldn't want to be tasked with picking the Top 10 Zep songs (too difficult!), or even my personal top 10 Zep faves, but this puppy is definitely gonna be on my list.
Actually a country blues tune written by & first recorded by Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie in 1929. Google it. Real interesting, as to how Led Zeppelin recorded the drums for this tune!
ICONIC!!!
Just reading through the Wikipedia entry gives you an idea of how incredible this band was. I've always known that, following them from the start really. Such a shame it had to end so abruptly, I often wonder what else they would have given us. Still, what an amazing legacy to leave behind. 
Could '71 be the best year for rock music ever?
I REMEMBER IT LIKE YESTERDAY that my buddy Richard G. (rest his too-early departed rocking soul) and I had this 8-track plugged in tight to the AudioVox deck in my '70 Cutlass for hours at a time one magical summer of '79 day as we cruised all around, scored beer and whiskey sour supplies, then stopped in the Park to toss the 'Frizz, toke weed, drink, and socialize. It was just about the most perfect day of our lives. The mesmerizing power of the music on this album should never be underestimated, especially with any kind of buzz on!
 lizardking wrote:

9 to 10 today (finally!) - I find hearing this one makes me wish I was alive back in the day, getting to buy this album on day 1, wearing it out within a week or so and buying it again....Long Live RP!!


I remember seeing this LP at the local discount store and trying to guess who it was. It wasn't till later that I heard the album. Takes me back...
Robert, Jimmy, John Paul and John Bonham! rip

Saw LZ Feb 1975 at Philly Spectrum. What a show! 

Anymore need said?!
This song's been sampled so many times it wasn't until the guitar kicks in that I knew which song it was. The original. Well, not really. They stole it from Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie. Life is complicated.
 Skydog wrote:


Kashmir was boring?  What?
THIS WAS ONE OF THOSE TAPES that we would just put in and leave there, as long as the vibe could be carried...and it, like Floyd's DSOTM, commanded such reverence that no one dared speak until it was over... Whether in my '70 Cutlass, in my buddy's Camaro, or at whomever's house -- no matter where we were, this thing was never played at anything less than maximum volume -- and it never failed to blow our freakin' minds.
 LawrenceSheppard wrote:

Would have been a lot better at half the duration. After a while it loses its luster ...



I contend that this was written by people who weren't sober, for people who weren't sober.  
Hypnotic and completely absorbing
 smousourakis wrote:


"I am a golden god..." 
The 10 of all tens .... the drumpart is not of this world.
4 musical geniuses / together they formed a most brilliant alchemy  !
 GregX59 wrote:

AC - I hear ya. Everything sounds like it's whining. The singer, the guitar, it's all whining. Grates on my nerves...

(dated 18 years ago)

Your ears were busted 18 years ago, probably still are. 
bash them drums Bonzo
Probably the best movie soundtrack moment of my life: This at the end of The Big Short.
 B16 wrote:
clear 10, no doubt about it, rock at it's best
 
I did consider giving it a 10--but I only have about 5 left to hand out before I die. 
 rushfan wrote:
I know it's probably just my generation, but whenever I hear the first few notes, I'm excited for some Beastie Boys Rhymin and Stealin.  (Yes I like this song too).  Just me? 
 

I believe the beasties sampled it
I saw Ben Harper and Charlie Musslewhite cover this at the Beacon Theater a few years back.  It was the 1st encore and it brought the house down!
 dandueck07 wrote:
I love Led Zeppelin now even more than I did in my "reckless youth" when they were a current band.  And who knew then that they were actually composing a climate change song 
 
Actually, LZ are not composers of the song. They even gave the credit to Memphis Minnie aka Lizzie Douglas. See wikipedia article. 
This was a nice suprise. MOAR.
Mean 'ol levee taught me to weep and moan...oh well, oh well, oh well. Guess I'll go on down to Chi-ca-go. 
I know it's probably just my generation, but whenever I hear the first few notes, I'm excited for some Beastie Boys Rhymin and Stealin.  (Yes I like this song too).  Just me? 
John Paul Jones nails the bass line to the floor.  Love it.
I saw them on September 3rd, 1971 at Madison Square Garden in NYC. It was just before this album was released. When they did "Black Dog" which nobody had heard before, the crowd went entirely crazy!
Smoldering rock classic....No doubt  a "10" Godlike!
This is an awesome,solid 10 🥳
9 to 10 today (finally!) - I find hearing this one makes me wish I was alive back in the day, getting to buy this album on day 1, wearing it out within a week or so and buying it again....Long Live RP!!
I love Led Zeppelin now even more than I did in my "reckless youth" when they were a current band.  And who knew then that they were actually composing a climate change song 
 Jimi_the_Saint wrote:
Cruithne3753 wrote:
I wonder if anyone has ever thought of sampling it?
Beastie Boys used it - got sued for it.
 

They didn't though. Somewhere I saw Page was quoted on why they didn't sue saying something to the effect of 'I guess we took it as a compliment.'

Maybe you're thinking of ACDC suing them. Or someone else. I imagine they got sued quite a bit as they came up during the wild west days of hip hop sampling without even trying to clear anything.
 johnalexford wrote:
Anyone heard of a young Michigan band called "Greta Van Fleet"? I heard them for the first time and I swear I was hearing LZ play, with Plant on vocals. HIGHLY impressive!
 

I had, with the writer blaming them of stealing the Zep's sound and songwriting.

I don't know, It's not like the Zep weren't borrowing themselves...

It's all sounds at the end of the day
What would Hip Hop do without those bangin' drums in the intro?
 Tippster wrote:
The freight train through molasses drum beat, JPJ's redonkulous bottom melodic line.  Page stepping back and just crushing riffs... and that harp... omg... LZ does not get better than this.

One that deserves an 11.
 
Amen!
Boom! Splat! Whap!  Turn it up to 11 folks!
  
Long Live  Radio Paradise
My rating  stays  at 8     
The freight train through molasses drum beat, JPJ's redonkulous bottom melodic line.  Page stepping back and just crushing riffs... and that harp... omg... LZ does not get better than this.

One that deserves an 11.
 x 1000
If you didn't get to hear this played over the PA system in your school basketball court/auditorium turned up to 11 during a festival dance, I pity you.
clear 10, no doubt about it, rock at it's best
 hayduke2 wrote:
47 year old album and it still rocks!  
{#Notworthy}
 

 hayduke2 wrote:

{#Notworthy}
 

The most awesome drummer of all time!
It seems that each one had a song that show cased their individual talent. To me this song was Bonham's.  
Second 10 in a row. Today is a good day.
Thank you RP for keeping Zep an on-going thread in your playlist (as well as my beloved Robert's newer stuff). Best rock band ever.
Go Bonzo!
Incredible song
Considering 9..  not yet

Staying at 8
 agkagk wrote:
10/10 on the ratings scale. Godlike music.
10/10 on the volume control. God help my eardrums!

still true ^^


 

 arserocket wrote:
Just trying to imagine the Allman Brothers knockin this out in a weird heady blurring of southern rock - what a time to live through
 
Or how about Zep doing a thunderous version of "One Way Out"?
Just trying to imagine the Allman Brothers knockin this out in a weird heady blurring of southern rock - what a time to live through
 pvg44 wrote:
I'm a mild Led Zeppelin fan, but this song is outstanding. 

 

Agreed on both accounts...really enjoyed this track.  A little before my time but great stuff!
I was 13 when this was released. . . but I did not experience it until a year or so later.

It still has to be one of my desert island disks. 

Outstanding.   
To me 8 - Most Excellent  TY both
 rpdevotee wrote:
I think this may arguably be the best rock and roll song of all time...anyone else feel the same way?  An 8.6 RP listener rating says a lot.

 
This is what you get when all the elements of an artists' creation join to render more than just a song. It's pure magic. Genius earns a 10 every time!
Anyone heard of a young Michigan band called "Greta Van Fleet"? I heard them for the first time and I swear I was hearing LZ play, with Plant on vocals. HIGHLY impressive!
I think this may arguably be the best rock and roll song of all time...anyone else feel the same way?  An 8.6 RP listener rating says a lot.
I'm a mild Led Zeppelin fan, but this song is outstanding. 
 Spiderwoman wrote:
I'm incapable of listening to this at any other volume than CRANKED UP. Problem? Nope.

 
Agreed. This one really benefits from the upcrank
11 !
I'm incapable of listening to this at any other volume than CRANKED UP. Problem? Nope.
The 1 rating must be from Kansas Joe McCoy. I get that.
 clickfaster wrote:
John Bonham

 
{#Notworthy}
U huh.
Take no prisoners!
A lot of Zeppelin I just find overbearing and I'm pretty selective with what actually resonates with me.
This one is pretty beyond reproach.
'K, please forgive me, but at the first bar, I was hoping this would actually be "Rhymin' 'n' Stealin'" by the Beastie Boys.
Led Zep is awesome, but we could use a little variety...
This is THE ultimate crank up your crappy car stereo song (well for me anyway). {#Bananajam}{#Dancingbanana_2}{#Guitarist}
"Cryin' won't help ya, prayin' won't do ya no good, no
Cryin' won't help ya, prayin' won't do ya no good"

Hmmm.....you'd think he was singin' about the current state of our unhinged politics in this country (USA) wouldn't'cha?  Heh!

So it goes. 

Highlow
American Net'Zen
 kcar wrote:
 

The artists who didn't get any recognition or royalties from Led Zep cared. This LZ song was adapted from a blues song written in 1929; Columbia Records recorded and distributed it.  This was not a matter of a British group making a new song from uncopyrighted "folk tunes." LZ credited one of the original songwriters but I don't know if her estate got any money from the band. 

 
The issue with Zeppelin was NOT that they played old blues tunes or any sort of cultural appropriation issue. The issue with Jimmy Page is  the wholesale thievery of other artists arrangements without credit.
Page, and his lawyer(s) took the "fuck em, let em sue us" approach to doing business and the chickens have come home to roost. 
 Zedediah wrote:

All blues are basically the same 3 or 4 songs. Blues artists do there own thing with them.

Was anyone really thinking these Brits were intimately familiar with Mississippi flooding and dislocation? Of course it's 'cultural appropriation'. If you're going to whine about it, you never get to eat a slice of American pizza again or risk being verbally tortured as a hypocrite.



 
"All blues are basically the same 3 or 4 songs."

Only if you've been living in a closet in a Walmart all your life...

 Meltz wrote:

Someone said stealing us the best form of flattery. Brahms stole from Beethoven, Copeland and Bartok borrowed folk tunes left and right. John Lennon from who knows.....In the end who gives a flying fortress? It's about the pleasure factor. 

  

The artists who didn't get any recognition or royalties from Led Zep cared. This LZ song was adapted from a blues song written in 1929; Columbia Records recorded and distributed it.  This was not a matter of a British group making a new song from uncopyrighted "folk tunes." LZ credited one of the original songwriters but I don't know if her estate got any money from the band. 
It gave me shivers before it even started
Great choice for a Sunday night! I'm going to turn the volume up to 11!
I remember when I had this on 8 track.  Lived in this shitty old frame house, holes in the drywall and crappy kitchen.  I had this sears a roebuck 8 track player mom got me for christmas and used to just crank the living shit out of this.  Maybe 14 years old.  The best of days.