Monday, April 2, 2012

When the Levees Break

After we listened to a few of the post- Katrina songs in class I had the idea that I would want to write my blog post on something similar. Not knowing where to start, I began my Google search; I found a list entitled "Top Tep Songs in Honour of Hurricane Katrina." Number nine on the list is a song called "When the levees break" by Led Zeppelin. I didn't think this could be accurate as I was 99% sure Led Zeppelin had not come out with a new song as recent as 2005. Turns out, the song was originally written in 1929 by Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie in response to the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. However, I think the significance of this confusion is the idea that the levees breaking during Katrina was not a problem the government had not thought about, or dealt with, before. This was something that, in the case of the Flood, killed hundreds of people and caused hundreds of millions of dollars of damage once before in history.

As the lyrics go, "Crying won't help, praying won't do you no good/ When the levees break, mama, you got to go." The song's lyrics also reference the contribution the Flood made to the Great Migration, as many African- Americans were forced to relocate after the flood. Leading them to mid-west cities, like Chicago.

"When you're going down south and there's no work to do/ And you're going down to Chicago"

One of the reasons I was drawn to this song is the fact that it encompasses the blues genre (the original was a blues song), the theme of man's inability to protect ourselves against nature's desctruction, and finally, the history of the Great Migration: all into one song. Making it somewhat of a mini- history lesson in 7 minutes of music.

Although the original, was not written with Katrina in mind, the themes of city placement vs. the behavior of nature are still relevant, regardless of the time. Which only goes to show that unless significant strides are made to fix errors, these "natural disasters" will only reappear some time down the line.

Heres the Zeppelin version accompanied by a Katrina slideshow: when the levees break

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