A founding member of legendary rock group Led Zeppelin led a multinational group of musicians to record a new version of one of the group’s most famous songs to promote and help fund conservation organizations.
John Paul Jones, bassist and keyboardist for Led Zeppelin, and 17 other musicians from around the world re-recorded “When the Levee Breaks,” a song off the band’s untitled fourth studio album.
The song was originally written by blues musicians Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie after the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 inundated 16 million acres of land and displaced 640,000 people from Illinois to Louisiana.
The flood’s devastation caused the federal government to undertake a massive flood resilience project, the Flood Control Act of 1928. The $292 million legislation allowed the installation of levees and floodways along the Mississippi River to avoid future disasters on a similar scale. The project would cost $4.8 billion in today’s dollars.
The situation is one that federal and state officials now hope to avoid by funding upgrades that would make infrastructure more resilient to climate change effects, like increased flooding and heat damage, before it is too late to make a difference.
“It’s such an epic and powerful song both lyrically and musically,” song producer Mark Johnson told Rolling Stone. “And you feel the conviction and perseverance that the world needs to face these climate challenges together as a human race.”
Proceeds from the new version of the song will benefit Conservation International, American Rivers, World Wildlife Fund, Reverb and the Playing for Change Foundation.
The song includes guitarist Derek Trucks, drummer Stephen Perkins, harmonica player Ben Lee, singer and guitarist Susan Tedeschi, Sámi singer Elle Márjá Eira, Māori singer Mihirangi and slide guitarist Keith Secola.