Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones Releases New Version Of ‘When The Levee Breaks’

John Paul Jones recorded a new version of When The Levee Breaks for the Song Around The World initiative. The former Led Zeppelin bassist received support from seventeen musicians from countries around the world. Proceeds from the song benefit various environmental organizations.

For the new version of When The Levee Breaks, Jones and the musicians were recorded in their respective home countries. These include Jane’s Addiction drummer Stephen Perkins, Sámi singer Elle Márjá Eira, Nigerian percussionist Sikiru Adepoju, and Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi of the Tedeschi Trucks Band.

The song was produced as part of the Playing for Change charity’s Song Around The World initiative. All proceeds go to various charities. Including WWF, Conservation International and American Rivers. A number of other songs were also previously recorded as part of the initiative. For example, Peter Gabriel’s “Biko” or “Colors” by the Black Pumas, together with Slash.

“When The Levee Breaks” feat. John Paul Jones

“When The Levee Breaks” gained notoriety when Led Zeppelin released a cover of the song on their 1971 album Led Zeppelin IV. The original version was recorded by Kansas Joe McCoy back in 1929. The song deals with the riot that followed the Mississippi flood of 1927. At that time, the water masses destroyed large areas of farmland, which meant that many people had to leave their homes. In the lyrics it says:

“If it keeps on rainin’, levee’s goin’ to break
When the levee breaks, I’ll have no place to stay”

“If it keeps raining like this, the dam will break
If the dam breaks, I won’t have a home anymore”

Regarding the song’s lyrics, Jones said, “It doesn’t seem to have changed much since 1927, or even 2005 and Hurricane Katrina. It’s still a powerful song, both musically and lyrically.”

The video’s producer and guitarist, Sebastian Robertson, added: “If you think of ‘When the Levee Breaks’ as a song designed to raise awareness of the issues of major environmental organizations, it really feels like a climate justice plea. The wailing guitars, harmonica and vocals create a harmony for Mother Earth.”

Meanwhile, Jones has also attracted attention in the past for his involvement in charitable causes. For example, the bassist gave a benefit concert together with Sonic Youth singer Thurston Moore in 2019. At the time, the proceeds benefited the maintenance of local radio station Resonance FM.