The song ― originally recorded by Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie nearly a century ago to commemorate the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 ― was the closing track of Zeppelin’s untitled 1971 album, aka “Led Zeppelin IV.”
Along with Jones, the new version features Stephen Perkins of Jane’s Addiction, Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks, along with more than a dozen musicians from seven nations playing remotely:
“Looking at ‘When The Levee Breaks’ through the lens of producing a song to raise awareness for key environmental organizations truly felt like a plea for climate justice,” Sebastian Robertson, who plays on the track and co-produced it, told Rolling Stone. “The wailing guitars, harmonica, and vocals all in harmony for Mother Earth.”
Playing for Change said proceeds will benefit organizations that promote environmental justice and sustainability including Conservation International, American Rivers, World Wildlife Fund, REVERB and the Playing for Change Foundation.
“It seems that little has changed since 1927, or even 2005 with Katrina. It’s still a really powerful track, both musically and lyrically,” Jones said in a statement released by Playing for Change.
The track also features Alfredo Arce (siku flute), Ben Lee (harmonica), Buffalo Nichols (vocals and guitar), Davey Chegwidden (dundun drums), Drums of the Pacific (dancing and log drums), Elle Márjá Eira (vocals), Jason Tamba (banjo), Keith Secola (slide guitar), Mermans Mosengo (harmonica), Mihirangi (vocals), Nakeiltha Campbell (dundun drums), Pete Sands (acoustic guitar) and Sikiru Adepoju (talking drum).
Check out Playing for Change’s past efforts on the organization’s YouTube channel.