Former Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones has re-recorded the band’s 1971 version of ‘When the Levee Breaks’, with assistance from 17 musicians from around the world.
The video sees Jones joined by Jane’s Addiction drummer Stephen Perkins, as well as husband-and-wife duo Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi of the Tedeschi Trucks Band. The version also features Sámi vocalist Elle Márjá Eira, Māori artist Mihirangi, Congo musician Mermans Mosengo and Nigerian percussionist Sikiru Adepoju.
The rendition was recorded as part of global music non-profit Playing for Change‘s Song Around the World initiative. All money raised through the song will benefit organisations like Conservation International, American Rivers, WWF, Reverb and the Playing for Change Foundation.
Watch the intercontinental performance below:
‘When the Levee Breaks’ was first recorded by Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie in 1929, reflecting on the upheaval that followed the Great Mississippi Flood two years prior. Zeppelin’s version closes out their fourth album, 1971’s ‘Led Zeppelin IV’.
“It seems that little has changed since 1927, or even 2005 with Katrina,” Jones says of the song. “It’s still a really powerful track, both musically and lyrically.”
The video’s producer Sebastian Robertson, who also played guitar on the recording, echoed Jones’ sentiments.
“Looking at ‘When the Levee Breaks’ through the lens of producing a song to raise awareness for key environmental organisations truly felt like a plea for climate justice,” he commented. “The wailing guitars, harmonica, and vocals [are] all in harmony for Mother Earth.”
‘When the Levee Breaks’ follows a string of other collaborative performances as part of Playing for Change’s Songs Around the World series. Previous iterations have included Robertson’s father, Robbie Robertson of The Band, performing a new rendition of ‘The Weight’ featuring Ringo Starr.
Others have included Black Pumas performing their song ‘Colors’ alongside Slash, and Peter Gabriel revisiting his 1980 single ‘Biko’. As with ‘When the Levee Breaks’, all have featured a diverse range of musicians and dancers from across the globe.