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When the Levee Breaks

Led Zeppelin: Best cover band ever

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“”When the Levee Breaks” by Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe McCoy

Over the horn two weeks ago I was chatting with my Mom, who lives in Louisiana near the Mississippi River delta, about impending floods. They are/were predicted to be more massive than the epic 1927 flood, when her grandfather and others living in the delta had to take boats from town to town. This got me thinking about “When the Levee Breaks” as performed by Led Zeppelin—the band must have taken that song from an American blues artist who wrote the song about the flood. Last week—while driving through Mississippi on my way to Natchez, no less—I recalled this thought when Led Zeppelin’s song came on the radio. With a little iPhone research, I discovered that sure enough, the original song, which lies in the public domain, was written by husband and wife Kansas Joe Slim and Memphis Minnie in 1929. Led Zeppelin has a copyright on its version. At right you can play the original song. See if you think Led Zeppelin should take credit for it. Also embedded is a video exhibiting other examples of the band’s covers.

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Ten examples of Led Zepplin’s plagiarism

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