When the Levee Breaks
Memphis Minnie Lyrics


Jump to: Overall Meaning ↴  Line by Line Meaning ↴

If it keeps on rainin', levee's goin' to break
If it keeps on rainin', levee's goin' to break
And the water gonna come in, have no place to stay

Well all last night I sat on the levee and moan
Well all last night I sat on the levee and moan
Thinkin' 'bout my baby and my happy home
If it keeps on rainin', levee's goin' to break
If it keeps on rainin', levee's goin' to break
And all these people have no place to stay

Now look here mama what am I to do
Now look here mama what am I to do
I ain't got nobody to tell my troubles to

I works on the levee mama both night and day
I works on the levee mama both night and day
I ain't got nobody, keep the water away

Oh cryin' won't help you, prayin' won't do no good
Oh cryin' won't help you, prayin' won't do no good
When the levee breaks, mama, you got to lose

I works on the levee, mama both night and day
I works on the levee, mama both night and day
I works so hard, to keep the water away

I had a woman, she wouldn't do for me
I had a woman, she wouldn't do for me
I'm goin' back to my used to be

I's a mean old levee, cause me to weep and moan




I's a mean old levee, cause me to weep and moan
Gonna leave my baby, and my happy home

Overall Meaning

In "When the Levee Breaks," Memphis Minnie laments the potential destruction of the levee. The song is about the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, which resulted in significant losses of life and property. Despite the evident danger, the singer still sits on the levee, thinking about her baby and happy home. The lyrics express the helplessness of those who depend on the levees to safeguard their homes and lives.


The phrase "when the levee breaks" is also used metaphorically to depict a situation where everything falls apart, and there's no returning. After all, the levee is like the last line of defense of many people's homes and life around the Mississippi River. The phrase has been used in many songs, including Led Zeppelin's "When the Levee Breaks."


The song is an expression of the blues style of music popularized by Memphis Minnie. She was a renowned blues artist and guitarist in the 1920s and 30s. Her music was often a feminist manifesto, and she refused to bow to the social norms of the time. She was one of the few female musicians who could make a decent living from the blues genre.


Line by Line Meaning

If it keeps on rainin', levee's goin' to break
The continued heavy rains will eventually cause the levee to break


And the water gonna come in, have no place to stay
The floodwaters will inundate the land and displace people


Well all last night I sat on the levee and moan
The singer spent the entire night on the levee, expressing sorrow and grief


Thinkin' 'bout my baby and my happy home
The artist is reminiscing about the joys of family life that are threatened by the flood


And all these people have no place to stay
The flood has caused widespread displacement and homelessness among the people affected


Now look here mama what am I to do
The singer is expressing helplessness and seeking guidance from a parental figure


I ain't got nobody to tell my troubles to
The singer is feeling isolated and alone in their suffering


I works on the levee mama both night and day
The artist is employed in efforts to prevent the levee from breaking


I ain't got nobody, keep the water away
The artist lacks the assistance needed to effectively prevent flooding


Oh cryin' won't help you, prayin' won't do no good
Mourning and prayer will not prevent the inevitable flooding and destruction


When the levee breaks, mama, you got to lose
When the levee breaks, there will be significant losses and devastation


I works so hard, to keep the water away
The artist is working tirelessly to prevent flooding, despite the odds being stacked against them


I had a woman, she wouldn't do for me
The singer had a romantic partner who was unsupportive or unhelpful


I'm goin' back to my used to be
The singer is considering returning to a previous romantic partner or a simpler time in their life


I's a mean old levee, cause me to weep and moan
The singer is personifying the levee as cruel and the cause of their sadness and suffering


Gonna leave my baby, and my happy home
The flood will force the artist to abandon their family and the stability of their previous life




Lyrics © Warner Chappell Music, Inc.
Written by: Joe McCoy

Lyrics Licensed & Provided by LyricFind
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Most interesting comments from YouTube:

@jeffsanders663

Long winded thing here as I'm a little high right now, but, hopefully, intelligent:
When I 1st got into Led Zeppelin, in 1982, I called them a heavy metal band.
Fast forward, 1988, I went to a concert of The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Who. I went to see The Who, but when I saw SRV, that was the moment I fell in love with blues.
I play guitar a bit, then, and now, and started playing blues.
I listened to nothing but blues for the next couple of years.
I realized that rock music is a child of blues. Both have that classic 3 chord progression; G C D, C F G,
E A B, etc.
I then started re-listening to Led Zeppelin and realized they were never a heavy metal band, rather, a blues band.
After having the education I have of blues, I'm MUCH more appreciative of LZ.
There are a few versions of this song, authorship is disputed.
I never would have known of this songs existence, or, the subject matter.
Blues music tells of many things, history being one.
For those who love history, look into why this song was made.
For those into blues, look into ALL the different versions, and evolutions, of this song.
Both have equal appeal!

Sorry for the long rant, but, I'm a bit high right now.
Stay safe!



@drjukebox

People talking 'bout Katrina. Katrina was bad. But the flood in 1927...:
640000 people in the Mississippi delta were affected
200000 African-Americans had to live a long time in relief camps
many went north and left the delta for good
145 levee breaks
26,000 square miles inundated
the river was 60 miles wide near Memphis
businessmen in New Orleans decided to blow up the lower levees to save the town
this didnt work but they did set Plaquemine and Saint Bernard under water
Took four months for the river to subside



@luvit5150

If it keeps on rainin', levee's goin' to break
If it keeps on rainin', levee's goin' to break
And the water gonna come in, have no place to stay
Well all last night I sat on the levee and moan
Well all last night I sat on the levee and moan
Thinkin' 'bout my baby and my happy home
If it keeps on rainin', levee's goin' to break
If it keeps on rainin', levee's goin' to break
And all these people have no place to stay
Now look here mama what am I to do
Now look here mama what am I to do
I ain't got nobody to tell my troubles to
I works on the levee mama both night and day
I works on the levee mama both night and day
I ain't got nobody, keep the water away
Oh cryin' won't help you, prayin' won't do no good
Oh cryin' won't help you, prayin' won't do no good
When the levee breaks, mama, you got to lose
I works on the levee, mama both night and day
I works on the levee, mama both night and day
I works so hard, to keep the water away
I had a woman, she wouldn't do for me
I had a woman, she wouldn't do for me
I'm goin' back to my used to be
I's a mean old levee, cause me to weep and moan
I's a mean old levee, cause me to weep and moan
Gonna leave my baby, and my happy home
Source: Musixmatch



@thehiphopprophet

If it keeps on rainin', levee's goin' to break
If it keeps on rainin', levee's goin' to break
And the water gonna come in and we'll have no place to stay


Well all last night I sat on the levee and moaned
Well all last night I sat on the levee and moaned
Thinkin' 'bout my baby and my happy home


If it keeps on rainin' levee's goin' to break
If it keeps on rainin' levee's goin' to break
And all these people will have no place to stay


Now look here mama what am I to do?
Now look here mama what am I, I to do?
I ain't got nobody to tell my troubles to


I worked on the levee mama both night and day
I worked on the levee mama both night and day
I ain't got nobody to keep the water away


Oh cryin' won't help you, prayin' won't do no good
Oh cryin' won't help you, prayin' won't do no good
When that levee breaks mama, you got to lose


I work on the levee mama both night and day
I work on the levee mama both night and day
I work so hard to keep the water away


I had a woman, she wouldn't do for me
I had a woman, she wouldn't do for me
I'm going back to my used to be


Oh mean old levee caused me to weep and moan
Yeah the mean old levee caused me to weep and moan
Told me leave my baby and my happy home

Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie wrote one of the best songs ever penned



All comments from YouTube:

@doodlebobbeh8836

This song is almost 100 years old and somehow still slaps today

@burpie3258

Hellz yeah

@Spiritof_76

That's what it does? It slaps?

@CaptainTrips560

@@Spiritof_76yes

@Spiritof_76

@@CaptainTrips560 I hate to ask, but what is it slapping?

@gl0ry07

​@@Spiritof_76goes hard

7 More Replies...

@michaelmelling9333

Way cool that technology allows us to hear with such clarity a song from so very long ago.

@jeffsanders663

Yeah!
Almost 100 years ago!

@AndrewLale

You think 1929 is 'so very long ago'. That's pretty funny. My dad was born in 1932.

@mitchleigh9588

My dad was born in 1908. He was 58 when I was born

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