iPlayer Radio What's New?
Image for When the Levee Breaks

Listen now 30 mins

Listen in pop-out player

Last on

Mon 12 Dec 2011 16:00 BBC Radio 4

Duration:
30 minutes
First broadcast:
Monday 12 December 2011

Mark Lamarr looks at the little-known story of Memphis Minnie, known for her guitar skills, her rowdy ways and the song 'When the Levee Breaks' a musical celebration of a key moment in Blues history.

'Levee', later made famous by Led Zeppelin and Dylan, was released in 1929, long before guitars found amplification, in reference (like many blues songs of the time), to the great Mississippi flood of 1927.

The flood was a huge factor in the Migration of African Americans into what would become the great RnB and Blues towns of Detroit, Memphis & Chicago. When the Levee Breaks is its most famous telling.

Neither born in Memphis nor called Minnie, the musician who wrote and recorded it travelled that now well worn blues journey both physically and musically in the first wave of blues musicians emerging from the Delta in the late 20s.

When the Levee Breaks was one of over two hundred songs written by Minnie during her lifetime, many are blues classics. Though her story has been largely ignored when compared to Robert Johnson, Leadbelly and other Blues artists of the time.

In a journey that starts along the banks of the Mississippi in a post Katrina New Orleans and ends in the promised land of the Blues, Chicago, Mark Lamarr explores her story, the flood itself and the development of the Blues that emerged around the Great Migration.

Producer: Rob Alexander
A Pier Production for BBC Radio 4.

Broadcasts

Featured in...

  • Radio 4 On Music

    From Armstrong to Zappa - music documentaries from the Radio 4 archive.

Radio 4 on Music

Radio 4 on Music

Re-releasing music documentaries from the Radio 4 Archive.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.