There are very few things that I enjoy about my thirty plus minute commute to work every day. BOTH. WAYS. Being the musical minded person that I am, I go absolutely insane if I dont have some sort of soundtrack to my drive, so the radio is a definite staple. One day while driving home, I happened to be listening to Q107’s afternoon show, letting Canadian music icon Kim Mitchell (of “Patio Latterns” fame) not only play music to ease the pain of gridlock, but educate his listeners as well. Listening to his show, it’s clear that Mitchell is an expert on music in more ways than one. An accomplished guitarist, singer and songwriter, his knowledge of music history is plentiful. I grew up listening to his music, since my mom loved his songs and made my brothers and I watch his videos on Muchmusic. So I guess letting him teach me something every now and then feels pretty natural. And today’s lesson happened to be one about a very well known song by one of the greatest bands of all time, Led Zeppelin, a personal favourite of mine. When a band as iconic as Zeppelin, and have influenced so many bands and artists with their own music, it’s almost hard to imagine who their influences could have been. It’s almost harder to imagine that one of their most well known songs “When the Levee Breaks”, was actually a cover ! Well, imagine no longer, because it really was.
Meet Memphis Minnie. Born at the end of the the 19th century, her career lasted over four decade. At age 13, she moved to Tenessee to play wherever she was allowed, even joining the Ringling Brothers circus for a few years. She was discovered at a Beale Street barbershop in 1929, by a Columbia Records talent scout. She recorded her first song with then husband Kansas Joe McCoy, and the rest is history. Her talent put her on the same level as her male contemporaries, something unheard of in that period of time. She was one of the first to pick up an electric guitar, and her infusion of country and blues paved the way for the likes of Muddy Waters, Bo Diddly and many others.
What I love the most about Led Zeppelin covering her song is that, in my mind, there is no manlier band than Led Zeppelin. All long hair, loud guitars and sex appeal, the fact that these guys covered a song by a historical female musician is absolutely amazing to me. Take a listen to the original, and the cover, and marvel at the wonder that is music.