Rainy Day Blues: 10 Blues Songs About Rain and Floods
After five dry winters in California, we are experiencing heavy rains and flooding. While the water is very welcome, it's side-effects are not always pleasant. We have flooding and levee breaches, downed trees, mud-slides and sink holes.
All this rain is giving me the blues. I started thinking of songs about rain and floods. When I think of some of the floods I've heard about, like when the Mississippi River flooded in 1927, I realize that we really don't have that much to complain about.
In songs, rain and flooding are also used as symbols for the human emotions of love and loss.
Texas Flood – Stevie Ray Vaughan
Stevie Ray Vaughan was born in Dallas Texas in 1954. Many regard him as one of the most influential electric guitarists who ever lived. He contributed greatly to the blues revival of the 1980s. Despite a career cut short by his premature death at the age of 35, his legacy lives on.
is the first studio album by Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble. It was released on June 13, 1983. This, the title track, was a cover of a song written and first recorded by Larry Davis in 1958. Texas Flood
Many other artists have recorded "Texas Flood", including guitarist Fenton Robinson (who played with Larry Davis on his original recording), Buddy Guy and Willie Nelson. Albert King reworked the song and called it "Flooding in California."
Feels Like Rain – Buddy Guy
Chicago blues man, Buddy Guy, was born in Lettsworth, Louisiana on July 30, 1936. A tremendous influence on blues rock artists like Jimi Hendrix, and Stevie Stevie Ray Vaughan, Guy was ranked 30th in Rolling Stone magazine's 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. Eric Clapton once described him as "the best guitar player alive."
"Feels Like Rain" is his eighth studio album, released in 1993. This is the title track, written by John Hiatt.
Feels Like Rain
Louisiana 1927 – Marcia Ball
Randy Newman wrote and recorded "Louisiana 1927," in 1974. It tells the tale of the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. That was a flood of almost biblical proportions; it left 246 people dead and 700,000 homeless in Louisiana and Mississippi. The great Aaron Neville covered it in 1991.
This performance was recorded on the Delbert Mclinton Sandy Beaches Cruise. There is some talking at the beginning of the video; if you want to skip it, the music starts at about 1:20.
Rainy Night In Georgia – Tony Joe White / Brook Benton
Tony Joe White wrote "Rainy Night in Georgia" in 1967. Most people know him better for another song he wrote, and recorded. That song is "Polk Salad Annie," released in 1968. Tony writes what he knows. Having grown up in the swampland of Louisiana, he is no stranger to rain.
Tony said he didn’t like so much when he was singing it, but when he heard R&B vocalist Brook Benton sing it, he thought it was a winner. Benton had a hit with the song in 1970. "Rainy Night in Georgia"
Brook Benton sings on the first half of the video, he and Tony Joe White both sing in the second half. Benton does a great job, but I think White has a great voice for this song too. I love the rainy images in this video.
Rainy Night In Georgia
Still Rainin' – Jonny Lang
Born in Fargo, North Dakota Jonny Lang was playing in a blues band by the time he was 12. At 15, he made his first album, 1997's "Lie to Me." It went platinum and hit No. 1 on Billboard's New Artist chart.
At 17 he made a second album "Wander This World," which earned a Grammy nomination. Still Rainin’ is the first track off that second album. Bruce McCabe wrote the song; he also wrote Lang’s biggest hit hit song, Lie to Me.
In this song, the rain that's falling outside his window is a metaphor for the tears in his eyes for his lost love.
John Lee Hooker was the son of a sharecropper who became a blues legend. He was born on or around August 22, 1912, in Mississippi. Constantly evolving throughout his epic career, he inspired many musicians, and entertained generations of fans. Hooker achieved his greatest success when he was in his 70s, continuing to record and perform until his death in 2001.
Rainy Day – John Lee Hooker
When the Levee Breaks – Ben Harper
"When the Levee Breaks" is a song by Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie recorded in 1929.Their song was played in a loose ragtime style.
Led Zeppelin had a huge hit in 1971 with their song "When the Levee Breaks." It was very innovative musically, but the lyrics were very similar to the original song. It was the last song on their album Led Zeppelin IV.
Bob Dylan’s Modern Times album includes yet another adaptation which he calls "The Levee's Gonna Break." Dylan changed the lyrics around a little, but it’s still very much like the original. I was going to use Dylan's version here, but I could not find a video with decent sound.
I happen to love this cover of the Zeppelin version by Ben Harper playing the Weissenborn slide guitar. He is accompanied by Charlie Musselwhite on harmonica.
I feel like Harper's version, while musically Led Zeppelin's song, is close in spirit to the original song by Memphis Minnie.
When the Levee Breaks
Backwater Blues – Irma Thomas & Ry Cooder
Bessie Smith wrote and recorded "Backwater Blues" in 1927. Over the years it has become a blues standard, covered by many artists including Dinah Washington, Jimmy Witherspoon, Bob Dylan and Kenny Wayne Shepherd.
Many sources define backwater as being stagnant water, or a remote place that has failed to progress. However, I found another definition that may apply.
Sometimes, when a river gets very full from rain, the level of water in the river rises higher than the smaller streams that feed it. When that happens, you get “backwater flooding.” The water must flow downhill, so it will actually flow backwards from its usual direction. Flowing from the rivers into the smaller tributaries, it causes flooding along their banks.
I love this version of the song, sung by Irma Thomas, the "Soul Queen of New Orleans."
Rainy Day Blues – Tab Benoit and Willie Nelson
Willie Nelson wrote this song. I like the song when Willie sings it, but I like it even better when he sings it with Tab Benoit.
Tab is not only a great guitarist and singer, but he also uses his music bring national attention to Louisiana's endangered coast. He founded the nonprofit Voice of the Wetlands Foundation (VOW) to inform people about Louisiana's shrinking wetlands, and its detrimental impact on the local culture.
Rainy Day Blues
Hurricane Betsy – Lightnin' Hopkins
Lightnin' Hopkins was a country blues singer born in Centerville, Texas on March 15, 1912. His career spanned 36 year, and it is said that he recorded more albums than any other bluesman.
He wrote this account of the devastating 1965 storm named Betsy for his 1969 album Texas Bluesman.
If it's raining where you are, I hope you have a safe, warm place, shelter from the storm. I hope the flood waters stay away, and you have somebody to snuggle with while you listen to the rainy day blues.
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© 2017 Sherry Hewins