Flooding is not only scary, but downright dangerous. You may think a small amount of rainwater can’t do much damage, but it can quickly sweep up everything and devastate an area. Here are ten songs about floods that show you not only the power and damage of heavy rains and rising waters, but the raw emotions of the people impacted by the flooding.
Songs About Floods You Will Appreciate
Let’s begin with a Nanci Griffith song.
1) Wasn’t That a Mighty Storm by Nanci Griffith
Nanci Griffith covered “Wasn’t That a Mighty Storm, “originally popularized in the 1960s by Tom Rush and Eric Von Schmidt. This was an American folk song about the 1900 Galveston hurricane, also known as the Great Galveston Flood, which was the single deadliest natural disaster in U.S history. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association said it claimed between 6,000- 12,000 lives and damaged every building in the city.
During this period in America, music was a way of communicating news and current events, so “Wasn’t That a Mighty Storm” was a way to communicate the tragic event through song. As you can imagine, the song talks about the 1900 hurricane that brought water up over the Galveston seawall and destroyed the whole town. While the lyrics are somewhat dark and morbid, the actual music is more upbeat and beautifully displays the song’s bluegrass roots.
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2) High Water Everywhere by Charley Patton
This Charley Patton song is a delta blues piece about the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and how it impacted the residents of the Mississippi Delta and the mistreatment of African Americans who were impacted by the flood. The song’s main topic is the flood, which was the largest flood in American history. It affected a majority of the Mississippi River valley and impacted parts of the Mississippi Delta, and where Charley Patton lived in Louisiana.
Many consider Charley Patton one of the granddaddies of modern music due to him being a huge innovator of blues guitar and his storytelling through his music. David Evans stated in his interview with NPR, “as the floodwaters rose in April, blacks were ordered by armed whites to work on the levees while white families fled.” Song about flood waters such as this Charley Patton track showcase the inequality that African Americans faced during the aftermath of the flood, and how it ruined a huge area both physically and economically.
3) Five Feet High and Rising by Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash wrote this song from his point of view as a four-year-old during the Mississippi Flood of 1937. Johnny Cash was just shy of turning five years old when his family, and thousands of others, were ripped apart from their homes due to the flood damage. During the progression of the song, Cash is asking his mother how high the water is, with her responding from two feet up to five feet. He talks about what they have lost; their home, farm, bees, chickens, and cows.
They tried to leave and take a train north, but the train rails got washed out, so they eventually made it towards higher ground. Floods are dangerous and I can only imagine traumatic for a young child to go through. Johnny Cash did an amazing song showing the destruction that can come from water and how quickly it can progress. This is a pretty quick-paced song that you can tell has a lot of heart, sorrow, and emotion put into it. If you’re looking for songs about natural disasters, and the many emotions connected to them, you’ve found a gem here with “Five Feet High and Rising.”
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4) Texas Flood by Stevie Ray Vaughan
“Texas Flood” is a powerful blues classic that will forever remain an important part of musical history. The song begins with a lengthy guitar vamp that immediately draws you into the song. Once Stevie Ray Vaughan enters with his vocals, you can feel the sorrow and remorse in his tone. The lyrics to “Texas Flood” cover someone who is in Texas during a huge rainstorm and is trying to contact their lover.
The phone lines are down and they can’t get through, but by the end of the song, they are tired of the storms- with the flooding and tornadoes, and are going back home where the sun is out every day. This would be a great song to listen to on a rainy day, as I view it as a “pick me up” kind of song.
5) When the Levee Breaks by Led Zeppelin
“When the Levee Breaks” is a country blues song first recorded in 1929 by Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe McCoy. This is another song that was inspired by the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and the destruction that it caused. When Led Zeppelin covered this song, they kept many of the original lyrics and introduced the blues song to a new generation of rock.
When you look at super storms like Hurricane Katrina, it was eerily reminiscent of the 1927 Great Mississippi Flood, due to the destruction caused and the lack of government planning. This is a beautiful, timeless song that would be perfect to listen to after a bad storm to show you that people for hundreds of years have gone through this and have rebuilt their lives after.
6) Rainy Day Blues by Willie Nelson
This song is all about the “Rainy Day Blues” and how if you don’t like the rainy weather you need to move. The “Rainy Day Blues” is about not feeling sad because it’s raining or storming outside, leaving you stuck inside. A lot of people dislike rain because it limits what you can do, and the sunshine also disappears behind the dark clouds. The lyrics about saving your dimes and nickels for a rainy day can mean different things.
Some people interpret this as saying to save your money in case of an emergency. While other people have said this means that saving your money won’t keep the rain away but it will help you in hard or dark times, reminiscent of rainy days. Most of Willie Nelson’s songs teach a lesson or tell a story, and “Rainy Day Blues” does a wonderful job of painting what a stormy day looks like.
7) Hurricane Betsy by Lightnin’ Hopkins
Hurricane Betsy was severely destructive and wreaked havoc across Florida and through the Gulf Coast in September of 1965. In addition to the $1.42 billion of destruction, Hurricane Betsy also claimed 81 lives, mainly in Louisiana. The lyrics cover Betsy’s destruction mentioning that when it hit Louisiana it, “killed so many folks ‘til the rest were left.” You can feel the hurt and the sorrow in the music, showing you how horrific the hurricane was.
I have never been in a hurricane, but the lyrics talking about the water rising and coming in through all the doors and windows are terrifying. Not many people can evacuate from hurricanes for multiple reasons, and there is not much that you can do to prepare for the flooding that hurricanes cause. Lightnin’ Hopkins did a fantastic job detailing the destruction and power of Hurricane Betsy.
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8) Long Black Line by Spencer Bohren
The title, “Long Black Line” represents the line marks that Katrina left behind in New Orleans; it looked like a dirty bathtub ring. Spencer’s song is often considered the best of the “Katrina” songs and is often used in documentaries covering the powerful hurricane and the flooding that occurred. The lyrics talk about the long black lines that were left all over the city, left behind from the receded dirty water. The song talks about how high the water was in some areas and even why the water was so dirty, the water was filled with chemicals, gas, and everything in between.
There is no arguing about how powerful water can be; the evidence is there that lives are lost and belongings swept away. Spencer Bohren did a fantastic job documenting the destruction caused by the flooding and also the feeling of NOLA residents and how they were upset with the government’s handling of the situation. The blues sound to this song emits a strong emotion that reassures you that it happened, it will be okay, and people will rebuild their lives- but never forget.
9) Hurricane by Davis Rogan
Like thousands of others, Davis Rogan was severely impacted by Hurricane Katrina; though his house in Treme only took 6 inches of water, not everyone was so lucky. The floodwaters rose as the levees failed and residents watched as the flooding quickly swallowed up New Orleans. Lives, businesses, homes, and hope were lost as residents had little help with rebuilding. The city had urban planning projects for the areas heavily impacted by the flooding, but that left many people of color feel marginalized.
In an interview with The Advocate, Davis Rogan said, “it was a matter of writing what I saw.” The lyrics to “Hurricane” tell of the destruction Katrina caused, how the aftermath was much worse, and the residents having to deal with horrible FEMA conditions on top of everything else. I believe this song is great at shining a light on how severe flooding can cause catastrophic damage, and how we still need to do better to help with natural disaster relief.
10) F-Katrina by 5th Ward Weebie
The title of this song tells you the strong feeling almost all Katrina victims felt. The song starts with the words, “FEMA is unavailable to process your call, please hang up and try again.” These were the words many New Orleans residents heard when trying to call the FEMA helpline to receive assistance, leaving them feeling helpless and forgotten about.
The lyrics then go on to list all of the most devastated areas that the flooding impacted, with many businesses and homes not being rebuilt, leaving vacant lots to this day. 5th Ward Weebie gave its listeners an outlet for their emotions and frustration with the aftermath of Katrina, prompted by the horrific conditions due to the floods and the horrors of bureaucracy many had to endure to rebuild.
Songs can use flooding and rain as symbols for human affections of love, and also literal flooding that can cause feelings of hopelessness and loss of everything. These 10 songs about flooding show you the horrors that flooding can cause and the emotions of the people who were affected by it.