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Flood music: the hits where flooding struck a chord

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Weather forms a central part of popular culture and flooding is one of the most powerful outcomes of extreme weather. So it’s no surprise that flooding has inspired some flood music hits.

Think we’ve missed an obvious one? Hit us up on Twitter (@FloodFlash_Ins) or on our Facebook page.

Hurricane – Bob Dylan

Hurricanes are some of the most devastating sources of flooding. Whilst the Hurricane in Dylan’s protest song/story is claimed to be very destructive, it’s actually referring to boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter who the song goes onto claim was falsely imprisoned.

It’s an eight and a half long epic that barely gets on the list due to such low meteorological merit. “Hurricane” makes it onto our flood music list by a whisker on account of being a stone cold classic.

Flood description rating – ⭐️

On it’s own merit – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Rock You Like a Hurricane – Scorpions

Another Hurricane-based hit makes the list. German rockers Scorpion combined hard and hair metal in this, their signature track.

Whilst musically the anthem is a far cry from Bob Dylan, they are similar in the fact that they contain little of note on the causes of effects of an actual Hurricane. The lustful power of the song may have parallels with the power from named storms but the analogy pretty much ends there.

Flood description rating – ⭐️

Rock-tastic solo – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Flood – Take That

This next one is for our readers from the UK: wasn’t it great when Robbie rejoined Take That?! Much like that momentous time in our lives, The Flood is more about emotion than anything else, least of all an actual flood.

The lyric “holding back the flood” might have shown Gary Barlow’s limited understanding of the forces at play when catastrophic flooding comes along. Fortunately it was figurative floods of tears that he and the gang were holding back.

Flood description rating – ⭐️

Pop-tastic brilliance – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

When the Levee Breaks – Memphis Minnie

Finally – an accurate portrayal of the causes and impact of flooding! Memphis Minnie’s blues classic was written in 1929, inspired by the Great Mississippi Flood two years earlier. Famously covered by Led Zeppelin and Bob Dylan, the song has grown a cultural life of its own.

“If it keeps on raining, the levee’s going to break” is one of the most succinct descriptions of the causes of flood you’re going to find. Minnie goes onto explain she’ll (and everyone else) will have no place to stay – indicating the issue of people displacement that occurs after flooding.

Flood description rating – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Quality of the covers – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Here Comes The Flood – Peter Gabriel

Peter Gabriel’s credentials as a songwriter are rarely disputed. This flood music epic fits neatly into his oeuvre. The line that leads into the chorus “the rain was warm and soaked the ground” shows great insight into conditions that lead to flooding.

At the start of the song he references “early warnings” and also sings “you have no home” after the flood. Both very true of literal flooding. Stranger if you consider Gabriel himself revealed that the song was about what might happen if the world simultaneously became telepathic.

Flood description rating – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Mind-bending undertones – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Flood – Katie Melua

Meandering lyrics bring us and floating pop balladry bring us to the surging chorus: “Blame, No-one is to blame. As natural as the rain that falls, here comes the flood again”. Melua expertly brings some interesting flood points to bear here.

Firstly, whilst flooding is caused by natural phenomena, the idea of blame is less clear cut. Urbanisation and attempts to build levies and control flood waters often lead places to flood that otherwise wouldn’t. She also brings an idea of repeated flooding – something that the flood modelling community labels as return periods – or the average amount of time it takes for flood to come again.

The idea introduced in the second half of the track “wash away the weight that pulls you down” also pertains to building back better – a key focus for better architecture, engineering and improving resilience post flood.

Flood description rating – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Mid-song heel turn before the final refrain – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

After the Flood – Mogwai

This track was written as part of the score for the climate change documentary presented by Leonardo di Caprio, Before the Flood. This dirge (meant in a positive way – your humble author is a big Mogwai fan) fits neatly amongst Mogwai’s discography. Surging synths create a sense of resolution and hope tinged with the regret one might feel after a flood.

The documentary itself contains a similar tone. It acts as a warning but with an optimistic outlook. Had it been released after the IPCC report in 2021 we might expect a little less optimism.

Flood accuracy rating – ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Mood-tastic flood music – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Fire and the Flood – Vance Joy

Tub-thumping folk music sounds like a great setting for epic flood based music. Unfortunately (if you’re a flood enthusiast) Vance Joy joins other musicians on this list using flood as a byword for power and epic scale.

His association of fire and flood is interesting in terms of catastrophe. Both are often byproducts of large scale earthquakes. Before building techniques evolved coastal and offshore earthquakes would lead to devastating fires (particularly sparked by candle lighting and wooden buildings) and tsunamis caused by the shock.

Flood accuracy rating – ⭐️⭐️

Stadium-ready folk rock – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Umbrella – Rhianna ft. Jay-Z

The quintessential flood music jam, this track needs no introduction. Whilst light on real flood references, the timing of one of the biggest collaborations of the 20th century was perfect for UK audiences.

Umbrella topped the UK charts for 10 consecutive weeks. Those 10 weeks were also characterised by 10 weeks if intense summer rain and the most costly flood in the UK since records began. The weight of the coincidence even lead The Sun to coin the “Rhianna Curse”.

Flood accuracy rating – ⭐️⭐️

Scary coincidence levels – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Floods – Pantera [content warning]

Not for the faint hearted this one. Floods again used as a byword for destruction – with the trademark pantera agression. The opening lyrics “deaf ears are sleeping” could be a nod towards some people’s unwillingness to address their flood risk.

Satanic and biblical allusions abound before a white hot solo (voted by Guitar World magazine as the 15th best solo of all time). The melodic outro with a background of rain gives a real sense of post-flood calm. A credit to this list.

Flood accuracy rating – ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Nihilism score – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

When the Levee Breaks – Led Zeppelin

We mentioned it earlier but the Led Zepp version deserves its own entry though. When joined with the harmonica, the blues riffs that keep the momentum going turn this track into seven minutes of joy.

The lyrics lose elements of the flood detail and sense of community that might lose a start on the flood accuracy rating, but the sheer musicality puts it up there with the original version.

Flood description rating – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reimagining a classic – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Have You Ever Seen the Rain – Creedence Clearwater Revival

A romantic view of water and rain from the classic US rockers. John Fogerty’s focus on beauty in summer rain is fitting with the positive tune with a twinge of melancholy.

Summer rain is a huge cause of flooding so the beauty is coupled with danger. Whilst CCR don’t go that far in this track, their respect for natural phenomena certainly shines through.

Flood description rating – ⭐️⭐️

Feelgood weather appreciation – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Rain – The Beatles

Described by John Lennon as being “about people moaning about the weather all the time”, this lesser-known b-side to Paperback Writer is more interested in human reactions to adverse weather.

“If the rain comes / They run and hide their heads” isn’t exactly a flood plan, but it’s a fair observation.

Flood description rating – ⭐️⭐️

Potentially the most British song of all time – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Why does it always rain on me – Travis

The so-called Invisible Band went stratospheric at the end of the last millennium with this one. Fewer songs are better for a wet music festival (although a track that didn’t make the list – Moby’s Raining Again is also a contender).

At face value the titular refrain seems like the sort of thing John Lennon was complaining about in the last track. Taken in a flood context though, it does contain commentary of value. Flooding is a very personal experience and undoubtedly makes you feel personally attacked.

Flood description rating – ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Sing-a-long-a-bility – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Hurricane Betsy – Lightnin’ Hopkins

Betsy swept across Louisiana in 1965. It was the first tropical cyclone to cause $1 billion in damage ever. Lightnin’ Hopkins track, released three years later, remembers buildings being swept down and people who couldn’t be found after the destruction.

Not only did it inspire this (excellent) blues jam, but Betsy also lead to the formation of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). NFIP is a national program to make flood insurance available to people across the states that continues to this day.

Flood description rating – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Incredible, laid-back intro – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Texas Flood – Stevie Ray Vaughan

Just next to Louisiana is Texas, the setting for Stevie Ray Vaughan’s superb cover of the Larry Davis original. Good examples of flood damage come through in lyrics like: “All the telephone lines are down” making it difficult to reach his significant other.

The final verse provides an example of managed retreat: “Well I’m leavin’ you baby / Lord and I’m goin’ back home to stay / Well back home are no floods or tornados / Baby and the sun shines every day”. Sadly not everyone has the ability to move away from flood zones – one of the key ways in which environmental disasters make socio-economic divides worse.

Flood description rating – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Shredding – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Louisiana 1927 – Randy Newman

This excellent ballad provides a detailed commentary of flooding which caused “Six Feet Of Water In The Streets Of Evangeline”. Whilst the genre has switched from the blues of Lightnin’ Hopkins, the sadness is still there with people missing and the refrain of “they’re trying to wash us away”.

The final section of the song contains social commentary typical of Newman’s output. The callous (and ficitional) visit from President Coolidge showing politicians using disaster relief for political point-scoring. It was later connected to Hurricane Katrina when Aaron Neville sang it at a benefit concert.

Flood description rating – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Symphonic strings – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Floods – Fightstar

Fronted by Charlie from Busted, Fightstar’s arch-rock anthem evokes the arpeggios so frequent in Muse tracks. Floods is claimed to be the frontman’s commentary on human’s contribution to climate change.

The track was actually pulled as a lead single when their second album was released in 2007. Perhaps given Rhianna’s success they might have reconsidered their decision to hold back their flood music.

Flood description rating – ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Epic chorus – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Weather Experience – The Prodigy

Released as part of the album Experience in 1992, the minimalist dance track contains the breakbeat drums and dark undertones that became a feature of The Prodigy’s later work.

There is a sample of weatherman Michael Fish at the beginning. Although it wasn’t his infamous mis-forecast of the 1987 hurricane. Hours before the Hurricane broker he said: “Earlier on today, apparently, a woman rang the BBC and said she heard there was a hurricane on the way. Well, if you’re watching, don’t worry, there isn’t!” Perhaps one of the greatest UK examples of weather prediction going wrong.

Flood description rating – ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Epic chorus – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

It’s Raining Men – The Weather Girls

A song that needs no introduction…

Flood description rating – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Perhaps the best music video of all time – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


That was fun! We’ve definitely missed loads of great flood music tracks. Hit us up on Twitter (@FloodFlash_Ins) or on our Facebook page with your favourites. To find out more about more about our record-breaking parametric flood insurance visit our homepage.