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Thursday, May 26, 2005

American Idol drops Neil Young verse from "Sweet Home Alabama"

Lynyrd Skynyrd: Neil Young's Nemesis or Ally?

Last night on the insipid televised travesty called "American Idol", where so called "talent" embarrasses themselves and audiences should be paid to watch, a contestant named Bo Bice performed Lynyrd Skynyrd's song "Sweet Home Alabama".

However, the song's most key lines referring to Neil Young were cut from the performance for no apparent reason. Similar to the debacle at the 2005 Grammy Awards when country music's proud trailer trash heart-throb Gretchen Wilson sang the key lines, the desecration of the song and its meaning continue to escape fans.

Yet, Thrasher is really somewhat tired of server crashes every time the song "Sweet Home Alabama" seeps into the world's conciousness as folks "Google" the deep symbolism of Lynyrd Skynyrd without a clue whatsoever.

Cluelessness like Sweet Carolina Girl on Our Man Clay:
"To be honest, I'd never paid much attention to the lyrics of SHA. Mostly I just heard over and over "where the skies are so blue" and "I'll be comin' home to you." I guess I should have listened more carefully."

And over on The Color of Us and Canadian Idol discussion groups:
Violet Skye: "Yeah, I've been hearing that song all my life and never gave it a single thought beyond the 'Watergate does not bother me, does your conscience bother you?' line. I always thought it was a strange song (what kind of idiot sings Watergate does not bother him?), and 'In Birmingham they love the gov'nah...' I always had a vague notion this song was wrong, but I never thought too deeply about it."
jhr0208:"I have sung that song a 1000 times and NEVER thought about it either ~ this has DEFINATLY changed my view on that song."
BDotGirl"I didn't know it did that....guess I never listened to the's just kinda fun!"

And the insanity continues with Fox's Bill O'Reilly TV show where American Idol winners and losers becomes a red state vs blue state issue. Essentially the argument goes that the American Idol program competition was a victory for the red states because the loser sang "Sweet Home Alabama", while the winner Carrie Underwood sang "I Want to Be Inside Your Heaven". The former is a liberal song and the latter is the conservative number.

On the Bob Dylan discussion list, Nate posts on Fox's red/blue state analysis:
"Are you kidding me? If there exists a conservative rock and roll song... Look no further than Sweet Home Alabama. That song is the very epitome of conservative values... Now Watergate does not bother me, does your conscience bother you? Who is this idiot anyway? I wanted to call in and tell him what a fool he was making of himself and how ignorant he sounded by trying to push Lynard Skynard as a liberal's rock and roll band. They bash Neil Young in that fuckin' song -- now if that's a liberal thing to do... So is hiring someone based on their merit and ability."

This red vs blue, liberal vs conservative argument over the song has been analyzed before in the context of the 2004 U.S. election. Again, very sad.

Some hate the song. Like Mannahatta:
"I had to listen to this awful song piping out the windows of one too many Range Rovers at my Atlanta high school. All the preppy little boys spitting tobacco into the water fountain. So bizarre."

If ever there was an appropriately named forum, over on Television Without Pity, the ignorance of American Idol viewers about American history knows no bounds. Read it and weep.

"Sweet Home Alabama" "was and is a strident anthem about the pride of a region and the politics of a particular place and time", writes Kevin McDonough in The Morning Call.

Not enough? Here kids, try a little history lesson on Lynyrd Skynyrd, Neil Young, slavery, racism and rock-n-roll.

UPDATE June 4, 2005: Probably not the last word on the subject but an article in today's Tennessean reports that Neil Young walked onstage at Tootsie's on Lower Broadway in Nashville and performed "Sweet Home Alabama" with the house band. Young was in town working on a new album and meeting with film director Jonathan Demme on a soundtrack.

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At 5/28/2005 11:43:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

They always drop verses during songs on American Idol. It's to conserve time. I wouldn't look too hard into it..

At 6/02/2005 10:17:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You people are ignorant. The Neil Young phrase was just a joke. Skynyrd was fans of Neil Youngs. "In Birmingham they love the Governor...Boo,Boo,Boo" was showing Skynyrd's dissaproval for George Wallace's support. "Watergate does not bother me" was just another way of saying that the South had other, more pressing issues to deal with. After all, people forget, Lynyrd Skynyrd supported the Jimmy Carter campaing. Jimmy Carter is one of the most liberal presidents that we ever had. If you need more convincing, listen to the song "Curtis Lowe".

Tim Turner
Sumiton, Alabama

At 7/01/2005 04:26:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I want to start by saying that I have no smear agenda against the fine folks down in Alabama.
There is historical precedent for retelling only the parts of any story that serve the storyteller's ends. Popular songs are the new oral tradition.
American Idol 2 Ruben Studdard did the same thing when he performed this song. Seems to me that this song, sans 'that verse', has become a favorite of the favorite sons of Alabama, be they black or white or any other skin-tone, to tout all that is good, in their eyes, about their home state. But who's the propaganda puppeteer? My money's on George Wallace's ghost...Like Tom Sawyer said, "Does a boy get a chance to whitewash a fence every day?” Perhaps, some day in the not so distant future, 'Sweet Home Alabama' will replace 'Alabama' (not Neil's song, but the official state song since 1931 with words by Julia S. Tutwiler) as the designated 'state song' of Alabama, the controversial verse wiped from any and all official state mentionings. I can only guess that, whenever the rare public moment occurs that he performs this song, as Neil sings 'that verse' he has a gleam in his eyes and a grin on his face; simultaneously icon and iconoclast.

At 2/03/2006 09:45:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is an interesting blog topic.

This is one of the best, if not THE best, Southern Rock songs of all time. Certainly, at face value, the song can be taken as racist, but dig a little deaper, and you'll see that Lynyrd Skynyrd was NOT a racist band. As other bloggers point out, the song "The Ballad of Curtis Lowe" is a tribute to a black blues musician. In my view, the message of "SHA" is thus...."Yes, America, the South has a history of racism, but we still love our home and we don't appreciate you guys up North preaching to us. All people down here are not racist, just as all Northerners are not racism-free. You fix your problems, and we'll fix ours, so mind your own business, (Mr. Young).

BTW, I'll further add that classifying "SHA" as a conservative or liberal song misses the point. I imagine if you asked Ronnie Van Zant if he was a conservative or a liberal, he would quickly retort. "Man, what are you talking about? I'm a Southerner and an American, and a singer. Keep those labels for yourself.

At 2/24/2006 11:34:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Sweet Home Alabama" was Van Zant's response to much going on culturally and politically at the time. The Neil Young reference was in response to Young's "Southern Man" which many felt unfairly painted southerners with a broad brush. Thus the lines "I heard Neil Young sing about her, I heard 'ol Neil put her down, I hope Neil Young will remember, A southern man don't need him around anyhow." The south and Alabama in particular has long been a whipping boy of the cultural elite. This has resulted in a "leave us the hell alone" mentality reflected in this song. I believe racism had absolutely no bearing in this song's concept but rather the lines about Watergate and the governer were simply statements that "in Birmingham they love the governor" as opposed to the mess the federal government had become at the time. The rest of the song is simply a celebration of the state and family and the feeling that there were and are "good people in Alabama" as Van Zant is heard to say in the song's live version. Of course, the unforgettable guitar riffs didn't hurt the song and came to symbolize the southern rock genre of the time.

At 7/05/2006 02:14:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That song brings up so much controversy because it is a rebel song. it rebels what everyone is saposed to think. It fits with the rebel flag. lynyrd skynyrd is a rebel band. i personally beleive that they were having fun when they wrote the song, and i will continue listening to it till the day i die

At 8/03/2006 09:41:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Racism and segregation are good. Anti-racism and opposition to segregation are Jewish and bad.

My guess, Van Zant didn't give two thoughts to what he was singing when he sang it -- it just so happened he captured the fact that Southern white men -- and all right thinking white men in general -- are disgusted by Jewish liberalism and anti-racism.

Heil Hitler!

At 1/15/2007 12:29:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I see that I am being quoted above under the guise of "cluelessness." Yep, that's me. The remarks that you quoted were taken from a private board. I have no idea how you got them. It was an innocent discussion about Bo's performance on American Idol. Some of the other people were trashing the song "Sweet Home Alabama" -- calling it racist and all -- and I was trying to tell them that a lot people just enjoyed it for the melody. No I hadn't actually paid much attention to the words. It's not the type of music that I normally listen to, although I do have a close friend whose band used to play it all the time. My remarks have no bearing on the subject you were discussion. What I don't understand is why you were reading a the OMC board. It doesn't seem to be a place that would interest you. If you aren't a member there, you shouldn't have access to the comments. Have a nice day.

At 3/18/2007 08:08:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was a teenager when that song came out. And for some people to go on about this and that about this song is insane. I lived in both the north and south before I graduated high school. I was somewhat of an outsider in either place. I had enough northern accent to be called a "Yankee" in the south. I had enough southern accent to be called a hick up north. To understand the love of the stars and bars, one has to be from the south. And to understand SHA, one needs to be from the south. It also helps if you were there during the late 60's and 70's. The song is just an expression of "be it not perfect, it is still my home". I'm sure if you asked the band members, they would tell you that having long hair during those days seperated you from the "rednecks" or "goat ropers". So, the song may now be considered "redneck", but it didn't start that way. Where do you think the term "redneck" comes from anyway?

At 8/18/2007 09:54:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

bunch of liberal idiots-over educated idiots-unlike the under educated moron that is neil young and his no talent shit voice, and lack of rythm. you people make me laugh. keep up the liberal comedy!!!

At 12/21/2007 12:07:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 6/22/2011 04:04:00 PM, Anonymous Castorp said...

Whenever I hear the line "Southern man don't need him around anyhow", it makes me wonder if Skynyrd had consciousness of African American southerners as also being "Southern men". It doesn't seem that way.

If they were anti-racist, they had a funny way of showing it.

A song or two in tribute of black bluesmen doesn't really mean all that much.

At 7/09/2011 02:45:00 AM, Anonymous Dixie said...

Well, I saw Mr. White comment about him
Well, I saw Ol' Bill put him down
Well, I hope Bill White will remember
Neil Young don't need him around anyhow!

At 7/09/2011 03:06:00 AM, Anonymous Dixie said...

Mr./Ms "Anonymous", if you hate Neil Young so much, then why have you even visited the "Thrashers Wheat" website? To simply vomit your venom? You, whoever your cowardly self is, are the ignorant one if you think Neil Young is a no talent. Usually people who spew vitriole like your comments are generally failures in life, who have nothing better to do than to lash out at someone who has never done any harm to them.

Or do you simply enjoy shocking people? I wouldn't be surprised if that's your real motivation here.

At 5/05/2013 01:25:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some of the posters have referred to the Confederate battle flag as the stars and bars. The stars and bars was the first Confederate national flag. It was not the "X" flag Skynyrd used.


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