Ronnie & Neil, Again
Lynyrd Skynyrd's Ronnie VanZant Wearing Neil Young T-shirt
Some things here at Thrasher's Wheat never cease to amaze us. Like last month when we posted on the song "Powderfinger" being the most analyzed Neil Young song of all time and then proceeded to be bombarded by another round of opinions. Which just goes to prove that no one knows what the song "Powderfinger" is really all about afterall.
Curiously, the song "Powderfinger" was written by Neil to give to Lynyrd Skynyrd. Sadly, the band never recorded it because of the band's tragic end.
So all of this brings us back to the enduring legacy of the band Lynyrd Skynyrd which is encapsulated by their hit "Sweet Home Alabama". For our friends outside of the United States, it is hard to convey just how ubiquitous this song is and how it has been appropriated for so many causes -- both justly and unjustly. The song still receives widespread airplay, is used in commercials regularly, is covered by any number of bands, just to name a few points on it's legendary status. (Here is a prime example of just how weirdly universal the song has become "Sweet Home, Jerusalem" on YouTube.)
Similar to "Powderfinger", we receive a very considerable amount of mail and comments on Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama". While this may not seem surprising given the lyrics reference Young and his songs "Southern Man" and "Alabama", it just astonishes us to this day how so many are so grossly clueless about the true connection between Neil Young, Lynyrd Skynyrd, "Sweet Home Alabama", "Southern Man" and "Alabama".
Of course, we tried to set the record straight long ago by deconstructing the myth of Neil Young and Lynyrd Skynyrd. But alas, ignorance is so hard to fight here on the internets.
Probably the most infuriating thing we see nearly everyday is when Neil's name pops into the news and his detractors start slamming him for his past "transgressions" like being a hippie and writing "Ohio". The radical right wingers just love to bash Neil with the "Sweet Home Alabama" line "I hope Neil Young will remember, a Southern man don’t need him ‘round, anyhow."
This happens over and over, like on this discussion on the
Charlie Rose interview. It is not uncommon to see folks put ol' Neil down because Lynyrd Skynyrd sang about a southern man not needing him around. You know, case closed.
But, as we know, Neil and Lynyrd Skynyrd's Ronnie VanZant were actually friends as we documented long, long ago. In fact, several years after completing the previously linked page, Patterson Hood of Drive By Truckers wrote in his album notes for 2001's Southern Rock Opera for "Ronnie & Neil":
I wrote this song to tell of the misunderstood friendship between Ronnie VanZant and Neil Young, who were widely believed to be bitter adversaries, but were in truth very good friends and mutual admirers.
While we've found that even with as persuasive and widely heard a song as "Ronnie & Neil", the angry right still drags out the feud canard to dismiss Neil's music and politics.
And you may ask, why bother Thrasher? Well, for one thing, it's because of the volume of mail and comments that we receive on this subject that we're always having to point to. I mean take a look at the comments here or here and you can see just how angry folks are at Neil Young for apparently no other reason than their perception that if Lynyrd Skynyrd dissed him he must be worthless. Or here.
So The Archives notwithstanding, it will hardly be surprising that part of Neil Young's legacy will be as a footnote in the notorious song "Sweet Home Alabama" by Lynyrd Skynyrd. Oh, and he also wrote that song "Powderfinger" that no one seems to know what it means.
Though my problems are meaningless, that don't make them go away.
Lynyrd Skynyrd's Ronnie Van Zant wearing Neil Young "Tonight's The Night" T-shirt
Oakland Coliseum Stadium, July 2, 1977
Photographer: Michael Zagaris on Wolfgang's Vault