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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Ronnie and Neil: Laying to Rest the "Feud Myth" Once and for All

lynyrd-skynyrd-vanzant-crop.jpg neil-young-lynyrd-skynyrd-t-shirt.jpg
Ronnie Van Zant with Neil Young "Tonight's The Night" T-shirt
Oakland Coliseum, July 2, 1977 - Photo by Michael Zagaris
Neil Young with Lynyrd Skynyrd/Jack Daniels Whiskey T-Shirt
Verona, Italy 7.9.1982 - Photo by Paolo Brillo on Flickr

"Well, I hope Neil Young will remember
a southern man don't need him around anyhow"

Growing up in the American South in the 1970's as a Neil Young fan wasn't exactly easy. It seems as if all of our life that whenever the subject of musical tastes came up and we revealed our appreciation of Young's music, almost invariably it was met with those lines above from Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" .

You see, Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" is more than just an anthem for many -- it serves as a statement for a way of life that is intensely protected such that when threatened -- it can produce some very uncomfortable results.

Background of "Sweet Home Alabama"

Thanks to Neil Young, Lynyrd Skynyrd was inspired to write the song "Sweet Home Alabama".

Without Young's songs that were so critical of the South's segregationist and racist attitudes for inspiration, it is doubtful that the band would have produced a song with such a long lasting duration that continues to sell well 30 years after its release.

But the ultimate irony of "Sweet Home Alabama" is that for so many, the song's implied put down of Neil Young was NOT meant as criticism but as support of Young's anti-racism. Thus, for those who think it's so clever to put down Neil Young using the phrase "Hope Neil Young will remember, a southern man don't need him around anyhow" little do they realize that they have the meaning backwards. Every day, someone blogs or tweets the "Neil Young putdown" without comprehending that they've actually praised him. Similarly, with the State of Alabama using the phrase "Sweet Home Alabama" as an official slogan on license plates, one truly has to wonder what they were thinking the song was about.

Somewhere, Ronnie is still having a good laugh at Alabama officials and Neil Young bashers. Such is the duality of the southern thing.

MCA Records 45RPM Single

Is "Sweet Home Alabama" Really Sweet?

The history of Lynyrd Skynyrd's 1974 song "Sweet Home Alabama" has a long and tortured history. The enormously popular song has an extraordinarily complex backstory involving a wide swath of groups which have laid claim to the song's message and symbols. As this article demonstrates, the complicated saga of "Sweet Home Alabama" is anything but sweet.

Rarely has such a widely popular hit song been so vastly misunderstood by so many for so long.

This article came about because we've long been fascinated with Neil Young's influence on other bands ever since we heard Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" which was written in response to two of Young's anti-southern slavery songs, "Southern Man", from the album After the Gold Rush, and "Alabama", from the album Harvest. From "Sweet Home Alabama" lyrics:

    Well, I heard Mister Young sing about her Well, I heard ole Neil put her down. Well, I hope Neil Young will remember a southern man don't need him around anyhow.

"Southern Man" + "Alabama" Lyrics by Neil Young
(Click photo to enlarge)

Known as a response record, such songs "refer directly to a previous hit and usually do it in a catty, mischievous way". The lines in "Sweet Home Alabama" are a direct response to Young's anti-racist, anti-cross burning "Southern Man" and "Alabama" songs. Lynyrd Skynyrd's comeback was intended to mean, at first glance, "Thank you for your opinion Neil, now leave us alone."

It is this perceived "attitude" which has led to Lynyrd Skynyrd earning a reputation as a "racist" band. Inasmuch as the fact that the band often performed with a Confederate flag as a backdrop, the label and perception has been hard to shake.

Lyrics and Analysis

Four Dead in Alabama

Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" meaning is often interpreted as being "racist" because of the the lyrics reference "In Birmingham [where a black church was bombed killing 4 young girls] they love the governor [George Wallace ]" who was a segregationist. This interpretation and analysis has been intelligently reasoned, hotly debated, passionately argued, bickered over, volleyed about, and scrupulously dissected.

After singing this line, Skynyrd sing "Boo, boo, boo!" as if to disapprove of Wallace and his policies of racism. As for the "Boo, boo, boo!" chorus, some have dismissed it as Skynyrd 's wink at racism. Joshua Marshall writes in Talking Points Memo: "It always seemed to me more likely that that shadow lyric is a mocking allusion to anti-Wallace protestors." Nonetheless, many still regard the song to be a paean to the South's disregard for the civil rights movement.

Alabama Governor George Wallace

The last line in the song is an ad-lib by Van Zant that is rarely understood. He says, "Montgomery got the answer". Some of the original band members revealed this in a radio interview a few years back and possibly references the infamous march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, led by civil rights leader Martin Luther King. George Wallace was the governor of Alabama when this was released and -- apparently -- loved the song, especially the line, "In Birmingham they love the governor."

At best, this is ambiguous. At it's worst, this can be seen as an endorsement of the racist policies of the Alabama state capitol. Wallace, in the end, made the band honorary Lieutenant Colonels in the state militia. So is the song "Sweet Home Alabama" racist?

Immediately after the band sings the verse "Well, I heard Mr. Young sing about her," one can hear in the background what sounds like the phrase "Southern Man." Many believe it was Young's original recording being played. However, others claim it to be the album's producer, Al Kooper, impersonating Young.

Neil Young and Lynyrd Skynyrd: Friends or Foes?

"Now your crosses
are burning fast"

The response song "Sweet Home Alabama" was inspired by the two Neil Young songs "Southern Man" and "Alabama". Specifically, lyrics to "Southern Man":

    Better keep your head Don't forget what your good book said Southern change gonna come at last Now your crosses are burning fast Southern man I saw cotton and I saw black Tall white mansions and little shacks. Southern man when will you pay them back? I heard screamin' and bullwhips cracking How long? How long?

And "Alabama"'s lyrics:

    Oh Alabama Banjos playing through the broken glass Windows down in Alabama. See the old folks tied in white ropes Hear the banjo. Don't it take you down home?

In Young's anthology album "Decade" liner notes, he wrote about "Southern Man" in his usual opaque and obliquely ironic fashion:

    "This song could have been written on a civil rights march after stopping off to watch "Gone With The Wind" at a local theater. But I wasn't there so I don't know for sure."

Others have made different interpretations of the contretemps. In Glide Magazine by Ross Warner, this opinion is ventured on Skynyrd's song:
Although the song is perceived as an anthem of southern pride, “Sweet Home Alabama,” was actually intended not only as the band’s fond recollection of their first time in a recording studio but as a reminder to the rest of America that not all southerners were rednecks. When Skynyrd criticized Neil Young’s “Southern Man,” it was for the sweeping generalization of all southerners as rednecks. Don’t condemn southerners now for what their ancestors did. “We thought Neil was shooting all the ducks in order to kill one or two,” Van Zant said. “We’re southern rebels, but more than that, we know the difference between right and wrong.” In fact, the band was quite outspoken about their disdain for Wallace’s policies.

Southern Rock Opera
Drive-by Truckers

The "feud myth" was further fueled with the Drive-By Truckers 2002 album "Southern Rock Opera" (one of the only truly genuine masterpiece albums released in the early 21st century) song "Ronnie and Neil":

    And out in California, a rock star from Canada writes a couple of great songs about the bad shit that went down "Southern Man" and "Alabama" certainly told some truth But there were a lot of good folks down here and Neil Young wasn't around Now Ronnie and Neil became good friends their feud was just in song Skynyrd was a bunch of Neil Young fans and Neil he loved that song So He wrote "Powderfinger" for Skynyrd to record But Ronnie ended up singing "Sweet Home Alabama" to the lord

Drive By Truckers guitarist Patterson Hood explains:

    "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..."

Street Survivors (original album cover)
Ronnie Van Zant wearing a Neil Young "Tonight's the Night" album cover t-shirt

As Fred Mills puts it in his book review of Lynyrd Skynyrd: Remembering The Free Birds Of Southern Rock by Gene Odom, "[Ronnie Van Zant] would just as soon go onstage wearing one of several Neil Young T-shirts that he owned in order to fuck with any yahoos in the crowd who missed the humor and irony of the “Sweet Home Alabama” lyrics."

As for Neil Young's reaction to all of this? One widely circulated theory during the 1970's was found in Neil's stunning response to Lynyrd Skynyrd with On The Beach's "Walk On."

    I hear some people been talkin' me down, Bring up my name, pass it 'round. They don't mention happy times They do their thing, I'll do mine.

Little did we realize at the time the symbolism in "Walk On", but years later as On The Beach surfaces and makes its place with other classics, did some of Neil's meanings sink in. (The lyrics in "Walk On" have also been interpreted to refer to bandmates Crosby, Stills, & Nash. Others argue that the song is in response to press reviews of Young's Time Fades Away tour.)

It seems that whatever grudges Lynyrd Skynyrd had for Neil's music may have been resolved - if there ever was any feud to begin with. From an interview with Ronnie Van Zant:

    "We wrote Alabama as a joke. We didn't even think about it - the words just came out that way. We just laughed like hell, and said 'Ain't that funny'... We love Neil Young, we love his music..."

As for the rumor that Lynyrd Skynyrd recorded the Neil Young song "Powderfinger" (see for lyrics analysis), here's an interview in MOJO Magazine , where Young said:

    Young:Lynyrd Skynyrd almost ended up recording Powderfinger before my version came out. We sent them an early demo of it because they wanted to do one of my songs. Interviewer Q. Surprising, that. After all, Lynyrd Skynyrd put you down by name on Sweet Home Alabama, their first hit single.... Young: Oh, they didn't really put me down! But then again, maybe they did! (laughs) But not in a way that matters. Shit, I think Sweet Home Alabama is a great song. I've actually performed it live a couple of times myself. "

Lynyrd Skynyrd's Ronnie VanZant Wearing Neil Young T-shirt
Oakland Coliseum, July 2, 1977

Lynyrd Skynyrd - "Sweet Home Alabama"- 7/2/1977 - Oakland Coliseum Stadium (Official)

Ronnie Van Zant and Gary Rossington

Oakland Coliseum Stadium, July 2, 1977

Lynyrd Skynyrd - Freebird - 7/2/1977 - Oakland Coliseum Stadium (Official)

In addition to the song "Powderfinger", Young allegedly also gave the band the song “Sedan Delivery” and "Captain Kennedy" to record. From The Uncool, Cameron Crowe blogs:
Neil Young gave a tape to Joel Bernstein to give to me which I gave to Ronnie [Van Zant], that had three songs on it - "Captain Kennedy," "Sedan Delivery," and "Powderfinger" - before they'd come out. And he wanted to give them to Lynyrd Skynyrd if they wanted to do one of his songs. They didn't fit on Street Survivors.
Neil loved that band and said they reminded him of the Buffalo Springfield and they made him yearn for the days of the Buffalo Springfield. He loved Lynyrd Skynyrd and he loved being mentioned in the song.

Being a huge Neil Young fan, I sort of appointed myself as cheerleader for that love affair to happen and blossom. I think it was happening - Ronnie was wearing that [Neil Young] shirt on the album cover and on the road. I was really happy to be able to play a part in getting some new Neil songs into Ronnie's hands. I don't remember what he had to say about it, but he was a huge Neil Young fan.

It should also be noted that shortly after the band was involved in a fatal plane accident, Neil Young performed a rare live version of "Alabama" at Bicentennial Park, Miami, Florida on 11-12-1977 for Children's Hospital Charity with The Gone With The Wind Orchestra and he changed the lyric chorus from "Alabama" to "Sweet Home Alabama".

Recalling the concert tribute in an interview with the Boston Globe, Young said: "I just sang 'I hope you all will remember. I thought it was a cool thing."

In a interview on the Rockline radio program (November 23, 1981), when asked about "Sweet Home Alabama" and Lynyrd Skynyrd, Neil Young said: "Great band, great. I understand Ronnie once said that I'll be mellow about it [SHA], not care one way or other. He was right."

"Ronnie and Neil" by Drive-by Truckers - Asheville,NC, September 2007

Back to the Drive-by Truckers (a great band that's a cross between William Faulkner and Neil Young) song "Ronnie and Neil" and the implication that Neil Young was a pallbearer at Van Zant's funeral:

    "And Neil helped carry Ronnie in his casket to the ground And to my way of thinking, us southern men need both of them around"

This is another Neil Young/Lynyrd Skynyrd "urban legend" which is debunked in an interesting essay in Tone and Groove. As for the rumor that Ronnie Van Zant was buried wearing a Neil Young t-shirt, again this seems to be another example of a myth to propogate the tragic legend.

Neil Young with Lynyrd Skynyrd/Jack Daniels Whiskey T-Shirt
Verona, Italy 7.9.1982 - Photo by Paolo Brillo on Flickr

From the book Freebirds: The Lynyrd Skynyrd Story by Marley Brant:
    "The presentation of the song "Sweet Home Alabama" in concert was accompanied by the unfurling of Skynyrd's traditional backdrop, a huge Confederate battle flag. The reaction of the audience was always the same: vigorous, fervent, and instantaneous. Neil Young's song "Southern Man" had offended many Southerners by seeming to accuse all people born in the south of being intolerant racists. Young's observations were obviously generalized and not accurate and Southerners were ecstatic when Skynyrd defended their honor by releasing "Sweet Home Alabama" with its direct references to Young's faux pas. The idea that the Southern man, or woman, didn't need Neil Young around to point out the problems of their society was overwhelmingly supported by Skynyrd fans. "We thought Neil was shooting all the ducks in order to kill one or two," Ronnie told Rolling Stone magazine regarding the creation of the answer song. The band felt that Young's lyrical content was representative of the shortsighted "Yankee" belief that all Southern men should be held accountable for the verbalizations and actions of a racist minority. While the rebuttal was heartfelt, Skynyrd held Neil Young in high regard for his musical achievements and they weren't intending to start a feud of any kind. "Neil is amazing, wonderful... a superstar," said Van Zant. "I showed the verse to Ed King and asked him what Neil might think. Ed said he'd dig it; he'd be laughing at it." Ed King says that the tune was not so much a direct attack on Young but just a good regional song. The song was well received but immediately put a stigma on the band as rednecks. Producer Al Kooper added. "Hey, you have to be more careful when you write a song now. But I'll tell you something -- Neil Young loved it. That's true, he told me so to my face."

From Lynyrd Skynyrd's Second Helping Re-Master booklet:
    "The singer's mock attack on Neil Young and his apparent defense of Wallace branded Skynyrd with controversy which would continue for years. Young got the joke, however, responding by telegram and by letter to say he was proud to be the subject of Skynyrd's Southern anthem.' Perhaps Van Zant sums it up best. 'We're not into politics, we don't have no education and Wallace don't know anything about rock n roll.'

Much as John Lennon's murder put an end to the 1960's love and peace spirit (albeit some twenty years later) or Kurt Cobain's death marked the end of the grunge era, Ronnie Van Zant's death ended a chapter in Southern Rock history.

The "faux feud" contretemps seem to provide endless fascination for Ronnie and Neil fans.

So what do you think? And why?

Lynyrd Skynyrd: Neil Young's Nemesis or Ally?

Ronnie Van Zant: 1948 - 1977

More on Lynyrd Skynyrd and Neil Young.

NOTE: Sometimes we're asked about what the deal is with our fascination with Ronnie and Neil. The fact of the matter is that much of this is driven by the constant correspondence we receive on the subject. Hardly a day goes by without the subject rearing its pretty (or ugly) head. What follows are some of the recent letters received on the subject. Feel free to jump in!

"Does your conscience bother you?
Tell the truth."

Labels: , , , ,


At 3/09/2010 07:05:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that Neil Young pre-judged a whole group of people and Skynard called him out. I think Neil saw the error of his ways and he and Ronnie became friends. I grew up in South Mississippi in the early Seventies and loved Neil Young and Lynyrd Skynrd. I saw Neil Young play Powderfinger at the 1982 World's Fair in an open air ampitheater set on the banks of the Mississippi River. After turning around to face the river Neil started jamming to the Riverboat 'Delta Queen' with it's passengers pouring over the balcony and decks to get a look and listen. It was a magical moment. After he finished, the crowd showed their approval and then Neil said 'I thought you didn't like me down here?' The crowd went nuts! I guess the moral to my story is that prejudice is never good even if you're not from the South. Long live Dixie!

At 3/09/2010 07:11:00 AM, Anonymous Atheodorou said...

Neil Young is actually a big fan of "Sweet Home Alabama". He actually said that in an interview, although unfortunately I can't cite a source.

The song isn't a redneck anthem. The guys aren't even from Alabama, they're from Jacksonville, Florida, or maybe Georgia, or something.

The song is about white hypocrisy.

The jab at Neil Young, who is Canadian, was intended to highlight the sort of posturing that people like me (I live near Boston), have to the South. We assume that we are innocent of the rampant racism in our country. This in spite of the fact that Boston is one of the most segregated and racist cities in the country.

The song picked on Young's "Southern Man", because Canada never had slavery or a civil war, or anything (although Canada has other issues), and they were wondering why he was lecturing to them.

That's why Neil Young realized the brilliance of the song, and it's much deeper social message.

Boy, I feel like a pretentious boob, but that's the fact.

Neil Young and Lynyrd Skynrd have never been afraid to stick their necks out. They both rule.

At 3/09/2010 07:14:00 AM, Anonymous desiunion said...

Growing up in west virginia, I do understand certain things about the sountern white mentality. I used to be for the confederate flag, because although to some it represented slavery, I think its meaning today represents the southern white culture in general, not necessarily that part dealing with slavery and racism. Just like african americans like the malcom X, the white southerners feel like their voices are being muzzled, and they use the flag as a representation of southern america. There are certain groups of white people in this country who are in really dire situations, and having some pride in themselves can motivate them to do better. That doesnt mean taking it too far, but as a person of color, I can conceed that the southern flag is not always a symbol of racism. I guess people can say that about the swastika, but then native americans can have objections to the american flag as well, so its complicated.

At 3/09/2010 07:55:00 AM, Blogger doc said...

I can't begin to understand the complexities of racism in America's south...christ, here in Ozz we've got our own brand of racism that still holds strong today..only problem is our settled country by white man is not much over 200 yrs old!(the aborigines of our country go back thousands of years!)

As for the Ronnie/Neil "feud"..I always felt it was a misinterpreted 'storm in a tea cup' and like all other rumour and innuendo, Neil and Ronnie just let it ride and sat back and chuckled about it.

Knowing Neil, do you really think he could give 2 hoots about it? He'd love all this analytical,cryptic, hidden meaning analogy, bullshit... just like all the other critical analysis of his songs..powderfinger being the most written and contentious.

Yeah, I know all about hypocrisy and being misinterpreted. lol

luv doc

At 3/09/2010 08:51:00 AM, Anonymous Hawkins said...

I've heard both "Southern Man" and "Sweet Home Alabama." I'm also from Alabama and in my line of work I've traveled all over this state. Family's been here for generations. I can agree that all of us white southerners aren't racists redneck people, but sadly the majority of us are. We just don't say nothing or probably don't get around the state much to see what going on. People can sing "Sweet Home Alabama" til they turn red in the face, but I'd like to see Ronnie Van Zant and a black person go through towns like Athens, Hartselle, Higdon, Prattville, Valley Head, Wilmer, Millbrook, Canton, Montrose, Trussville, Garden City, Northport, Fultondale, Tuscumbia, Leeds, Montavello, Huntsville, and then come back alive to tell everybody about this "Sweet Home Alabama" I'm livin in. I will guarantee you that there are white supremists groups in these towns. Today they still hold their ralleys and there are alot of people there. I like both lynyrd skynyrd and neil young, but i don't have to lie about what's going on in my state let alon the south.

At 3/09/2010 08:53:00 AM, Anonymous VoiceOfReason said...

I love your version of revisionist history, which is the only way that liberals can claim the fight for civil rights as their own. As George Wallace was a democrat, so was Senator Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.)who completed a 14 hr address opposing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, along with other Democrats in their attempt to filibuster the legislation.
Guess who else opposed the Civil Rights Act? Albert Gore,Sr.(D-TN) none other than former VP Al Gore the junior's daddy.

Democrats f#$king filibustered the Civil Rights Act!

So Republicans and conservatives aren't for civil rights eh?
Who put an end to slavery then? Was it a democrat?
No it was republican President Abraham Lincoln who also had one of the first Republicans as his advisor, none other than Frederick Douglass who was one of the foremost leaders of the abolitionist movement. He eagerly attended the founding meeting of the republican party in 1854 and campaigned for its nominees.
IF that wasn't proof enough I mean you have Martin Luther King, Jr. himself who was a registered Republican, who we honor today with Martin Luther King day, man we better thank the democrat that passed that into law! Oh wait it was Ronald Reagan that passed MLK day into law, I guess you liberals and democrats fail there too.
Why don't you educate yourself, instead of spouting your revisionist history, about who really has done more for the civil rights cause.

At 3/09/2010 08:54:00 AM, Anonymous Terry David said...

Thrasher, I know exactly what you're talking about. I live in Jacksonville and the ignorance of the people here as to the real story of friendship and respect Ronnie and Neil and their bands had for one another is amazing. The truth about them has been out for decades and yet the misperception persists. I've told people the reality of the story so many times to the point of just realizing, that for some (many), the facts just don't matter. They just want to hang on to their petty criticisms and resentment of Neil Young because they're too fucking stupid, narrow minded, and hard hearted to recognise and appreciate the greatness of his talent and accomplishments. I just pray to God that he works things out that I can go see Neil this December in either Philly or New York City.

At 3/09/2010 09:22:00 AM, Anonymous Christian Harper said...

Ronnie was simply trying to remind people that there were still a lot of good people in Alabama. Neil was simply trying to remind people that there was still some bad shit going on in the South. I think the two respected each other's music and Neil was honored to be in Skynyrd's song. They were both smart enough not to take anything personally.

At 3/09/2010 09:57:00 AM, Anonymous Dr. O'Meara said...

I remember that back in the late 70's or early 80's in Harrisonburg High School there was a convocation of the whole student body. A couple of students unfurled a Confederate flag and shouted out Lynyrd Skynyrd's name. Some conflict between students of different races broke out in the high school that day. I came to school that day and and signed my daughter out of classes for her safety.

At 3/09/2010 09:58:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hawkins, well stated.

Irrespective of the debate over the song, the irony (if there ever was any) of "Sweet Home" was utterly lost on 99% of LS fans/Southerners. It is a response song and that's that.

No one has mentioned that the remaining Skynyrd members are hard core right-wing redneck assholes, not gentle hippies. I don't believe they have been anything but that in their lifetimes.

And "Voice of Reason," that's some nice FAILED cherry picking of factoids you did there.

Everyone with a brain knows the old Bourbon Southern Democrats have been GOP voters and officeholders since LBJ manned up and got the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts passed in the mid 1960s.

The poorest of the poor states are the deepest Red of the Red states.

And as far as the Stars & Bars, it is a symbol of treason in defense of slavery. Anyone who claims it's about heritage is sadly deluded or a fucking liar.

At 3/09/2010 10:04:00 AM, Anonymous Nathan Andrew Seifert said...

"Sweet Home Alabama" is no more racist than Southern culture itself, which is, in my opinion, inherently racist. But, objectively, Sweet Home Alabama is little more than a song of harmless nationalistic pride. However, the true issue is the reaction of the Southern culture in the context of the song, hence the inherent racism injected into the song's interpretation. I don't enjoy it, since I think it's white trash crap, but, in reference to the Skynyrd/Young "dispute", I don't like Young either. :)

At 3/09/2010 10:06:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Without trying to sound like some sort of pretentious bore, can't one interpret "Sweet Home Alabama" from another angle such that Ronnie Van Zant was very deftly bashing the rednecks without them knowing it?

"does your conscience bother you, tell the truth?" as in, Wake up - it ought to!

"In alabama they love the governor.." yeah right, like who could love ol' George Wallace

and the famous line about Neil,
"I heard ol' Neil put her down; well I hope Neil Young will remember, a southern Man don't need him around anyhow" Yes, and Neil doesn't need southern rednecks either...

anyway, it's a stretch, but since they were friends I kind of think the whole thing was an inside joke between them.

Come to think of it, this isn't pretentious, but rather obvious and probably observed many times before...

At 3/09/2010 10:08:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since I'm from Alabama, I "may" have some insight concerning why Neil wrote the song for Ronnie, and "some" of the meaning(s) that I can glean.

My husband and I travel the world to see Neil, since he doesn't like to visit "Dixie" -- whatever! :-)

My husband was somewhere in New England years ago to see Phish, and he yelled for them to sing, "Freebird". Most called him a redneck in the audience; however, it was a blistering cover according to Robert.



At 3/09/2010 10:25:00 AM, Anonymous Jon said...

A Southern Man is a man not tragically unlike anyone else.

However, it is vital that no one forget the troubles of their local places, the issues that we forget as they do not particular apply to our own lives, but those nearest us. "Southern Man" was a song that needed to be written, and definietley not an attack on a man because he is southern. "Sweet Home Alabama" is an otherwise quite enjoyable tune, but was written with an unnecessary, innapropriate bias and attitude of ignorance. It could have been a much better song, in my opinion, if it has neglected the ideals of beligerence and inconsideration that plague southern culture stereotypes, and been more concerned with the real good times that we all have in some of the most hospitalable southern locals of the U.S., despite their political sufferings.

At 3/09/2010 10:34:00 AM, Blogger Archives Guy said...

A well thought out and written post, Mr Thrasher.

Not to put a damp towel on it or anything, but this feud only exists in the minds of fans, reviewers and those who enjoy speculating about it.

I believe the interview that one of you refers to was an old Rockline radio interview.

You scholars of Neil may have bootleg recording from the late 70's when Neil breaks into "Sweet Home Alabama" during a performance of "Alabama".

Sugarmt would know how to find this.

-Archives Guy

At 3/09/2010 10:49:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I call b.s. on LS's 'Sweet Home Alabama' being 'ironic'.

That is 30 years of wishful thinking.

These guys are/were 'proud' self defined rednecks.
Pick up trucks, Confederate flags, the works. And the works include embracing the humiliation of AA.

Point to one song that suggests an empathy to the Black experience. Just one. It isn't there.

DBT, on the other hand, are brilliant. Neil's SM & Alabama are genius. 'How long, how long...?'

Time to move on...

At 3/09/2010 11:00:00 AM, Anonymous Chris Sanders said...

I would say there was more of a mutual admiration between Lynyrd Skynyrd and Neil Young then there was a close buddy buddy type of thing. Both Lynyrd Skynyrd and Neil Young have a country sound to them, and wrote great sounding songs. I just think that Neil Young takes himself more seriously than Lynyrd Skynyrd does, and this would make it hard for some people to get the irony of their admiration for each other. I grew up in the south at the same time the guys from Lynyrd Skynyrd did, so it was easy for me to relate to the common sense lyrics the band would sing. I remember seeing them in concert in 1975. It is hard for people from the north to understand what a person from the south sees when he looks at the Confederate flag. A man from the south does not see racism, but he sees his family, friends, the pond he used to go fishing in as a boy, the corner he hung out on with his Bro's when he was teenager, his first pick-up truck, or his first girl friend. Believe me, hating black people is not the first thing that comes to a southern mans mind when he sees the Confederate flag.

At 3/09/2010 11:31:00 AM, Anonymous Brian G. said...

For history as argument, since we lost the band in a plane accident, we have just lost a source which is possibly bias towards the accusations of racism in their song.
Lyrics are lyrics. I don't think they really meant anything in them, but so many people want to get on the band, analyzing every little word just so they can extract evidence that Lynard Skynard implied "racist" intent. By all means, this is definitely a Southern song and the way it was written seems to put some people in a certain disposition where they think most Southerners are inherent racists. Some are proud to wave the Confederate flag, but to what purpose? Do they "like" that their grand daddies were rRebels? I mean its fine i guess if they don't mean anything bad to it.
Thinking of this whole song flaring up racial conflict, I read this piece of literature for English last year explaining this whole concept of an exchange of racism. We (well I'm not white) brought down the Africans to our servitude which leaves an entire dark legacy branded upon this country. Becuase of that prejudice did some African americans during and after the civil rights movement made "power moves" by taking advantage of their history and the white man's previous prejudice. This occurs even in contemporary society.
"We were slaves, brought down by the whites. Feel sympathy" and so in some of us in our "reformed" minds give in to this "oh well we're sorry we feel guilty" crap. Its all a vicious cycle which makes it seem like its all the white man's fault. (Yeah Tueting, something to add to the 'Evil White Man' theory)
Anyways, going off subject to branch off from the original 'History is Argument", that should supplement my comment (hopefully). I think there is some kind of "counter" prejudice (fight fire with fire) involved in this dispute of Lynard Skynard. People still want to try to find evidence against Lynard Skynard's claims thinking that the band implied racism. It could be. The whole "power move" thing may have pushed the band into a state of "guilt", but what is a missing but crucial piece of evidence is what was going on in the writers head at the time of creating the song. There was less Civil Rights activity and America was in a different mindframe of nationalism. The fog of history remains, and there is only so much evidence, most inherently biased. Or is all of history really biased to some degree or another?

At 3/09/2010 11:45:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love the band lynrd skynryd,,they just knew how to write awesome lyrics and how to make u feel those from the south,,and one thing i need to say..northern people do not have the same sense of pride like a southern ..that includes the love and pride southern folks have for our confedrate is a shame that was taking down in some states because of the black card being played..i think it is a crime to take something as simple as a flag (which by the way was part of american history just like the us flag)it was a symbol of us winning freedom of our own ..and now of course we cant have it out in public because god forbid a african american gets offended..well im telling you alot of white people are getting offended by what is being done to us..but it is okay we are supose to take long as the old melting pot is running over with illegal imagrants..protesting while they hold the flag of their choice..Mexico..and yet we are suppose to feed and clothed these people...and which we do graciously because we are southern folk..but come on people wake the fuck up america needs to be america..let them wave their flag on their own soil ..and lets us wave ours..i personally fly the texas rebel and american flag..helloo...we do have rights...though anymore it feels like the white race doesnt..and no i do not believe in the kkk.but anyways..lyrnyd skynyrd was one of the best..and i think the song made alot of southerns proud again and no one should take away from the fact that they had enough courage to put into a song something they founnd unjust and made people see more clearly ...but thanks to our forefathers we all have a right to freedom of speech...and thank god these boys were able to sing what they feltand what they new!! other people would realize this song is not about their home state.just what it is a response song to neil thanks for letting me unload all of this..on hoever is going to read more thing.i think next time all the hispanics start rioting and waving their mexican flag some southerns should get off their asses and wave right back the a true american flag the confedrate...which by the way in florida schools they are not allowed to wear or show anything with the confederate flag but hispanics can wear their flags and cubans can display theirs and haitians can theirs.thanks for ur time


At 3/09/2010 11:47:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

awesome shot of Ronnie. Long live skynyrd!

At 3/09/2010 12:09:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. This one brought out all the
intellectuals...even DOC!

At 3/09/2010 12:23:00 PM, Anonymous Lee said...

1) The song(Sweet Home Alabama)can be debated for all time. That makes it a great song.
2) Lynyrd Skynyrd and Crazy Horse (Neil does prefer to be considered with his band) are perfect compliments to each other and encountered, and wrote about, many of the same items of those times, politics, needles, etc.
3) I'm glad Ronnie and Neil connected and I'm sure they are too. They are (Ronnie in spirit) both quality, awesome individuals.
4) I love Ronnie like the little bro I've never had and in a crazy way am glad that he chose my 13th birthday to exit this world. I do miss his words terribly and wish him well on his new journey. Hoka Hey Ronnie.


At 3/09/2010 12:33:00 PM, Anonymous SouthernMan said...

My family has been in Texas since the early 1800's, yes, before Texas was annexed. I am a huge fan of both Neil Young and Lynyrd Skynyrd. I am also a huge fan of the song "Southern Man". Yes, it is stereotypical, but stereotypes come from truth. I hate to admit it, but many southerners, including myself, are racist. However, we have learned to not show it in public. Also, the Confederacy has nothing to do with slavery. If you think it does, you must have failed your U.S. History class. It was about state's rights. Lincoln didn't even think about abolishing slavery until the end of the Civil War(check out the dates of the Emancipation Proclamation). So any yankees that think a rebel flag means racism, wake up. I doesn't. I love both these artists, and I truly believe that they were friends. If there was any feud, it was a friendly one.

At 3/09/2010 01:28:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, can we agree on one thing?
Skynard wasn't racist. Never. As for the lyrics "In Birmingham they love the governor." Note "THEY", it's not "WE".

Y'all should hear Ballad of Curtis Loew, you'll realize that Skynard wasn't a bunch of racists but a kick-ass band.

At 3/09/2010 02:29:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's just a song for gawd's sake!!

give me a break

At 3/09/2010 03:15:00 PM, Anonymous J.T. Jester said...

well you can't really argue that southern rock is racist. you can argue that lynyrd skynyrd is racist. but southern rock as a whole can not be considered racist. think about it. who was the second biggest southern rock band behind lynyrd skynyrd? the allman brothers. the allman brothers had 2 black members. little feet did also. billy gibbons of zz top said he never liked any white music at all until he heard the beatles. and about neil young. the dissing of southern man probably wasn't attacking anti-racism, but just a response to the lyrics of southern man, which, while the attack on racism was good, were extremely offensive to southerners, not just racists. it attacked the south pretty directly, and many southerners probably viewed it as an outsider (a canadian) talking about something they thought he didnt know about. and as for dissing neil young, skynyrd were still huge neil young fans, and neil young liked lynyrd skynyrd. i've heard neil young and ronnie van zant had talked about touring together before the crash, and legend has it that ronnie was buried in his neil young tshirt. and by the way yall, it's L-Y-N-Y-R-D S-K-Y-N-Y-R-D

J.T. Jester

At 3/09/2010 04:29:00 PM, Anonymous MDB said...

All I know for sure is that I would pay a TON of money for Van Zant's t-shirt.

At 3/09/2010 04:32:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Skynyrd is as American as you can get. Their music will be listened to 100 yrs from now. I'm 51 and have 4 boys that range from 13 to 31 and I can tell you I had nothing to do with it but they discovered LS and can't get enough of them. They are right "southern man don't need him around".

At 3/09/2010 05:30:00 PM, Anonymous Mannie Jo said...

I guess my main comment about Sweet Home Alabama is the line, "A Southern Man don't need him around, anyhow". I think this pretty accurately represents the attitude a lot of Southerners have towards outsiders - the reason the Confederate Battle Flag is so important to many isn't the race angle. I think it's the reminder of a time when Southerners were stomped upon. And the Reconstruction was little more than that. Whether Southern policies are right or wrong, anytime you try to force us to do something, we go stubborn. With the shift Southward of aging, retired "Yankees", some of us feel as if the South is being invaded, and the old attitude of "leave us be" is still felt. As many bumper stickers in my neck of the woods say, "We don't care how you did things up North" and "If the North is so great, why don't you go back". This is the attitude that was echoed in "Sweet Home Alabama".

At 3/09/2010 06:29:00 PM, Anonymous setlistthief said...

I have no doubt that had Skynyrd survived that Neil would have collaborated with the group, much as Young did with Pearl Jam. Van Zant was no more a racist than Neil was a scold. Just look at "Mister Saturday Night Special" to know within that Southern rocker lived a thoughful, questioning man with a wicked sense of humor.

As for Neil, remember that Hey, Hey, My, My was written shortly after the plane crash and consider the line, "Hey hey my my, rock and roll will never die, There's more to the picture than meets the eye."

Any guesses who that was written for?

At 3/09/2010 10:28:00 PM, Anonymous BigChief said...

Ronnie and Neil were not friends but merely aquainted through their music. I don't believe that there is any knowledge of them ever speaking to one another let alone ever having met in person.It has been well documented,however, that there was a mutual admiration of each others music. Probably more so of Ronnie towards Neil. Just the fact that he gave Neil the 'nod' in S.H.A. was his ironic way to express it although it used to make me cringe whenever I listened to the live version and heard the audiences reaction and approval. I think the Skynard fans took it far more serious than Ronnie had anticipated but by then he kinda ran with it. Neil has said that for a few years he couldn't perform in some southern states because of death threats. Such is the duallity of the southern thang! It has been documented, however, that shortly after Ronnies death his grave was desecrated by some individuals who attempted to dig ol Ronnie up to see whether or not he was buried in his 'Tonights The Night' T-Shirt. As a result, his widow had him moved to another undisclosed location.

At 3/09/2010 10:49:00 PM, Anonymous A H McHenry said...

I have no idea why anyone would think that Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" would be racist. If anyone would do their research before making a comment they would know that Ronnie and Neil were very good friends. Skynyrd was trying to be funny when the song "Sweet Home Alabama" was written. They were not trying to poke fun at Neil, at Alabama, or at any race. It is just a fun song. If you will watch "Freebird-The Movie" you will see a picture of Ronnie and Neil together and they also played at some festival or concert where Neil Young was there. This song has been taken and totally switched around from its actual meaning. If anyone done their research before making comments of Ronnie and Skynyrd you would know that none of the members are racist...they love ALL people and they wrote songs for the people! Their song "Give Me Back My Bullets" can easliy be mistaken however if you do your research you would know that they were talking about the "Bullets" that appeared next to songs on the song charts (Top 100 songs, Top 40 songs, etc.) Also, their song "Saturday Night Special" could be mistaken for a song that is supporting people killing people with guns but again if you do your research you would know that he is talking about Gun Control..."Hand guns are made for killin' Ain't no good for nothin' else And if you like your whiskey You might even shoot yourself So why don't we dump 'em people to the bottome of the sea Before some fool comes around here Wanna shoot either you or me...." So you see it is easy to mistake someones music for something that they totally do not mean. Skynyrd is know for the start of the Revolution of "Southern Rock" along with The Allman Brothers. Without Skynyrd or the Allman Brothers country music would not be where it is today. If you ask any Country Musician or any Rock n Roll Musician I bet you they will either list Skynyrd or the Allman Brothers as a group that they listened to when they were young and that they inspired them to become a musician. I dare any of you to go to a Skynyrd concert. When you get there take a good look around....and I bet you will see generations of people gathered around to support a group that has been around for Thirty Years, who have overcome the most tragic situtations that would tear an average mucisian apart. You will see a group that could still out preform any group, band, or artist....and I am talking about men who are not young chicks anymore. These men will go down as one of the greatest band EVER. Ronnie Van Zant died toooo soon, but the greatest people ALWAYS die young. People thought that the plane crash in Oct of 77 would be the end....and it was the end of one chapter in their lives....and ten years was the beginning of a new chapter when Johnnie came it and took his older brothers spot. After 30 Years Skynyrd is still preforming for "The People" which was Ronnie's dream. So, I urge you to do your research before you put Skynyrd down.

At 3/09/2010 11:51:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ly-NY-rd sky-NY-rd

Because Sound Matters

At 3/10/2010 12:11:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a fascinating subject because it lends itself to so much interpretation. It’s a huge conversation which even a book size treatment could hardly cover, let alone a blog. It’s a question of historical perspective, which unfortunately very nearly always is subject to misinterpretation. As Brian says: “The fog of history remains, and there is only so much evidence, most inherently biased. Or is all of history really biased to some degree or another?” For better or worse, it comes down to how different people interact with facts based on their circumstances, and might be as simple as whose on whose side. For me the facts are relatively straight forward: Neil tapped into the race consciousness and gave expression to the moral nightmare of slavery (I saw cotton, and I saw black), and by implication the continuance of what made it possible which lived on beyond abolition (How long, how long). While this historical impression is accurate in and of itself, it does not tell the whole story. Not all southerners can be lumped together, even in the face of deeply rooted prejudice, and Ronnie and the boys rightly pointed it out. But ultimately, as Christian stated:

“Ronnie was simply trying to remind people that there were still a lot of good people in Alabama. Neil was simply trying to remind people that there was still some bad shit going on in the South. I think the two respected each other's music and Neil was honored to be in Skynyrd's song. They were both smart enough not to take anything personally.

The only thing left to consider is how people have responded to the song, and what meaning they give to it based on perspective. Just read what people have written. It comes down to point of view. Like any song, it means different things to different people. But what a great chance a conversation like this gives us to learn from it all, if and when anyone wants to look beyond their preconceived notions. I’m guessing it wasn’t Neil or Ronnie’s intention, but if in the end people would learn from it all, I bet they would be good with it.

Greg M (A Friend Of Yours)

At 3/10/2010 05:06:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh please, someone make them stop! Walk On & My My, Hey Hey lyrics referring to Lynyrd Skynyrd? Are you guys serious? In regard to Walk On, maybe you should have a look back at where Neil was at in 1973, and how his live performances had been received, and the kind of press he was getting. And MMHH? You don't think maybe he was reminding us that the recent punk rock movement wasn't going to kill rock & roll, and in fact was just another form of it - "more to the picture than meets the eye" indeed...

At 3/10/2010 08:01:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let Them Guitars Blast For Ronnie and Neil!

Bottom line is that all Rusties should listen to the Driveby Truckers because they are great and write songs like "Ronnie and Neil" which make us think about this kind of sh*t, love Neil, sound like the Horse and are one of the best bands around these days.


At 3/10/2010 08:18:00 AM, Anonymous rustINhead 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.
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 3/10/2010 08:48:00 AM, Blogger Tweck9 said...

Wow, this certainly is a great thread.

Greg M. - I agree, you could write a book, A Political History of the Northern and Southern U.S. using Neil Young and Lynyrd Skynyrd as the catalyst.


Really, so many issues come out when you start looking into this stuff. Like an onion, you just keep stripping layers away, and attitudes that seem like one thing morph into something else the further you get. People are much more complex than they're given credit for being.

It's interesting to examine the thought processes of both white Southerners and 'liberal' Northerners, and how they both misunderstand each other, and are often lumped into single, simplistic categories by people who oppose them.

On the flip-side, you can also accuse someone of generalizing who is just using a literary generalization to analogize a certain group of people.

For instance, with regard to Southern Man -

People accuse Neil of "generalizing", but I think that calling it generalizing is just a way to discredit Neil.

You could say he's referring to all Southern Men, but that isn't really true in a literary sense -

'Southern Man' in the context of this song means anyone who is a backward, redneck racist.

So, while on the surface you can accuse Neil of referring to "all southerners", I never interpreted it that way.

I've always thought the "generalization" was really only aimed at backward people, and not necessarily even those in the South.

Neil was using the Southern Man as an analogy for all racists everywhere.

That's my take anyway.

Great discussion going here.

At 3/10/2010 09:11:00 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 3/10/2010 09:47:00 AM, Anonymous wilbs101479 said...

The Lynyrd Skynyrd band was and always will be one of the best bands the Lord ever created. Those people who are mispelling the name or saying 'he' was a racist need to become a bit more educated about the band. As anonymous states Ronnie Van Zant and the other members of Skynyrd were proud to be Americans, from the south and just wanted to play some of the best music ever composed.

At 3/10/2010 10:00:00 AM, 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 3/10/2010 10:19:00 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 3/10/2010 10:48:00 AM, 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 3/10/2010 11:00:00 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 3/10/2010 11:18:00 AM, Blogger Tweck9 said...

lol @ Anon 3/10 12:00:00 ... stupid people are often the most filled with hate, now aren't they? Oooooh, watch out for the evil, scary Educated and Compassionate folk! Aaaaah, git yer guns 'n' run fer the hills! The smart folks're comin'!

At 3/10/2010 11:51:00 AM, Anonymous flanaganman said...

listen to skynyrds live album. during sweet home alabama ronnie says i want to thank mr young truly i do! this so called fued is someones fantasy!

At 3/10/2010 01:00:00 PM, Anonymous kilbey x said...

Southern People has this "pride" shit masked as aggression and angst that they wish us "outsiders" would just fuck off and just blow away.

Remember you all gots the best "educational" system in the country...let alone the world!!!!

I mean its ranked the worst with only one count em one college (UT Knoxville) ranking in the top 50 in the whole dame NESW sectors!!!!

And dig...where did Mr. Young at all "reference" any ONE particular NAME including THOU-ART-BLESSED RONNIE V anywhere at'll in "Southern Man!!!???"

Nope...the Van Z quirks of quark strangeness and charm is de ones who abet take thyselves overtly serious!!! OOOPPPSSS-he's mental



At 3/10/2010 01:21:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whoever wrote this dissertation started out with a pre-supposition that is completely wrong. The line "in Birmingham they love the Governor" was written tounge in cheek. Governor Wallace hadn't carried many areas in the Birmingham area in several election cycles up to his last service. Additionally, by that time he was getting the vast majority of the black vote in Alabama. In response to the lackluster political support, he was in a long fued with Birmingham that culminated in his blocking the completion of interstate 65 (stopping both North and South of Birmingham for years) Birmingham didn't like the Governor and they moaned about it all the time. The words "boo, hoo, hoo" or "boo, boo, boo." (depending on the recording you hear) refer to the crybabies in Birmingham.

Lynrd Skynrd knew that Birmingham hated the Governor. It was humor. Someone needs to quit taking themselves so seriously.


At 3/10/2010 01:37:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi You all Neil Fan, and when I lived in fla 15 years ago I think is when the plane went down and Everybody was into the Song Freebird, I dont think only the Southerner helped but Northner as you guys call us Yankee. But we dont make a big Hoopla's about it. Neil was just trying to make positve point about Racism, and who like racist, bigot!!

I rather stand by Neil Young who sing about the reality of life. He always gave positive influence. When he sees something Neil see's something he is not happy about,, Well, he can take a piece of paper and sing about what is going on about the Bigotry & hatred!! I mean there are bad in all of us. shall we hunt down Germans after what they did in Nazi War Camp. Also there are alot of white trash that are not angelic, me being Japanese, I was Living in Tampa and I was spit upon because of the vietnam war. Sorry I was not in the war, they still cannot admitt that they lost. Just close the door on Racist pigs and do Neil Young do....SING ABOUT!! I DO, IN THE SHOWER. I LOVE U NEIL, YOU HAVE A HEART OF GOLD.


At 3/10/2010 01:57:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

to me ronnie vanzant is the only man in the world that can sing all the other only think they can the fact is you people will never hear any other person alive even come close to ronnie that the way its going to be like it or not i love ronnie's voice so let him rest .

from a fan in kentucky

At 3/10/2010 02:03:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Skynyrd's 1st album has a song called "Things Goin' On" that makes it hard for me to believe Ronnie Van Zant was "racist".

Have you ever lived down in the ghetto
Have you ever felt that cool wind blow
If you don't know what I mean
won't you stand up and scream
cuz there's thing goin on you don't know
Too many lives they spend across the ocean
Too much money they spend up on the moon
Well until they make it right
I hope they never sleep at night
They better make some changes and do it soon
There going to ruin the air that we breath (Lord have mercy)
There going to ruin us all bye an bye
I tell you all, you beware
I don't think they really care
Think they just sit up there and just get high
Well, have you ever lived down in that ghetto
Have you ever felt that cool wind blow
If you don't know what I mean
Won't you stand up and scream
Cuz there's things goin on that you don't know (tell it, tell it)

At 3/10/2010 02:27:00 PM, Anonymous Steve Walt said...

The crucial verse in “Sweet Home Alabama” is the third one, where Skynyrd sing, “In Birmingham they love the governor,” a reference to George Wallace, and then chant out, “Boo! Boo! Boo!” before asking if the conscience of Alabama is untroubled by Wallace’s racism. That’s as direct a confrontation of southern white racism as you could expect for a song glorifying the south, and it’s a credit to Skynyrd for taking the subject on. But the reason why they went after Neil Young is simple: “Southern Man” treats all southerners as Wallace.

As a result, it risked marginalizing anti-racist white southerners who needed all the authenticity-cred they could get it into Wallace supporters’ heads that they shouldn’t back the demagogue. Lyrnrd Skynyrd, in other words, represented an Alabama Awakening. But Neil, in his zeal, treated reconcilable elements as irreconcilable.

Skynyrd took him on as a step of taking back the south for their mutual and admirable goal.

At 3/10/2010 02:32:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

yes, LS were from the South and they loved where they were from, but it wasn't really as serious as many people conceived them to be. much of this image has been blown out of proportion since, and sadly, the surviving band today, which is only really Rossington, have bought into this stereotype as ignorant rednecks.


At 3/10/2010 02:54:00 PM, Blogger doc said...

"T.O.N.G.U.E I.N. C.H.E.E.K"

How come Neil and Ronnie learnt this expression and know one else did.!

Ok, ya can't change history and you guys had/have your racist problems like everybody else did/has around the world and ya know human nature, being what it is, peoples attitudes and beliefs are well engrained in those beliefs and stances they take.

Look this is a very sensitive issue to a lot of Americans... and rightly so.

It's alright to sit back as an outsider and form opinions on the historical significance of events that unfolded.

What, dya think Neil was the first one to write a song with "political racist connotations"?

I just wish Ronnie were alive today to see his "Legacy"

My opinion? Well... obviously its worth diddly shit!

Sometimes I think musicians write some lyrics in songs just because they 'rhyme' with the previous line... a simplistic view I know, but I'm sure Neil is guilty of this as much as any musician in the history of lyrical music.

A pity Neil hadn't penned that penultimate song years ago...

"JUST SINGIN' A SONG WON"T CHANGE THE WORLD"...maybe not, but it sure can put it off its axis!


At 3/10/2010 03:24:00 PM, Anonymous Drew Minson said...

I cry every time I sing Sweet Home Alabama. It's the greatest song ever written (well, second greatest behind Powderfinger). You don't have to be a bigot to love the South, her history and culture. Amen.

At 3/10/2010 03:39:00 PM, Anonymous Mike Robinson said...

Some of us judge a song not for it's lyrics, but for it's melody. instrumentation and vocals. I always wondered about the line about Neil Young- I thought maybe Skynyrd hated his music.A former Texan now living in Oregon, I get questions about southern discrimination that force me to mention that blacks weren't even allowed to live in Oregon for many years and the KKK marched in southern Oregon about 60 years ago. As for Young, I liked 'Heart of Gold'- but none of his songs since. Hey, hey, my, my, Neil Young needs to die.

At 3/10/2010 03:44:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't forget that after the Kent State shootings, Neil Young wrote "OHIO".
To me, that says he saw that the north also had its problems and they weren't limited to the "Southern Man".
It also shows that Nixon's problems weren't only limited to the Watergate. There was that thing called the Vietnam War, which many believe Nixon prolonged for political gain.

Roy @ candoo

At 3/10/2010 03:52:00 PM, Anonymous rivermandan said...

I've lived in the south all my life and no music group has affected life as much as Skynyrd. For years you couldn't go in a bar without people screaming for the bar band to do one of their songs. Ronnie wasn't racist but he was southern to the bone and now he's gone and we still remember and we love him.

At 3/10/2010 04:01:00 PM, Anonymous stone5150 said...

Some people obviously have WAYYY too much time on their hands to whine about a classic rock song like Sweet Home Alambama.
Are we supposed to forget the past just so that people won't be offended by anything. Racism and intolerance is a part of the past, one that we MUST not forget lest we repeat it.
That being said, no one alive today has ever owned a slave or been a slave, and a great majority of those complaining have never had to deal with any real intolerance. So get over it already!
I want my freedon of speech back without all the politically correct nazis telling me what I can listen to, say and think!

At 3/10/2010 04:04:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i don't want to talk to much of this, but quickly in support of the basis of their political opinion: i feel pretty strongly that the american south has served as a convenient scapegoat for all of american racism, and that focus is taken away from the very serious economic/race clashes that happen in america's urban centers. the buses in boston, the riots in watts, detroit, philadelphia. americans in general are uncomfortable with accepting how tense race relations really are, that it became quite easy to point at a place that was institutionally less progressive (as the south unarguably was) and make the non-sequitur connection that it was the source of all racial tension. that being said, while i think neil young's lyric in 'alabama' sounds particularly ignorant, i don't think he was using it as a scapegoat but rather trying to focus on specific events occuring at the time, ultimately to motivate and mobilize an audience."

neil young is just another overly sensitive idiot hippy that im gonna guess was never discriminated against,and wasnt alive in the 1800's,so he shoulda kept his mouth shut.How could a state with such a high black population be considered racsist.Any black person alive in these modern times(get over the past) hasnt been discriminated against,and needs to shut the hell up.Race relations wont get any better until BOTH sides gets over it
hell yeah


At 3/10/2010 04:12:00 PM, Anonymous Michael A. Clem said...

The simple truth is that it's rather difficult to be specific with song lyrics, and all the more so if you're trying to be sarcastic, ironic, or some other form of humor. Also, listeners tend to bring their own views to songs--if they like the song, they'll try to justify the lyrics to be in line with their views. Thus, I think it tends to be to the songwriter's advantage to allow some ambiguity or vagueness creep in.

At 3/10/2010 04:15:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You-All Need to QUIT! The only person that can tell you what these lyrics mean is Neil Young! I'm sure that in his time he will do this! Let the man create and ......let us all simply enjoy his creations! I have been a "listener" since the Buffalo Springfield days..........he simply does what he does....don't try to analyze it....just enjoy the ride! Trying to figure out or interprete his lyrics is like trying to figure out why Cadillac uses leather or Ferrari paints their cars red! Later...and sorry to be a pain


At 3/10/2010 04:21:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Silly Rabbits,

Lynard Skynrd was simply saying "clean-up your own back yard, and get that wig hat off your own ugly head". Then you can tell the wonderful Southland what to do. Lead by example, stronger than words. The South is such a simple and at the same time complex place. That's why so many talented and introspective folks are from here.

I was listening to After the Gold Rush on the way in this morning, wondered what other folks thought of Neil's writings. The entire album is about leaving. Nothing left to stay for...the Gold Rush is over.

At 3/10/2010 04:23:00 PM, Anonymous THe Old Folkster said...

I'm not an Alabaman or a Canadian, but knowing that Van Zandt was fiercely proud of his southern roots would guess he was just telling Neil to "shut the hell up."

TO me, the reference about Watergate was neither an endorsement or a condemnation of the event, but rather telling people to focus on their own lives -as opposed to following the leads of political pundits on both sides of the aisle -advice that is STILL applicable in today's overly politicized culture.

At 3/10/2010 04:24:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really enjoy the song "Sweet Home Alabama". At least I used to. I am from Alabama. I'm not choosing sides here though. I think they both made good points. LS was singing about the good things about the south and Neil Young liked to sing about the bad things. So what? Everything has a good side and a bad side. The city has it's good side and it's bad side. Maybe LS should have written a song about the bad side of living in the city to shut Neil up.
I really don't care for the song anymore because since I've moved to DC the clubs here ruined it for me. The DJ's here will usually play it towards the end of the night and everyone goes crazy! Especially the girls. The'll get up on the bar and dance half naked say "This is my song! It's my favorite. It's about me! I'm totally country..blah...blah...blah"
And I know that 90% of those girls have never even been past the beaches on South Carolina when their parents take them on expensive vacations. They just like complete idiots.
So when clubs play that song, it's my cue to go to the next bar to avoid the bimbo stripper show.
It's okay to like the song but don't act like you have a connection with the song unless you've actually been to Alabama. As for the bimbos out there, you should at least now the state capital or be able to point it out on a map before you throw your panties at the DJ for playing it.....

At 3/10/2010 04:32:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You really can't understand why this band is such a big deal unless you were a teenager then... I'm Florida born and nothing was bigger to us than Skynyrd. We were the "new south"; unbigoted, long-haired,high, and ready to rock. The songs were real life stuff. When Ronnie mentioned Wallace, everybody joined in the "boo,boo,boo" because the man stood for segregation. Of course Wallace embraced the song since it was boasting about the state... he's a politician after all. Watergate didn't "bother me" either because that administration didn't represent us and it was something you actually EXPECTED from the crooks in Washington. I don't understand where folks get a 'redneck' message from SHA. Back in the day it was our anthem and it was just a collective "hey! we're here, we're alright, it's okay to be southern!" You want redneck lyrics then listen to "Mississippi Kid". When that plane went down, a lot of the kids in my highschool wore black armbands made from ripped up t-shirts for a couple days... they'd just played Lakeland, FL two days before and lots of us had seen the beginning of the new tour and the Street Survivors record was #1. They were the last bastion of honest, accessable music (to us) in the overblown 'classic rock' and disco era. It was just unbelieveable that they were gone. It was heartbreaking! Elvis died a few months before and his passing was a blip compared to the loss of the Skynyrd band to my generation. I love Neil Young- the whole feud thing is ridiculous. Can't hardly stand to hear the damn song now! It's the most overplayed tune with the possible exception of "Proud Mary". Give this whole thing a break... listen to their other songs that have content that actually matters! Start with "Cry For The Badman". Chris Sander's blog says it best for me...

Ed from Florida

At 3/10/2010 04:36:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always had the feeling that Skynyrd's line "We all did what we could do. Now Watergate does not bother me. Does your conscience bother you?" was meant as an "up yours" (sorry, but it fits) to those who blindly followed Nixon and the Far Right, whereas Ronnie (and those like him) saw what was coming, tried to warn people and was rebuffed by Nixon's re-election. He's absolving himself of Watergate-like tactics and asking Nixon backers if they felt responsible.

As for the Rebel flag, it's sometimes difficult to understand what it means to Southern culture on many levels. It's a symbol of defiance, yes, and a symbol of place. No different from the green, black and red flags adopted by members of the African American community to show their pride. This is not a blanket statement. I'm white and Southern, I and abhor public display of the flag as I long ago became tired of being Southern and therefore the brunt of jokes as being toothless, bath less and brainless.

Tom Petty, a Floridian, used the battle flag as his stage prop for many years; Petty's songs leaned heavily to overcoming social and political wrongs. It's always struck me as strange that Southern Man is the song that set off this discussion. Alabama is a much more potent song, IMO, containing strong, straightforward imagery that has little room for misinterpretation.

Benjamin J.

At 3/10/2010 05:03:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the answer, at least regarding this web author is that he's an arrogant condecending blowhard who thinks he's doing the world some big favor by peddling his theories on Neil Young and Lynyrd Skynyrd or his OWN stereotypes and prejudices when it comes to politics.

At 3/10/2010 05:24:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love Alabama, and "Sweet Home Alabama," as a reference to my home. However, I don't long for the days of George Wallace, don't have a problem with Neil Young's politics, and I don't think this is that big a deal.

Yes, there are some rednecks who think "SHA" is endorsing their views, but I don't care what they think.

I'm a liberal, Jewish Alabamian, and I can appreciate the good aspects of Alabama and hope to see the bad ones die out.

At 3/10/2010 05:46:00 PM, Anonymous ryan koluch said...

lynyrd skynyrd and neil young can be considered one in the same as they were both performers with a deep heart and soul. their honesty integrity and passion came across in their work as well as their social conscience and love for the world in which they lived. Their lives and body of work are more than enough to show the type of people they were and the respect they have not only for each other but all types of people who work hard and stay true.

At 3/10/2010 05:47:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Driveby Truckers are one the best damn bands to come out of the south since Skynyrd.

And Ronnie & Neil rox.

love that youtube vid


At 3/10/2010 06:28:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry am i missing something here, the overwhelming evidence is that Ronnie van Zant and Neil Young never had anything but complete respect for each other, so why is there anyone slagging off one or the other for political reasons that really don't even exist. Southern Man and Sweeet Home Alabama are both brilliant songs, written by brilliant musicians. Can't we just leave it at that?!

R.I.P. Ronnie
Long Live Neil!

At 3/10/2010 06:38:00 PM, Blogger Five Hairs High said...

Great article. You don't have to believe it all, but it sheds light on a few things that people miss. Thanks TW for putting it on the ol' website.

At 3/10/2010 06:59:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is the most pointless blog I have ever read, it is so obvious to anyone with half a brain that Skynyrd and Neil had nothing but mutual admiration towards eachother. Oh, and by the way Ronnie WAS buried in a Neil Young t-shirt with his fishing pole and favorite hat by his side.


At 3/10/2010 07:55:00 PM, Anonymous Skadi meic Beorh said...

To the person writing the article on Neil and Skynyrd:

Thank you. Your view coincides with broad perspective and detailed examination of evidence. If only the world had more writers like you, we wouldn't need songs like "Southern Man."

We all know Neil's socio-political position by listening to his numerous lyrics. But a little about Ronnie for those who may not know: take a close listen to his lyrics as well. He's not just another Southern boy, y'all. He is first and foremost a social activist--something Hatchet and Marshall Tucker and Blackfoot and even the Outlaws with their often sweet lyrics never accomplished. Skynyrd was a true Civil Rights band, and when we lost them, we lost a great, great treasure.

At 3/10/2010 08:10:00 PM, Anonymous Marty Sweeten said...

I came across your article titled, "Is Sweet Home Alabama" Really Sweet?” and found it interesting but heavy on bias. I think you’ve fallen victim to a strong temptation that we all have to re-shape history to bolster our argument. Your implication that Republicans are inherently bigoted is incorrect. I could go tit for tat (and win) on the race issue between the two parties. Democrats still have a serving senator who was a Grand Wizard in the KKK for God sakes. Sen. Byrd only about 8 years ago (my mouth is still hanging open from when I saw it) gave an interview explaining the textures and complexities of who is and who is not a Niger. The fact is that there have been bigots on both sides of the isle but remember, for every G. Wallace that you dig up; I can name 3 or 4 Bull Connors. The democrat party routinely apposed the civil rights act of 1964 and were often leading the dogs and fire hose public policy.

I also feel that it is my GOP duty to explain to you why Skynyrd is a favorite band of the right. It’s not because of the gun racks, the perceived racism or putting Neil in place (albeit politely) even though it’s a plus, it’s none of those things. It’s that they weren’t afraid of singing of the things that made this country great: God, family, friends and freedom. These are the things that the music left sees no problem ripping apart at the drop of a hat for fun and profit. Good article though....

Give me three steps (

At 3/10/2010 09:32:00 PM, Anonymous LRR said...

In Birmingham they Love the Governor.

Boo! Boo! Boo!

-----Is the meaning clearer now ? :-)

At 3/10/2010 10:18:00 PM, Anonymous William said...

Like Ronnie said the song was written as a "joke" the words just came out. So WHY don't they just have enough sense to just let it go. It's just a shame that Ronnie isn't still here to continue writing some of the best songs ever!!!!!!

At 3/10/2010 11:01:00 PM, Blogger Dan1 said...

Ed from Florida,
Great post! As someone who loves Neil but never got into LS, I got a lot out of your explanation.

At 3/11/2010 07:05:00 AM, Anonymous Cassie said...

This essay and the one it references are, I believe, off base on some points:

The Thrasher site essay says:

Furthermore, Leonard Skynyrd sang "Now Watergate does not bother me". Sadly, it would seem not only were Lynard Skynard untroubled by racism but were not terribly concerned by corruption at the highest levels of the U.S. government"

I take it that Skynard lyrics are saying to Northern Critics of the South, en masse... "I'll feel guilty when you start feeling guilty about Watergate". Leonard Skynard members *were* vocal about Civil Rights, and supported Jimmy Carter! One can still have pride in their Southern culture... and it comes down to this "We all did what we could do... Watergate does not bother me. Does Your Conscience Bother YOU?"

I heard a YouTube version of the song performed by Skynard that replaced "Montgomery's got the answer" to "Carter's got the answer" - lest there be doubt.

I do think that w/ regards to the South there is alot of ambiguity and contradiction. Having said the above, I do not think this was a song endorsing racism, but the opposite, and reacting to alot of stereotyping that goes on of the South. Personally, I think the Red/Blue divisions indicate politics/culture/race have some challenges.

At 3/11/2010 09:16:00 AM, Anonymous SONY said...

...more to the picture that meets the eye.....

After sifting through, I am now in full overdose.

At 3/11/2010 10:08:00 AM, Blogger doc said...

Well Thrash, I win

beaten by "blog owner approval"

AS Jack says in the Movie.."a few good Men"....You can't HANDLE the truth!
Seeya in another band width!! lol


At 3/11/2010 10:53:00 AM, Anonymous leegee said...

leegee said...
Interesting article but not sure about the conclusions re. SWA.

First off - as they say at the start, TURN IT UP and play it loud! This us rock'n'roll, not Kant.

As someone above said, "In Birmingham THEY love the Govoner" - not WE. Note also the Montgommery lyric.

"Boo boo boo!" or "Blue blue blue!"

How about this live version on The Old Grey Whilstle Test? Not terribly important, but still.

And put it in context: "Now we all did what we could do / Now Watergate does not bother me
/ Does your conscience bother you? / Tell the truth"

Ambigious - yeah. Clever - damn right. A classic? We're still talking about it 40-odd years on, so I reckon so.

Hell, what a rock record!

At 3/11/2010 12:35:00 PM, Blogger Tweck9 said...

Wow, this thread is rockin'. This is almost as fascinating as the Living With War thread from '06.

I never realized that the faux Skynyrd/Young "feud" actually carries with it so many very emotional opinions.

Really good to hear from all the Skynyrd fans on the subject as well. Obviously there are a lot of different ideas with regard to the whole culture of the Southern U.S.

Well, I leave it to the Skynyrd fans to tell me the true meaning of SWA...

but as for Neil, I still don't think he was generalizing - he was using Alabama as a literary device to describe and condemn all racism everywhere.

Whether you think there was no racism in Alabama or not - there is still that stigma that is was racist - which offers itself as an appropriate ... metaphor of sorts ... to use as a literary reference.

Great posts by everyone... (well, mostly :^) )

At 3/11/2010 01:56:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's funny, I love Skynyrd, and the Ballad of Curtis Lowe, but I've always considered Curtis Lowe to have some racism in it.

Let's put it this way, if I were black I wouldn't find the song flattering.

I've got nothing to comment on Ronnie and Neil's relationship, although, I'll add that Southern Rock Opera is one of the finest albums of the last decade and a must listen to fans of either of these musicians.


At 3/11/2010 02:46:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 3/11/2010 03:34:00 PM, Anonymous Keith said...

Thrasher seems to have a chip on his shoulder, probably because he lives somewhere other than Montgomery. (If you live in Alabama, you know what I mean, unless you're a Montgomerian living in denial.) His point is clear, but his comments are filled with logical inconsistencies. For example, we know Neil was a champion for the poor, but supposedly he didn't do concerts in Alabama for economic reasons. Hmm.

We can understand the meaning of Southern Man by looking at Neil's origins. He is Canadian. Although he lives in the US, he refuses to give up his Canadian citizenship.

The South in Southern Man is the entire United States, and Lynyrd Skynyrd spoke for all of us.

It's just like how you can only truly understand The Guess Who's American Woman after reviewing the pro-gay messages inside the gayt-fold of the original The Best of the Guess Who vinyl album. Interestingly, The Best of The Guess Who is not listed in the band's discography on Wikipedia.

At 3/11/2010 05:11:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a musician, and a Skynyrd fanatic.

Over the years I have worked with or around most of the guys in the band, (after the crash). Allen Collins was a personal friend of mine, and taught me a heap of what I know on guitar. I really miss him. When I read some of the comments here I had to giggle.

Opinions are like eyes, everyone has them. The facts are as follows: Ed King composed ALL the music for this song, ( the band members even complained that the lead guitar part was in the wrong key). Why is beyond me. It seems to fit. Major and relative minors and all that, I guess.

Ronnie wrote the lyrics as a satire while on the road from Muscle Shoals to his home in Jacksonville Fl. The reference to Neil Yong's "Southern Man" was a stick in the ribs, but it was done in fun. Allen said they laughed about it for years afterward.

Although they never met, there was a mutual respect between these artists. I cannot comment on any of Young's songs or his reasons for them, but I do know that Ronnie liked his songs and respected his talents as a writter/performer. His reference to the Governor was "Boo, Boo, Boo". How can anyone relate that to promoting Wallace's actions or beliefs? Ronnie hated the stigma the Alabama Governor had created and intended for this song to relate that to the listener. Along with all the other excesses of the Americian Government.

"Watergate does not bother me,"(because he didn't cause it or create it), "does YOUR conscience bother YOU?" He wants you to think about your personal feelings about your own actions, not those of someone you have no control over.

The "Swampers" was, and still is a fantastic group of studio musicians deriving from the R&B days at "Fame" in the 60's. I know most of them. Great bunch of guys.

The last recorded words of the song are hard to make out but Ronnie actually says, "Aw, Montgomery's got the answer". Even I didn't know that until I heard Leon tell it to a reporter in a radio interview sometime in 1998.

The myth of the T'shirt is just that. A myth. Although I was not at the funeral I understand that he was burried in a suit, no tie. With his hat in his hands. And yes, I do know where he is currently burried. So it's not a secret. I went there with Judy, (his wife), Allen and Gary a few times back in the day. Just as an aside, not everyone in Alabama are rednecks but those of us that are, are very proud of it and do not really care what anyone else thinks about it.

But just so you know, redneck doesn't mean stupid, ignorant or racist. It means that we have a heritige of hard work, family and GOD. Lynyrd Skynyrd was and is for the working man, the little guy. The backbone of this country.

Please stop trying to make something out of nothing. I hope this clears up the confusion. Thanks for taking the time to read it.

Mike, from Gulf Shores, Al.

At 3/12/2010 09:13:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

They may be a bunch of right-wing rednecks, but they sure do know how to rock out. Long live the Lynyrd Skynyrd band.

Drew in Topeka

At 3/12/2010 10:45:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK,first of all most songs are NOT written in the first person. So don't ascribe the ideas in a song with the artist. Merle Haggard's "Okie From Muskokee" is a prime example. Haggard was doing a character study of the parochial point of view. The ideas in the song are not his personal beliefs,But rather "someone like my father who was an Okie from Muskokee",he has repeated this in many interviews. "Sweet Home Alabama" is obviously in the same vein.Van Zandt and Young knew each other and were friendly,there was never any beef between them.

At 3/12/2010 02:48:00 PM, Anonymous Nevermind said...

I am simply happy to hear either it was all a joke, or that they are now friends-my respect for LS has gone up considerably
ive never much liked 'boogie rock', and in fact dont much listen to Young except for EKTIN (now remastered after centuries)and a few other songs-but i knew where he was coming from and respected him

At 3/12/2010 04:53:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And then Warren Zevon wrote;

Play It All Night Long

Grandpa pissed his pants again
He don't give a damn
Brother Billy has both guns drawn
He ain't been right since Vietnam

"Sweet home Alabama"
Play that dead band's song
Turn those speakers up full blast
Play it all night long

Daddy's doing Sister Sally
Grandma's dying of cancer now
The cattle all have brucellosis
We'll get through somehow

"Sweet home Alabama"
Play that dead band's song
Turn those speakers up full blast
Play it all night long

I'm going down to the Dew Drop Inn
See if I can drink enough
There ain't much to country living
Sweat, piss, jizz and blood

"Sweet home Alabama"
Play that dead band's song
Turn those speakers up full blast
Play it all night long

Was Zevon taking the piss out of Lynyrd Skynyrd or the redneck southern culture who adopted SHA as an anthem of pride and play it, all night long.

Sunny Inside

At 3/12/2010 05:32:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course I've heard LS's famous songs over the years but this threat inspired me to go to youtube and watch some videos ... because I never had the opportunity to really listen to these guys, wow!!! These guys were smokin! I can see why Neil admired them and why it might have reminded him of Springfield with the multiple, rockin' guitarists. Some of the posts from the LS fans here are really cool, it feels like the LS community showed here and expressed themselves and as an outsider to them and their scene I feel, after reading their posts, that they're on to something just like us Neil junkies are on to something and I respect their community and empathize with the pain and suffering and tragedy they've endured over the years ... and its really cool that the band has kept going ... it also reminds me how lucky we are to have Neil still in one piece and better than ever ... we've had our share of tragedy ... Danny ... Bruce... ect... but there's is at another level ... so sad, these guys LS, has something amazing going, it doesn't take that much investigation to see they really had it and it was taken away early .. they've persevered and the remaining members kept going ... there should be nothing but mutual appreciation and admiration between these two communities ... It seems Neil respected these guys and vice versa .. its a cool thing ... so few have survived unscathed from the 60s and 70s ... lwe should not forget how lucky we are to have Neil at the top of his game.


At 3/12/2010 06:00:00 PM, Anonymous Elliot Goodine said...

Young, as a Canadian, is also the nemesis of Lynyrd Skynyrd. 'Southern Man' and 'Alabama' are scathing critiques of racism, whereas 'Sweet Home Alabama' is just kind of dumb. I hope Neil Young will remember that he’s the best Canuck around.

At 3/12/2010 06:49:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The only way to see "Sweet Home Alabama" as a racist song is to
interpret it as an outsider who doesn't understand the complexities of the South, IMO. If your only understanding of the South comes from watching Hollywood movies and old TV coverage of the Civil Rights
movement, I very much doubt that you understand the South (or this

I can't claim to know what was in the minds of the band members who
wrote the song, but I do have a pretty good understanding of the
southern mind. I grew up in the South during the '60s and '70s. There is an odd sense of "place" here that you don't tend to find in other parts of the United States. (You see the odd dualities that we don't have time to talk about here in much of southern literature.) The South feels like a nation unto itself, but many of us seem to have an odd sort of love/hate relationship with the region. I'm proud to be FROM
the South, but I don't always like BEING here. I identify with the
place and the people, but I don't identify with various racists who
have been a part of the landscape here. (And when I say that, I'm
talking about troublemakers of both races who have used hate to gain or retain power.)

When I hear "Sweet Home Alabama," I hear someone who is challenging
an unfair blanket indictment of their home. (Yes, Lynyrd Skynyrd is
from Florida, but they came to Alabama to record their early work.) I don't hear the song as racist in the least. In fact, why wouldn't Neil Young's attacks on southerners be the bigoted songs? He is the one indicting an entire region for the sins of a vocal minority. I see Lynyrd Skynyrd's song as simply saying, "Sorry, buddy. That's not me, so don't lecture me and paint with that broad brush."

The people of the South is unfairly stereotyped to such a large degree that it creates serious resentment. I've had people treat me in a normal, professional way start treating me like an idiot when they
find out I live in Birmingham. They are so bigoted (maybe not
consciously) that they assume every stereotype they've seen in movies must be true of me. I must live in a trailer and beat my toothless wife while I gather books to burn. The truth is that people are much more alike in different regions than people realize. There are bigots
everywhere. The racial problems of the '60s became apparent more
quickly here because we had a much higher black population and there
was a lot of stored-up resentment left over from the days when blacks
had been slaves just a few generations before.

It's interesting that people still associate Birmingham and Alabama
with violent racial protests, but places such as Boston don't get
painted with the same brush. Remember when forced busing came to Boston in the early '70s? There were violent riots and buses were burned as white parents (and maybe blacks, too) protested against outsiders forcing change on them. Those people were every bit as racist as the southerners of the early '60s, but nobody stereotypes Boston as a racist city. Could it be that journalists KNOW people from Boston, so they KNOW that most people in Boston aren't really hate-mongering racists? Could it be that most journlists don't know people in the South, so it's easier to believe their preconceived notions?

At 3/12/2010 06:50:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Continued from before....

One part of "Sweet Home Alabama" is just wrong. Birmingham was not a
strong area for George Wallace. His strength was in rural areas, not the cities. Also, most people don't realize that Wallace started his career as a moderate on the subject of race, but he lost and early race (in the '50s) to a candidate who was willing to stake out a radical conservative position on the issue. Wallace famously declared privately
that he was never going to be "out niggered" again, at which point he
became the firebrand playing to rural crowds to grain power.

One final clue as to how contradictory the South can be is seen in Wallace's last run for governor. In 1982, he had been out of office four years, but was trying for a comeback. For the first time ever, a strong GOP challenger mounted a serious campaign. Wallace won, but he
only won because he was able to get black votes. Wallace was a
politician, not an ideologue. When blacks were voting in large numbers, he made peace the black leaders and bought them off in the same political ways that he had bought off other interest groups in the past. Take away Wallace's black votes and he couldn't have won.

"Sweet Home Alabama" isn't a racist song. It's a song that says,
"I'm a southerner, but I'm not that 'southern man' who Young sings
about." You can indict specific people for specific racist things, but most of us are just decent people who aren't responsible for what some other people did. And a few of us are even libertarians. :-)

David McElroy

At 3/12/2010 07:34:00 PM, Anonymous willard999 said...

'I hope Neil Young will remember that he’s the best Canuck around,' writes Elliot Goodine." That ain't sayin' much about Canada. Frankly, NYoung is a pompus, liberal arsehat, that was somehow blessed with a modicum of musical ability.

At 3/13/2010 01:23:00 AM, Anonymous 49&Holding said...

Neil Young has apparently been an inspiration for a number of talented musicians. If "Southern Man" spawned "Sweet Home Alabama" that's good because it inspired a song quite a bit better than the original. Southern Man in NY's song and "Neil Young" in LS's song can stand for something more broadly interpreted. Until I read this blog I didn't realize SHA was such an anthem in the south. The neat thing about it is that the appreciation for each other's music meant any feud beyond the initial jab was a non-starter. In the end, no jealousy, no grudges, no judgement - just magnanimity and appreciation for each other's art.

At 3/13/2010 07:45:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You sound as if you might be a Glen Beck fan. Poor Glen has just realized that one of his favorite songs is political and critical of the good ol' USA.

BECK: You get filled with patriotic pride, and then you find out that Bruce Springsteen's 'Born In The U.S.A.' is anti-American. 'Born down in a dead man's town/ the first kick I took is when I hit the ground/ you end up like a dog that's been beat too much/ so you spend half your life just covering up...' [He reads the entire lyrics in an incredulous tone of voice; manages to mispronounce 'Khe Sanh'] Hmm. Yeah! [crosstalk] ... It's time for us to wake up out of our dream state. Out of the propaganda... This is the thing that people who come from the Soviet bloc or Cuba, they're all saying, 'How do you guys not hear this? How are you not seeing this?' Well, because we don't ever expect it.

Sunny Inside

At 3/13/2010 11:31:00 AM, Anonymous eee222 said...

Another intellectual "I'm right and you're stupid" type that has it all figured out.

At 3/13/2010 11:32:00 AM, Anonymous Basil said...

"Sweet Home" essentially tells Neil Young to kiss its ass -- I agree with that sentiment.

At 3/13/2010 11:36:00 AM, Anonymous Tequila Cowboy said...

Agreed, the lyric tells the truth. The real ones play in bars for small crowds, the posers play arenas (for the most part).

Love that piece btw.

At 3/13/2010 12:43:00 PM, Anonymous rebelcam said...

With all due respect to Neil Young, Canada and even Lynyrd Skynyrd - PLEASE RETIRE THAT FRIGGIN' SONG!

As a proud Alabama-Southern Man, that tune has been played to death! We don't need it around here anymore!


At 3/14/2010 11:23:00 AM, Anonymous catoyounger said...

It's not that Neil Young is such a pompous, self-absorbed, liberal turd, it is that his music is so mediocre. And the Canadians really need to get over their inferiority complex, it is getting really old.

At 3/14/2010 11:24:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who is the idiot who wrote this article? This man or woman remarked that the conservative movement was teh party of segregation. Here's five words for ya "Pick up a history book!" Abraham Lincoln was a republican conservative. It was the conservative house and senate that passed the civil rights act, conservatives have been bettling liberals on race for years. Conservatives believed that anyone can make it if they try. Liberals believe that anyone who isn't white some how needs help in this country. I would suggest to the writer of this article to present the facts honestly instead of labelling all conservatives racist when in fact it's the other way around in my opinion. May the writer should learn a little about this country before he or she starts talking about the politics. God Damn Hippies!

At 3/14/2010 12:29:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think I ever met more than 5 people all the time I lived in south who weren't HUGE Neil Young fans, as well as Skynyrd fans. Most of us didn't think they were mutually exclusive. We laughed at the Sweet Home Alabama and put After the Gold Rush on right after (or vice versa). Southerners are used to scorn:that's why the Neil Young "slights" didn't bother us, and the whole southern rock movement made us proud. Just as the confederate flag (which is not called the Stars and Bars, that was an earlier confederate flag)does.

At 4/06/2010 08:09:00 PM, Anonymous der viator said...

Think about it. Nothing has done more to rehabilitate Alabama, and perhaps the South in general, than Lynrd Skynrd’s anthemic tune, don’t you think? If you’re from Alabama I’m sure you don’t need this song to realize the wonderful experiences of your life. Listen, I’m no Southerner, but neither am I a self-righteous liberal like Neil Young who pontificates about the “southern man.” I’m glad Skynrd tarnished his name in the second verse. Who remembers his worthless song anyway?

At 4/09/2010 12:58:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

With the Sweet Home Alabama song, Lynyrd Skynyrd recruited all the whites who were raised racist by their parents. Then Lynyrd Skynyrd introduced them all to Curtis Lowe The Black Man. Which was something that the government wanted. The government wanted to breed all the master race whites(=albinos
and an endangered species) with all the blacks. Especially since the earth's ozone layer has gotten thinner. So now we have tons of light, medium and dark chocolate albinos.

At 4/10/2010 03:18:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is clearly the most stupid analysis of anything that I have ever read. GFY.

At 4/10/2010 06:15:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ Anon @ 4/10/2010 03:18:00 PM:

Wow. Really love that fact free rebuttal. You really made an excellent case for the clueless.

You've done more prove my point than you'll ever know.


At 4/26/2010 09:11:00 PM, Blogger sam said...

Neil had a boat that he named for his grandfather W N Ragland. W N Ragland had a grandfather named Reuben Ragland (1818-1896). Reuben was one of the wealthiest slave owners in Petersburg Virginia. The 1870 US Census shows a freed slave woman living in Petersburg named Elizabeth (Lilly Belle) Jones, who was likely owned by Ragland. The document specifies that she was a mulatto born about 1835 with 3 children with the surname Ragland.
I believe that Reuben Ragland was the Southern Man from the song. I also think the song may have been more about this man that Neil's personal feelings about the south

At 5/11/2010 07:42:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i enjoyed your article. i've been to alabama, about '04, and i liked the people i met there. i did not enjoy the silly, racist bumperstickers i regularly saw there; that was pretty amazing to see!

i only wish your article had really addressed the "the governor's true" line, as i haven't seen anyone really analyze that; i realize it's a throwaway line, but every line in the song seems to have been written from a particular perspective, and even if it is a comical, jokey character's perspective, i would like to know how this line fits in with the 'anti-racist' aspect you write about. it seems clear that the band was not racist, they played rock 'n' roll after all, which is r'n'b crossed with hillbilly in the first place, and they did it with some real soul. it also seems the band was not particularly anti-racist as well, as they state that their record company pushed them into using the confederate flag as the backdrop/logo for the band. i'm sure they just wanted to make it in the business, and that makes for some desperation, but would you let your record company make you use the nazi swastika or flag as a logo for your band? ...or any other symbols of government-sponsored racial oppression?

the southeastern part of the us is part of the country, and i do not share the prejudice that the whole area is filled with ignorant racists. those people are scattered around everywhere. people in the southeast do not need to feel defensive about the past, or about peoples attitudes in the rest of the country. the USA won the civil war a long time ago now. the civil rights and human rights movements have thankfully brought about a different world, and we have to work from where we are now... we all have prejudices, 'opinions', ideas and histories that we have to overcome.

lastly, every time i hear the line "a southern man don't need him around anyhow", all i can think is: the songwriters did not mean "a black southern man", only "a white southern man". i can't help but think that, no matter how the song is analyzed! but i like the band's music. so, i'll get over that line. a lot of Bo Diddley will help.


At 6/17/2010 05:20:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

SWEET HOME ALABAMA, ROLL TIDE ROLL, only a true Alabamian with understand!


At 7/04/2010 05:43:00 PM, Anonymous David Wheeler said...

i live in texas. my hair is long. i like neil young and lynyrd skynyrd. both sweet home alabama are awesome songs, and any intelligent person has to hear them both to understand the dialogue in them. it's hard to explain how the south is, unless you actually live here. yes, there's racism, but it's a lot more complicated than how you might think. people are, by and large, more tolerant and open about their feelings than in the north, where racism masquerades as an economic caste system. listen to the song "rednecks" by randy newman, he does an awesome job of skewering liberal racism, while appearing to mock the south.
the days of jim crow are long gone, here, and people fly the confederate flag, not as a statement of white superiority , but rather as a reminder that this was once its own country, invaded and beaten down by the federal government.
believe me, idiots like george wallace are laughed at just as hard down here as elsewhere, maybe even harder. neil young's message was biting, but way over-simplified. the south is just as diverse as any other place in america, maybe even more so, but, damn, we love it here.

At 8/01/2010 02:59:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just saw a great live video of Skynyrd performing "Sweet Home Alabama" in '77 at the Oakland Coliseum on the Wolfgang's Vault website.
Ronnie is wearing a Neil Young t-shirt at the show, which I suppose gives some hint as to his positive feelings about the man.

At 9/05/2010 06:50:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

wow, lots of comments. I am a 5th generation cracker from a 7 generation family. My family generations ago on my daddys side came from Alabama, so were all Southern bred and proud to be. I live in the Middle East now and this region only denounced slavery 30 or so years ago. Slavery was not only a Southern disgrace but the North did there part as well many other countries.I won't get into other cultures that suffered at the hands of others. I display the Southern Flag as a matter of my pride of my heritage and where I came from only, that is what it represents to me. I despise it when I see those from up North and these so called Skin heads, and other hate groups that fly our Confederate flag along side the Swaztika (sp) it is revolting to me. In response to Lynn about the kids aren't allowed to where confederate shirts or anything in schools, where I live in Florida they can absolutley where them, just can't have anythin vulgure or racist on them, which is totally fine. Peace to everyone..true Southerners are friendly, loving, God fearing people with conviction, pride and tolerance. thanks

At 9/05/2010 06:51:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

wow, lots of comments. I am a 5th generation cracker from a 7 generation family. My family generations ago on my daddys side came from Alabama, so were all Southern bred and proud to be. I live in the Middle East now and this region only denounced slavery 30 or so years ago. Slavery was not only a Southern disgrace but the North did there part as well many other countries.I won't get into other cultures that suffered at the hands of others. I display the Southern Flag as a matter of my pride of my heritage and where I came from only, that is what it represents to me. I despise it when I see those from up North and these so called Skin heads, and other hate groups that fly our Confederate flag along side the Swaztika (sp) it is revolting to me. In response to Lynn about the kids aren't allowed to where confederate shirts or anything in schools, where I live in Florida they can absolutley where them, just can't have anythin vulgure or racist on them, which is totally fine. Peace to everyone..true Southerners are friendly, loving, God fearing people with conviction, pride and tolerance. thanks

At 9/05/2010 11:02:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...


Interesting comment. Help me out here.

At one point you say "I live in the Middle East now" and then later you say "where I live in Florida"?


At 9/05/2010 11:29:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Hey there Thrasher, yeah I thought about that after I posted. We have a home in Florida. My husband works in Qatar for a Natural Gas company. We have lived apart for many years, after my oldest graduated last year my daughter and I moved over here with him. We are here for school, then we go back home for the summer. That is my home and has been all my life. Thanks for reading my post.

At 1/12/2011 01:38:00 AM, Anonymous James Johnson said...

I am So SICK of people trying to rewrite history. Lynard Skynard Southern Consertives PERIOD. They were for civil rights. The Conservative Republicans fought for civil rights. The Leftist Democrats like George Wallace were and still are the RACISTS!!! Check Al Gore's fathers vote on the civil rights act. The kennedys cut a deal with Martin Luther king to get him out of jail in return for support of the black churches. This got John kennedy elected and the liberal Dems have been feigning support of minorities ever since when in fact pursuing policies that have destroyed the black family and in essence have reenslaved an entire race with lies and propaganda.

At 6/01/2011 05:34:00 PM, Anonymous Gene Odom said...
Its called "Lynyrd Skynyrd-Ronnie Van Zant and Me, Gene Odom". It will be published soon by I-books out of Nashville. I want to give first crack to LS Dixie forum members. For a Hard Cover its 22.50 and for soft cover its 15 dollars. Shipping is 3 dollars. If you order from me, I'll autograph it for you. Send Check or Money order to:
Gene Odom
10846 East Barrett Lane
Inverness, Florida 34450.

Click on the Link Below to Order Book Online ... s=-1&size=

During a time when toughskin blue jeans, button-down shirts, and flat-top haircuts were all the rage, Gene Odom and Ronnie Van Zant became best friends. Growing up on the same block, Ronnie and Gene fished, played football, and dreamed together. Years later, one of the boys would become famous—and the other would stand by his side through thick and thin. This is the story of two young men from the same neighborhood, school, and world who together, discovered the meaning of true friendship.

As Ronnie’s dreams of becoming a professional musician finally became a reality, Lynyrd Skynyrd began selling out arenas and became famous for not only their music, but also their substance abuse. After Ronnie offered Gene a job as a security officer for the band, he embarked on an unforgettable journey into a world like no other. But everything would change in October 1977 when the plane carrying the band plummeted from the sky.

Lynyrd Skynyrd, Ronnie Van Zant, and Me … Gene Odom provides a fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpse of what it was like to be friends with one of the biggest rock stars of the 1970s and how a friendship between two childhood buddies stood the test of time.

At 6/19/2011 08:22:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find it odd that George Wallace is described as ultra conservative. He was a Democrat and the KKK came out of the democrat party. Why is it assumed the Democrat party is so big on civil rights and the party established to end slavery is not.

At 7/09/2011 03:56:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

According to Neil's biography, Neil thought the poke in Sweet Home Alabama was in jest.. and they were good friends. Neil sent Ronnie the Tonight's The Night Shirt, and it is rumored that he was buried with it on.

At 7/13/2011 11:50:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did you hear of the Myrmekiaphila neilyoungi? It lives almost only in Alabama!

At 9/01/2011 12:10:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Everyone loves this song... and no matter what they all dance to it...

At 9/16/2011 02:49:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

friend or feud. who gives a crap...
skynyrd´s cool, neil too. enjoy music, dont analyze...

At 10/04/2011 02:57:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The lyric against Neil Young was definitely a slight, no question about it. It could have been a friendly jab, but a song's meaning is whatever the listener believes it to be. A lot of complex and often contradictory emotions go into writing a song and the way I always took Sweet Home Alabama was that they were accurately describing the way things were in both Alabama and The South but added a happy beat because no matter what you thought of what they were saying, they still loved their home. In Birmingham they loved the Governor, Watergate don't bother me, etc. is how people thought but home is home and their jovial beat was a contrast to Young's melancholy. Same message, different tone, all great songs.

Oh and the political posturing in this article is both partisan and ignorant. I understand there is a note at the end saying "conservative" was not meant to represent a political party, but conservative ideology as we know it today (Reagan, Buckley, Friedman) was in its infancy at the time and was hijacked by racists for its states rights message. States rights should never trump individual rights, Jim Crow was a clear violation of the 14th amendment and the carpetbagging Northern states are just as guilty for allowing Jim Crow to exist as long as it did.

One more thing, Neil Young's Canada, then part of the British empire, supported the confederacy during the Civil War and sought to undermine Lincoln during the war.

At 12/24/2011 10:42:00 AM, Blogger said...

I like Neil Youngs music of course everyone got on the anti war train back then. I disagree with his attitude the north saved the south from itself . A pre-existing attitude of a region who fools themselves into thinking they saved a race by their own regional hatreds is a mere patting themselves on the back for Peace. I contend that the north is still living in an illusion of its own greatness. All races of Neil Youngs era simply got on the peace train and and condemed the American warriors. Self medicating themseves into a pseudo -peace. themselves all the way to the bank condemning .

At 1/11/2012 12:30:00 PM, Blogger Susan said...

Thank you for this. This is a well-thought out and well researched "article." I do think that "Sweet Home Alabama" is in part a love song to the south. Those boys are southern all the way through but they were also progressive. They sang songs against guns, drugs and racism. Not usual for southern boys. They never get full credit for their intelligence, in my opinion.
I understand that Neil Young claims he wasn't generalizing in his song, but he was. That's offensive. Just as you don't say all black people are whatever, you don't say all southerners are racist. I moved from the south to the west recently and the south is WAY more sensitive about racism than the west. Anyway, thanks for the article. I'm glad to see a little truth shed on this myth.

At 1/11/2012 07:10:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are some facts that are still troubling about the whole Skynyrd thing:

1. They loved George Wallace. Van Zandt may have said, "We don't agree with Mr. Wallace's policies regarding negros." Okay. But they also thought he was the single best, most worthy and honest politician in the country. This according to Gary Rossington. Now, early Wallace was a racial moderate, even progressive who turned to race baitng to get to governor. Flipped totally on integration. Either way, how could one admire him no matter where he was from?

2. Ed King in an interview on his website said that the actual "boo boo boo" was in reality "boo hoo hoo" and WAS mocking the liberal crying over Wallace. King himself is a Californian and co-author of the song. He confirms it was written only semi-seriously but that Ronnie used the boo boo boo story to make it look like just the opposite. Also, the watergate line, accorging to King, was a jab at Northern hypocrisy; if the country had elected Wallace, such things would not have happened. Search the King site for confirmation. Ultimately, Ronnie grew up, by his own admission (box set) in a racially charged neighborhood yet was a huge fan of black soul music and tried to get James Brown's ex-guitarist to replace King before Gaines came along, so no I don't think he was racist but I do think his joke falls flat in Sweet Home Alabama.

3. Ronnie's "we aint political" thing. Only problem is that they did touch on politics and the current version of the band even more so. I think SHA is a song that is not cut and dried pro Wallace or anti Young but it is a conservative song, no doubt about it. And the band, again according to Rossington, had the confederate flag idea themselves. Used it right until the plane crash. Ronnie may not have been racist, but he was a deluded as most Southerners today remain about the full meaning of that flag. To say otherwise is just naive.

At 2/07/2012 10:26:00 PM, Anonymous dancestoblue said...

An old junkie friend of mine said that when you run the shit into your vein it's like you smell something, like a phantom smell, part of the experience of shooting up; he told me that was the reference in the song. I don't know that but it's cute, right? Also the line in the song "oak tree in my way'" was about a member (Rossington?) who smacked up another car, wrapped it around a tree; remember, these were kids, and they had fistfuls of money, the seventies everybody was doing drugs, it was just part of the show then; peace love and understanding hadn't worked out, drugs were what was left. Or fucking disco -- which would you choose?

I've never shot heroin but I may go and shoot some right now to scour the idea of 70s disco from my mind.

Racism, Southern and Northern, what I saw: I moved from the Chicago area to Florida in the early 70s, then back to Chi, then to Texas in 77, my experience was that there were absolutely no more racists in the south than in the north. Esp when moving to Houston, in 77, I'm thinking "Oh shit, here we go, a big southern city, it's gonna be a horror show" but it wasn't, at all, blacks and whites got along one hell of a lot better than in the Chicago area, and I still see that, though less now than before, but not because Texas has moved backwards, rather that Chicago has moved forward.

I loved Skynyrd. Did you know that they named themselves after a piece of shit gym teacher in their high school named Leonard Skinner? He gave them shit about long hair and how they dressed, he hated what they stood for, they made him immortal (well, immortal as a 70s rock band is gonna be, come on now) for what he hated, changed the vowels to keep him from being able to sue them.

Free Bird was dedicated to Duane Allman -- that's pretty damn cool.

One band member (Ed King?) dropped out after the first record was in the can, and then it hit, and they'd already replaced him in the line-up. So, did they tell him to buzz off, or toss the guy they brought in? Nope. Welcomed the guy back in, kept the other, too. Cool guys.

They were just a cool band. My understanding is that it was not a democracy, that Van Zandt ran it like Stalin, my way or the highway. I don't know that but it's what I heard somewheres or other.

They rocked. I loved them. I think they'd have grown nicely, given us lots.

At 5/30/2012 03:04:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Voice of Reason" represents every single thing that has been wrong with our politics these last few years. Everything gets politicized, polarized and shoved down people's throats. The article is about a song, not liberal bashing. People aren't "liberal" or "conservative. They are complex, self contradicting, passionate, etc, and those are just labels for people like you who need to label because you are too lazy and / or stupid to have a deep understanding or appreciation for another human being. You are EXACTLY the kind of idiot who would have interpreted this song in a literal, black and white fashion......and been completely wrong in doing so.

At 6/08/2012 01:14:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just my opinion: neil young is one of the few authentic voices in music.

I can see the argument that southern man overly generalizes.

But I think skynard defined redneck music and this is a redneck anthem.
The idea that redneck does not imply racism also seems absurd to me - if you are waving a confederate flag you are saying 'I'm a racist, long live slavery'.
It never meant anything else.

I grew up in a redneck town (in NJ, like Jon Stewart, who is about the same age, i grew up in a town where everyone drove around blasting skynard and molly hatchet, and almost everyone i knew was a racist. Its' absurd to say everyone in the south is a racist. And yet, the fact is it's been predominantly so, forever. To deny it, is to admit you are a racist.

I'm embarrassed for Neil that he didn't he would 1. like a hack band like skynard 2. pretend to be their friends. but then 3. he was a big supporter of Reagan! just proving, drugs are bad, mkay?

Worst thing that ever happened to this country was Lincoln and his civil war. The majority north has been beholden to the fundamentalist south ever since. And the minority in the south, be they 40, 49, 30%, whatever they are, knows this to be true.

btw this isn't to say i don't think it's ridiculous hypocrisy of northerners to look down on southerners.

In most states, if only whites could vote, republicans would win in a landslide every time.

so screw the racist rednecks wherever they are - from maine to new orleans to anchorage.

At 8/15/2012 09:50:00 AM, Anonymous Matt said...

Excellent point here...I've never looked @ Ronnie or even considered him to be racist. I always thought that he just spoke on what he saw, and "Things Goin' On" is a fine example. RIP for Neil Young, well, you'll always be número uno in my book! Keep On Rockin' In The Free World!

At 8/15/2012 10:08:00 AM, Anonymous Matt said...

I agree w/ you on what you said in your last coupla sentences...I love NY more than any other artist & Lynyrd Skynyrd is arguably in my top ten, (there's just so many great rock n roll artists lol!), but I don't agree SWA is the greatest song ever, (just my opinion, which absolutely means diddly squat, I personally love Tuesday's Gone, Curtis Loew(?), & I Need You) and I can't even begin to name my top NY songs...but I agree 100% that you do not have to be a bigot to love the South, her culture, or her history...some of these posts are just plain nuts. (btw, Powderfinger, especially the acoustic demo, is one my classic NY tunes and I hope he plays continues to play it on his 2012 tour with Crazy Horse as I will get to fulfill a lifelong dream of seeing the Horse October 25th in none other then Tuscaloosa, Alabama!) & with my father at that :) Long May You Run Neil & RIP Ronnie!

At 8/15/2012 10:25:00 AM, Anonymous Matt said...

My folks were born and raised in Oxford, AL, & I was a military brat, (now 28 goin on 29), and I've lived in Southern California, Virginia, South Carolina, & North Carolina, & now I'm back in Oxford/Anniston, Alabama and they all have their charms...racism is everywhere. I feel you on the bar scene, I myself play a solo acoustic rendition of Tuesday's Gone with a tasteful harmonica added to it mixed with various NY songs, ABB songs and the like. God Bless Ronnie Van may be gone, but you will never be forgotten!
--Matt...Die Hard Neil Young fan, Die Hard Skynyrd fan! :) I liked what you had to say RiverManDan...there's too much negativity goin on in this blog and I'm just replying to especially ones that are hateful or ones that I think are heartfelt, (yours being the latter...I refused to reply to some fella who said Hey Hey, My My Neil Young needs to about giving us folks down south a bad rap ). :(

At 8/15/2012 10:52:00 AM, Anonymous Matt said...

Jared, I agree with you on nearly all of what you had to say...yes, I believe the south is used as a scapegoat for racism in our country. I virtually agree with all of what you said in that nature, but there are some facts concerning Neil Young that you may not be aware of, (& I don't mean to sound like a jerk. So please don't take this the wrong way)....but yes, Neil has had negative experiences in the south. He was clubbed by a police officer during a Buffalo Springfield gig in the 60's in Florida, if memory serves me correct...he wrote the song Alabama as a "friendly" song, albeit you were absolutely correct in the ignorance his lyrics conveyed, (he was tryin to point out that he believed Alabama was heart of the south and that they could lead by example, which if history is correct, there was some rough stuff goin down at the time), and years later, Neil himself admitted that SHA was a MUCH better tune than Southern Man or Alabama, and that in reality, Southern Man was bigger than the South...Neil himself said it should have been called White Man, (for whatever that's worth, I couldn't tell ya) yes, Neil was discriminated against in the south, maybe not by skin color, but for having long hair and playing in a rock n roll band, or the "devil's music" ( like they used to call the blues). But anyways, Jared, you made some excellent points and although Neil's songs are misguided, I still love them, (tho that's really more for the guitar work and Neil being my favorite musician/artist)...that being said Lynyrd Skynyrd are in my top ten rock artists and I myself believe Sweet Home Alabama is a much better song than SM & Alabama, (which Neil even admits to, and has been known to cover on rare occasions, including singing the references to himself in honor of Ronnie:) ) I hope there aren't any hard feelings from my reply cause I really do agree with you on most of it, I just thought you might be interested in a coupla tidbits =) Rock on, bro!

At 8/15/2012 11:03:00 AM, Anonymous Matt said...

Wow! You took the words outta my brain! Neil Young is number one to me right there with Dylan, & LS is right up there, too...Sweet Home Alabama is indeed a fantastic song, and living in Alabama myself, and having lived across the country being a military brat, I understand the "country" girls getting on bar tables and dousing themselves with booze while they dance & sing (mostly the wrong lyrics I might add!) and it's ruined the song and pretty much Skynyrd themselves for I just prefer to put record on at home and let it spin while I'm at home so I can truly appreciate it.

At 8/15/2012 11:20:00 AM, Anonymous Matt said...

I live in Alabama as well & consider myself am agnostic liberal. Neil Young is number one to me I my book...I consider myself to be from the South, even though I lived in Southern California, (albeit just a few years) and all my family lives in Alabama or Florida. I have never considered Lynyrd Skynyrd a racist band and like NY himself admitted, I think Sweet Home Alabama was a great's just too bad that certain groups of folks have taken the song and claimed it their own and it now has the "Hate Neil Young/Redneck" connotations....I don't think Ronnie would be happy with the way that these folks are grasping this song nowadays...& like you, I believe there is still plenty of room for improvement in the state of Alabama, as there is everywhere else. Maybe one day the bad elements will eventually die out. Nice, heartfelt post...much better than the fella who posted Hey Hey My My Neil Young needs to go ahead and die! It's nice I see folks like you posting with class :) fellow Alabamian--Matt

At 8/15/2012 11:49:00 AM, Anonymous Matt said...

I like to consider myself an amateur musiciologist, as I soak in and research every artist I listen to...I love playing covers, writing my own tunes, (tho I don't make no money lol), but thanks for taking the time to post this....I catch a lotta heat for being such a huge Neil Young fan,(he's number one to me, up there with Dylan), and I also love Lynyrd Skynyrd! I'm glad to hear from someone who knew the guys that the song was in I've tried to explain that to many friends of mine, (I live in Anniston, AL, and my aunt has a beach house in Gulf Shores :) ).anyways, like I said, I just wanted to thank ya for your tasteful well informed post
Take care!

At 8/30/2012 12:52:00 AM, Blogger Micia said...

@Voice Of Reason: You're an idiot and in dire need of a good history lesson, and not out of one of those butchered conservative ones. Yes George Wallace was a Democrat a CONSERVATIVE democrat. If you knew your ass from your elbow you'd know that Republicans were the original liberals. Here is a free history lesson on how the shift in the two parties occurred and how the turnabout in political ideologies happened. Another thing political philosophy/ideology and party are two different things. Liberal and conservative are not political parties. Typical uneducated misinformed conservative idiot!

At 8/30/2012 12:55:00 AM, Blogger Micia said...

@Voice Of Reason: You're an idiot and in dire need of a good history lesson, and not out of one of those butchered conservative ones. Yes George Wallace was a Democrat a CONSERVATIVE democrat. If you knew your ass from your elbow you'd know that Republicans were the original liberals. Here is a free history lesson on how the shift in the two parties occurred and how the turnabout in political ideologies happened. Another thing political philosophy/ideology and party are two different things. Liberal and conservative are not political parties. Typical uneducated misinformed conservative idiot!

At 9/01/2012 07:57:00 AM, Anonymous Chain said...

Didn't read the previous comments, as tl;dr.

In an unusual twist, I'll share my thoughts... ne'er to be seen again.

I've always emphasized the word "need" in a sense of ironic musing. Not one soul need be told, for instance, that they 'need to keep their head'. Bigots or not, everyone is going to think and believe as they choose.

I find it strange that anyone could take the meaning of 'need', or a lack therein, in "Sweet Home Alabama" to be spiteful, in the least.

Also, for those not familiar with the "How Long, Not Long" speech, given on the outskirts of Montgomery, conscience - a social conscience - was a major point in Martin Luther King, Jr.'s oratory. In which, he talked of a society that could live with its conscience. (Neil Young's "Southern Man" may have also been a nod to MLK, here, with "How long?".)

To that end, Watergate was the social upheaval of the day, when the song was written. there's clearly a bit of word play, about not being bothered by it (Watergate), and referring to it again, in the next line, with 'Does your conscience bother you?'

And, yes, Montgomery DID get the answer, loud and clear: 25,000 people, gathered at the Capitol steps; The Voting Rights Act, of 1965; The corrupt Sheriff was voted out; and Governor Wallace renounced his segregationist ways.

Still, Alabama IS a sweet (bittersweet, to many) home... regardless of its infamous history. The song tells of joys, as well as the pains, of memory.

I'm left with the nagging question: where the heck did all the controversy come from?

At 1/15/2013 09:57:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

'We thought Neil was shooting all the ducks in order to kill one or two. We're Southern rebels, but more than that, we know the difference between right and wrong.''- Ronnie
It was a reaponse song, the writers all said it was a response song, they said it was written to scold Neil about his sweeping stereotypes and Neil himself regrets the lyrics to his own two songs because they sound condescensing. If y'all want to believe your own interpetations, go right on ahead. I am going to believe the men who wrote them.

At 3/20/2013 04:54:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've heard Ronnie's brother talk about how good a friendship Ronnie and Neil had.... However Donnie said also that the song was recorded in response for negative comments Niel made about the people of Alabama... I've heard live recordings where during the song Ronnie would tell the audience " You know there's good people in Alabama... I told Niel that too! " I have no doubt the two where friends. But trying to twist the meaning of that song is just dishonest... Ronnie wasn't advocating racism in the south but he was saying that the people of Alabama where good people...

At 7/17/2013 07:10:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a huge skynyrd fan...please finish your research...curtis loew has nothing to do with a black man it was shorty medlocke that they were talking about he was actually native american/white

At 9/04/2013 05:19:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Hawkins, what have the New Progressives done for the black community ? Because the new progressives are the old Democrats, who instead of blatantly supporting slavery, now push policies that enable dependence, destroy the black family and all for a vote. The fact that Democrats have become more insidious with their racist intentions by basically selling votes just shows the extent of your delusion. Whats the jobless rate for black Americans under Obama ?
As for Skynyrd, God bless them and the South.

As a proud Southerner and Conservative its nice to know I don't have anything to do politically with the Geaorge Wallaces and Obama's of this Nation.

At 2/01/2014 09:19:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok your an psycho conspirist . The proof that you don't know what your talking is in the length of the article. Neil young and thevleonard band could sumvthis fued up in a few sentences. Neil young hated on the southern man so when lynard writing the song into the process he remind the above remarks made about the south, so to muster up some more southern pride and fan base he threw in the lines, yes to slap ok Neal in the face and also create a sweet battle for the south ages to come. I hate people like you who ramble about nonsense that these people would look at you and think your insane.

At 3/27/2016 12:22:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said... the way, J.T. Jester, it's spelled Little Feat (FEAT, not Feet, silly!)
Thought you might like to know, seeing how big you are on correct spelling, an' all.

At 6/20/2017 09:07:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Author left out that the song was written spontaneously while the band was on tour: Ed King dreamed the song, at least the rhythym, woke Ronnie up who instantly put the lyrics to it, or do the story was told in the Box Set booklet.

At 2/28/2018 08:21:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

States rights? Seriously? You must have taken that history class in the sputh, where they dont bother to tell us the truth since it doesn't fit their new narrative. Lincoln's motivation doesnt matter, he didn't start the war, the South did and they did it because of slavery, specifically in regard to new States being added the USA. Read a book dude.

At 5/09/2018 09:27:00 PM, Blogger Bigwill325 said...

Very well stated,Lynn! Thanks for the input! From a white man born and raised in Alabama!

At 11/13/2018 11:31:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Cubans, Hispanics and Haitians dont have a history of racism in America. Go back and read the southern letters of separation just before the civil war and then tell me your "flag" isnt a symbol of the most disgusting racism imaginable. And while we're at it why dont we talk about what the Europeans and white Americans did to the native Americans and south Americans or mayans an incas and Aztecs etc. Talk about genocide

At 9/12/2019 11:17:00 AM, Blogger Epiphanated said...

Did the writer of this article even read the lyrics? It’s right fricking there

At 9/12/2019 06:37:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ All - thanks for all the comments! We hadn't checked here in awhile and will try and respond to select comments.

@ Epiphanated - why yes. 100's if not thousands of times. How about you? Tell the truth.

At 5/08/2020 07:50:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...


At 5/08/2020 08:02:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Agree. Excellent . Its about the consciousness of Racism. Ultimately.

At 6/27/2020 08:28:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I wish there was pic of Ronnie wearing a shirt with Neil in a Lynyrd Skynyrd shirt and visa versa. That would have been cool.

At 3/22/2022 02:08:00 AM, Blogger Mag said...

Love that statement


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