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Monday, October 10, 2011

Southern Soul for Southern Man: Merry Clayton

Merry Clayton covers Neil Young's "Southern Man" on YouTube.

And you say who is Merry Clayton???

Clayton sang back up vocals on Neil Young's "Old Laughing Lady".

Also, Clayton was the intensely female vocal on the Rolling Stones original version of "Gimme Shelter". And, she was one of the original Rayettes (Ray Charles female backup singers).

Merry Clayton's was brilliant on The Who's "Tommy" soundtrack on "The Acid Queen" with symphony orchestra backing.

And, she sang backup on Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama", that song that some think"put Ol' Neil down".

Southern soul for a southern man from a southern woman.

Timeline from Anon comment:

1969 - Merry Clayton recorded The Old Laughing Lady and I Loved Her So Long with Neil Young

1971 - Merry Clayton recorded Southern Man as a solo artist

1974 - Merry Clayton recorded Sweet Home Alabama with Lynyrd Skynyrd

And, so why exactly might a southern black woman cover a white Canadian man's ode to racism in the Confederate south again, now anyhow?

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At 10/10/2011 11:48:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Right on!

At 10/11/2011 01:52:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post T.
Love her voice on Neil's first solo album and I am glad to hear that she even sounds better on the remastered version. The duet with MJ on Gimme Shelter is timeless.

Here's another great song she sings on:

At 10/11/2011 04:06:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you search youtube you'll find early U2 overing "Souther man" not miss it.

At 10/11/2011 07:16:00 AM, Anonymous Mother Nature on the Run said...

What a giant let down on that "here's another great song she sings on."

Here's a little cold water of reality to wash off that snark.

Didn't you hear about it?

At 10/11/2011 07:25:00 AM, Anonymous Mother Nature on the Run said...

Sweet Home Alabama Goes Hollywood:

At 10/11/2011 08:21:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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

At 10/11/2011 08:43:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Merry Clayton recorded Southern Man in 1971

Sweet Home Alabama is from 1974

So Ronnie probably knew she recorded the song...

Since she has both worked with the Rolling Stones and Neil Young could it be possible that she was a friend of Jack Nitzsche? He might have introduced her to Neil for the Neil Young album. Or was it Ry Cooder? She also sings backing vocals on "I've loved her so long".

At 10/11/2011 09:56:00 AM, Anonymous Mother Nature on the Run said...

Well, her brother rolled in on that second wave as the percussionist for Little Feat. It's possible Ben knew the family, too, back in the "studio days."

At 10/11/2011 10:15:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

But Neil didn't know Ben back in 1969...

At 10/11/2011 10:32:00 AM, Anonymous Mother Nature on the Run said...


"Southern Man" put Neil out there like Dylan when he wrote "Hattie Carroll."

It's likely Ms. Clayton came across it and said, "This song really tells it like it is!" and added it to her collection of songs.

All you mofo fools talking about "Sweet Home Alabama" are talking about something different entirely.

At 10/11/2011 10:47:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Somebody has to post on TW this:neil young like a hurricane's a pearl on youtube

At 10/11/2011 10:57:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

1969 - Merry Clayton recorded The Old Laughing Lady and I Loved Her So Long with Neil Young

1971 - Merry Clayton recorded Southern Man as a solo artist

1974 - Merry Clayton recorded Sweet Home Alabama with Lynyrd Skynyrd

At 10/11/2011 01:47:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pearl Jam
Acoustic 'Better Man' at Bridge School

All the proceeds will go the Bridge School charity.

At 10/11/2011 02:22:00 PM, Anonymous Your Mother Should Know ... said...

There is nothing glorious or redeeming even today about this history of racism in "Sweet Home Alabama" beginning with the flaunting of a Confederate Flag today which is like waving a Nazi Flag at a Jewish Harvest Festival.

To me, "Sweet Home Alabama" is a anthem glorifying the atrocities committed against slaves and their ancestors. It's something that I always felt deep down inside when I heard that song. It's something I can't shake.

A comeback line like "Southern Man don't need him around anyhow" may have been done in good fun, but at whose expense?

I think Lynard Skynard were pretty damn arrogent to put that in their song. I don't care if Sammmy Davis sang it.

Why would anyone want to poke fun at a reference made about Jewish suffering?

At 10/11/2011 04:40:00 PM, Blogger BIGCHIEF said...

I never believed that Neil and Ronnie were ever 'friends'. I think that Neil was just being modest at best when he complimented the song and said he thought it was cool when he heard his name dropped in it. What was he supposed to say? Surviving members of Skynyrd have said that they were fans of Neil, but inciting your audience to a near frenzy like Ronnie would do when he would sing those lyrics "southern man don't need you around anyhow" is a rather strange way of expressing your admiration for a fellow artist!

At 10/11/2011 04:58:00 PM, Blogger BIGCHIEF said...

I agree with you, MNOTR. Neil never tried to spin the meaning behind the lyrics of Southern Man or Alabama. He just put it out there and dealt with the consequences as they came along. There was a period where he even had to avoid touring in the 'deep south' because of death threats and hatred in general mostly fueled by Skynyrds song. As you said, Sweet Home Alabama' was Ronnie Van Zants answer to both of Neils songs and his defense of the old 'Deep Souths' twisted ways. It's nothing more than a racial anthem disquised as a catchy southern rock song. And I know, as they always do, that someone will respond in Skynyrds defense with 'The Ballad Of Curtis Lowe'. That doesn't change the intent behind the song Sweet Home Alabama.

At 8/16/2013 03:00:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has anyone seen the new documentary on back up singers called 20 Feet From Stardom? In it, Merry Clayton speaks about recording "Sweet Home Alabama". From what I could gather, she was talking about the irony of recording a song that praised Alabama during a time of such civil unrest. Personally, I've never understood the song to be racist. If anything, it's pretty clear that Van Zant was against George Wallace. Thus, the lines, "in Alabama they love the Governor, boo hoo hoo". At least that's the way I've always understood it.


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