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Monday, January 07, 2013

Yes, Maybe A Southern Man Does Need Neil Young Around, Anyhow

For long time Thrasher's Wheat readers, please bear with us here as we'll get to some actual news on the subject.

It would seem that hardly a day goes past, where we come across a blog post, Facebook status update or tweet, that attempts the "Neil Young putdown" without seeming comprehension of the context or the true story of Lynyrd Skynyrd and Neil Young.

So why even bother, you might ask?

For us, understanding the fascinating backstory of Ronnie and Neil and laying to rest the "Feud Myth" has proved to be quite challenging in these polarized times. But to know the full story is to know the true meaning of "Powderfinger". To know what is the color when black is burned. To know a trip isn't a fall.

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.

"Sweet Home Alabama", written by Lynyrd Skynyrd partially in response to Young's "Alabama" and "Southern Man" contains the apocryphal line: "I hope Neil Young will remember, a Southern man don't need him around anyhow". In his recent book Waging Heavy Peace, Young writes of his "Alabama" lyrics:
"I don't like my words when I listen to it today. They are accusatory and condescending, not fully thought out, and too easy to misconstrue."
Which brings us to the actual news that Lynyrd Skynrd have taken a stand and denounced the Confederate flag. In the CNN clip below from last year, Gary Rossington, says that the band, recognizing the stars-and-bars flag's offensive and racist undertones, will cease using it as a stage decoration at concerts supporting its new album "Last of a Dyin' Breed."

So what could be the possible problem with what seems to be enlightened 21st century thinking? Well, it turns out that this decision has angered their fan base. Really. From Lynyrd Skynrd denounces Confederate flag, angering some fans - by August Brown:
"Through the years, people like the KKK and skinheads kinda kidnapped the Dixie or Southern flag from its tradition and the heritage of the soldiers, that's what it was about," Rossington said. "We didn't want that to go to our fans or show the image like we agreed with any of the race stuff or any of the bad things." This apparently didn't sit well with some of the band's fans back in Dixie, who have taken to the comments section with pained vitriol. "Good luck with your next release 'Sweet home Massachusetts.' I am sure it will climb the charts with a bullet in Yankee-land," said one. "This isn't the real Lynyrd Skynyrd anyway. They should have taken a name like 'Obama's Politically Correct Sell Your Soul Make Believe Impostors' or something," opined another.
And the negative reaction to the announcement continued in the article's comments:
G. D. Smith: It's a shame that instead of hiding the battle flag out of political correctness, they didn't attempt to help educate the public about the rich history and heritage of the South. The last time I saw a story about the KKK, they were flying the Stars & Stripes. Yet in almost every picture you showed of LS in concert, they had Old Glory out there on stage. Does that mean they're now KKK members? Of course not. But by ignoring and denying the flag that is part of their history, they are leaving a large segment of their fan base behind as well. It's a shame that money is now more important than honor and heritage.

L R Stover: So y'all admit during the interview that the Confederate Flag represents history, heritage and the Confederate soldier, then you stop flying it because some misinformed people equate the flag with racism instead of continuing to educate people on our Southern symbol? Quoting Johnny Van Zant, "We speak for our fans, we speak for ourselves." Well, you just lost a significant portion of your fans so continue to speak for yourself. Good luck with you next release.."Sweet home Massachusetts." I am sure it will climb the charts with a bullet in yankee-land.
Paul Cox: It's hilarious to me that old school Lynyrd Skynyrd fans conveniently gloss over the fact that the original band was actually left-leaning (they campaigned hard for Carter in 1976, wrote a pro-gun control song called "Saturday Night Special"). It's only after the replacements came in that they started spoonfeeding their conservative fanbase exactly what they wanted. The confederate flag may mean heritage to some people, but I grew up in Alabama and I know what it really means. It means that there was a point in history that states were willing to go to war with the union over the right to own human beings.
And on and on...
Lynyrd Skynyrd's Ronnie VanZant Wearing Neil Young T-shirt Oakland Coliseum, July 2, 1977

More on the true story of Lynyrd Skynyrd and Neil Young.

Labels: , ,


At 1/07/2013 11:24:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 1/07/2013 11:54:00 AM, Blogger setlistthief said...

Interesting parallel you point out, Thrash...that Neil admits he made a mistake with "Alabama" while LS admits the mistake it made with wrapping itself in the Confederate flag.

Not boring at all. This and your previous post make valid statements about the role of art in our society and are very worthy of discussion.

At 1/07/2013 12:23:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I respectfully submit that this topic is WAY BORING and has been covered ad naseum here and elsewhere...

Unlike Neil - Skynyrd hasn't released anything worth listening to in decades...they have somewhat successfully steered their waning audience/career toward the state fair/Sean Hannity crowd...

Neil is still relevant...LS not so much = BORING (you have to hear the Homer Simpson voice in your head when you read 'BORING')

At 1/07/2013 01:09:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This issue has already been covered extensively on this site. This is old news for sure. And why does the author call the line "apocryphal"? I think he meant to use another word.

The real Skynyrd (not the modern version) kicked ass. And Neil does too.

At 1/07/2013 01:46:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Always curious to see how so-called proud southerners try to draw a distinction between the Confederate flag, the soldiers and slavery. Face it, the Civil War was fought to a great extent over slavery. Any flag that honors that stand or that memory is offensive. Then, now and always.

At 1/07/2013 02:51:00 PM, Blogger SONY said...

Life is so strange when it's changin', yes indeed
Well I've seen the hard times and the pressure's been on me
But I keep on workin' like the workin' man do
And I've got my act together, gonna walk all over you

Gimme back my bullets
Put 'em back where they belong
Ain't foolin' around 'cause I done had my fun
Ain't gonna see no more damage done
Gimme back my bullets

At 1/07/2013 05:26:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

Anonymous - first, thanks for following this blog to notice that this is a topic which we track closely.

2nd, as indicated, there is actually 2 pieces of new news here that are quite remarkable in their juxtaposition.

So polarization based upon cultural values is boring?

The comments we get on this subject fascinate us. But that's just us.

Can't imagine what in the world you might find interesting to discuss. Suggestions, please.

If we can just ask, if this topic is so boring, why is it that this topic is even more heavily trafficked than the meaning of Powderfinger?


Also, "apocryphal"? Maybe we meant to use another word but came up empty?

SONY - yep, the LS was for gun control way back when it really wasn't hip at all. How about that?

At 1/07/2013 09:55:00 PM, Anonymous Barry Barclay said...

As a Canadian and a fan of Neil Young I have to declare my bias upfront. But having said that the paradox is I love Sweet Home Alabama, a great song created and sung by good ol boys like the one's I used to play football with and now live with in Alberta.

Weaned on racism they go on as adults in this case famous and rich to see other points of view, to treat people like people as they grew up, to not notice so much, the colour of their skin, but after a few JDs in the local honky tonk they revert back to the old bs. It's a cultural thing. You can never take the red out of redneck especially when they are hammered or just smoked a big doobie..

At 1/07/2013 10:51:00 PM, Blogger Fort Mac said...

Waren Zevon said it besT

A Dead Man band

Sweat , bleep , bleep and blood
Grandpa doin sister Sally

At 1/08/2013 03:12:00 AM, Anonymous Nicolas Spilmont said...

Maybe I'll buy a LS album now...

At 1/10/2013 10:54:00 AM, Blogger Mr Henry said...

Tuesday night I was watching college hockey with University of Minnesota vs Notre Dame, currently the two top ranked teams in the country. At one point during the second period, U of Minn was up 2-1 and their band started playing Sweet Home Alabama, rubbing it in after the previous night's football game. I'm a huge fan of college hockey, and the pep bands always add a lot to the games. Kind of snarky but also very funny (except for ND fans). Roll Tide....

At 1/10/2013 06:40:00 PM, Blogger BBall Purist said...

All these die hard Skynyrd fans still aren't listening closely to The Drive By Truckers? Jeez, they're making relevant music and have five times the energy of Skynyrd on stage.

And they have the "Decade" old Ronnie and Neil to tell the story, so that the simple-minded can understand a little history lesson...

At 1/10/2013 06:46:00 PM, Blogger BBall Purist said...

Oh - the link for the uninitiated

At 1/20/2013 02:25:00 PM, Anonymous Dolores Park said...

Though I've long since moved to the Northeast, I'm a Louisianian by birth and even went to a small Southern Baptist high school in a small town during the Falwell ascendancy; and I have to say that even as a child, I never understood the nostalgia people had for the Confederacy. It is the very textbook definition of treason: taking up arms against your own country to preserve an economic system that made Roman slavery look downright progressive. And let's not forget that these patriotic Confederates wanted very much to enlist the military aid of none other than England to achieve their purposes. Then the apologists have the gall to call the war which the Confederacy started the War of Northern Aggression.

Southerners should be as ashamed of the Confederacy as Germans are of the Third Reich.

Good for Skynyrd, I say. Let's not forget that they campaigned actively for Carter in '76: they never were the rightwingers some take them for.


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