One of Rock music’s biggest urban legends is the “feud” between Southern Rock legend Lynyrd Skynyrd and iconic singer songwriter, Neil Young. In 1970 Neil Young released his album, After The Gold Rush, which contained his song Southern Man. The lyrics to the song strongly addressed the issue of racism so closely associated with the American South.
In 1974, Lynyrd Skynyrd released their second album, aptly titled, Second Helping, which spawned the massive hit and now classic song, Sweet Home Alabama. Despite none of the song’s writers, ( Ronnie Van Zant, Ed King and Gary Rossington ) being actually from Alabama. The song was a direct response to not only Young’s song Southern Man, but also his song Alabama, released in 1972 two years after Southern Man.
While Sweet Home Alabama is often thought of as an angry reply to those two Neil Young songs, the true meaning of Skynyrd’s song is best explained by Skynyrd guitarist and founding memeber Gary Rossington. In a 2015 interview with Garden & Gun ( https://gardenandgun.com/articles/the-story-behind-sweet-home-alabama/ ), Rossington is quoted "Everyone thought it was about Neil Young, but it was more about Alabama,... We had toured there, going all around playing clubs and National Guard armories. Everyone was real nice. When we were out in the country driving all the time, we would listen to the radio. Neil Young had 'Southern Man,' and it was kind of cutting the South down. And so Ronnie just said, 'We need to show people how the real Alabama is. We loved Neil Young and all the music he’s given the world. We still love him today. It wasn’t cutting him down, it was cutting the song he wrote about the South down. Ronnie painted a picture everyone liked. Because no matter where you’re from, sweet home Alabama or sweet home Florida or sweet home Arkansas, you can relate."
Original and late lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, expressed similar feelings in another interview. ”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. We wrote 'Sweet Home 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.”
Neil Young would return the compliment to Lynyrd Skynyrd by stating in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, "I'd rather play 'Sweet Home Alabama' than 'Southern Man' anytime." He would write in his memoir, Waging Heavy Peace, in 2012. "I don't like my words when I listen to it today (referring to his song Alabama). They are accusatory and condescending, not fully thought out, too easy to misconstrue."
And so there it is... both sides of a non existent argument. Will you hear either of the songs the same way again ? That's up to you, but as with everything else, when it comes to information, you can't take the first you thing you hear, read, or see... there's usually a little something more behind what's exposed to you.
I hope you enjoyed my little excursion this time around. I truly appreciate you hanging around. I've got some special subscribers news coming up, so make sure you stay tuned, and if you know any other music fans that may appreciate this, please share and ask them to subscribe.
I've got a few ideas for the next song I'm going to breakdown and cartoon to, but if there's one you want to see or are curious about, let me know.t