I can’t speak to everyone’s experience, but when I was growing up I always found Lynyrd Skynyrd was one of those bands that always seemed to have good songs on (classic rock) radio but was generally unlikeable. The reason Lynyrd Skynyrd was unlikeable was simple: they were stupid, racist hillbillies. The band embraced elements of Southern culture that made me uncomfortable, like the Confederate flag. One of their most popular songs was about a redneck State and endorsed a racist governor! But man, were those songs good. Lynyrd Skynyrd was one of those bands I’d appreciated from afar.
Then about a year ago I heard “Sweet Home Alabama” on the radio. Rather than dismiss the song outright, I decided to actually listen to the lyrics. Being a recovering English major, I decided to apply the same techniques of literary analysis I’d use to fake-understand Coleridge to try to fake-understand Lynyrd Skynyrd. It turns out that listening to a rock song via a fuzzy FM radio station is not the best way to study lyrical depth. I decided to go home and pull the lyrics up online and listen to the song again. Thus began my slow descent into studying Lynyrd Skynyrd. I’m going to write a whole lot more words, but for those with little patience (or interest) let me sum up my rambling tirade thusly: Lynyrd Skynyrd, it turns out, was not the band you think they were. I don’t think there’s a band more commonly misunderstood that Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Lynyrd Skynyrd hailed from the South, and with that comes some complicated baggage, but I wouldn’t call them racists. The band wrote a lot of really fantastic, really surprising songs. The amazing part is that I didn’t come to this conclusion after hearing some buried b-side or un-heard deep album cut. The opposite is actually true: Lynyrd Skynyrd wrote and recorded fantastically genre-subverting rock songs that became massive hits!
There are three areas where the uneducated have Lynyrd Skynyrd all wrong: race, guns, and drugs. The band’s image, along with it’s membership, has shifted and changed over the decades so let me be clear as to what incarnation of Lynyrd Skynyrd I refer to in this essay. As most of you know, in 1977 Lynyrd Skynyrd was involved in a devastating plane crash that killed a great number of people. The Lynyrd Skynyrd that I’m writing about was the original band, fronted by singer Ronnie Van Zant, who essentially ceased to exist after this terrible plane crash. The band cobbled together from the crash survivors and Ronnie’s younger brother, Johnny Van Zant, is Lynyrd Skynyrd in name only as far as I’m concerned. I will explain my specific reasoning for this later, but to put it simply: Lynyrd Skynyrd (1964-1977) were anything but stupid, racist hillbillies…the post-crash band, while not stupid hillbillies, tend to embrace the stereotypes commonly associated with Lynyrd Skynyrd. Plus the songs aren’t a tenth as good, so there’s that. This first post will specifically examine Lynyrd Skynyrd and race. If people are interested I’ll post the others on guns and drugs.
Look, I’m not going to attack or defend the Confederate flag. I was born and raised in Missouri, a State that neither the North nor South seems to want to claim as their own. Personally, I wouldn’t own a Confederate flag but that said, I don’t think there’s a single flag on Earth that isn’t soiled by oppression and blood to some degree. Maybe if I’d been raised in a true Southern State I’d be able to understand the whole Confederate flag thing. Musically, Lynyrd Skynyrd is playing straight-up black music. I don’t mean that in the way that we all know that rock music is basically a watered-down version of the blues…I mean Lynyrd Skynyrd is basically a blues band. Oh sure, the band is hailed as pioneering the so-called southern-rock genre, but what is that but the blues played by white folks (and maybe with a twang)?
The bands blues roots don’t necessarily prove the band wasn’t racist, but I find it difficult to believe a bunch of kids would grow up and sound like Lynyrd Skynyrd if they hated black people. Further proof that the band wasn’t a pack of racist hillbillies can be found in their song “The Ballad of Curtis Loew” off their second album SECOND HELPING (1974). The song is about a kid who hunts up spare change in order to pay a local guitarist to play him a song. “The Ballad of Curtis Loew” celebrates both the blues and the many faceless people who practice it’s harsh ways (and die penniless). Is the character of Curtis Loew the best depiction of a southern black man? Probably not, Loew’s a drunk who appears to do nothing all day but wait for white kids to bring him money so he can buy more cheap wine. But Loew, who is seen as “useless” by society at large was the “finest picker to ever play the blues” according to the narrator of the song. I think “The Ballad of Curtis Loew,” which is supposedly based on a couple of people the Van Zants’ knew growing up, is actually a pretty good metaphor for what happened to bluesmen in this country. Revered by young, white rock stars, American culture at large ignored our treasure trove of blues musicians. How many phenomenally great artists died penniless or lived on incomes subsidized by royalty checks from guys like Eric Clapton who covered their songs?
Okay, so Lynyrd Skynyrd liked the blues, going so far to write a song about how sad it was that most people ignored brilliant blues musicians: what about “Sweet Home Alabama”? “Sweet Home Alabama” isn’t the terrible racial albatross many think it is. For starters, the most important fact that people seem to miss about Lynyrd Skynyrd and “Sweet Home Alabama” is this: Lynyrd Skynyrd are from Jacksonville, Florida. So if the band is from Florida, why did they write a song called “Sweet Home Alabama”? Two words: Neil Young.
In 1970, Neil Young wrote a song called “Southern Man” for his classic (and fantastic) album AFTER THE GOLD RUSH. “Southern Man” is a fiery indictment of the terrible racism that pervaded in the American South. The song mentions slavery, racism, cross burning: all the stuff white Southerners love to talk about. Young’s song is seemingly about one “Southern Man” but really points the finger at an entire region of the country. Now if Neil Young has just recorded “Southern Man” we might not have “Sweet Home Alabama.” But Young penned another song called “Alabama” that attacked the State who was governed by the infamously pro-segregationist governor George Wallace. Lynyrd Skynyrd wrote “Sweet Home Alabama” both as a response to Young’s two songs. “Sweet Home Alabama” mentions both Young by name and alludes to his song “Southern Man,” the song is about Alabama because Neil Young singled Alabama out, not because the band is from Alabama. A surface reading of the song suggests that Lynyrd Skynyrd didn’t care for Canadian Neil Young picking on the State and that “Well I hope Neil Young will remember/a southern man don’t need him around any how.” Equally, the song appears to endorse governor Wallace…or does it? The lyrics state: “In Birmingham they love the governor/Now we all did what we could do/Now Watergate does not bother me/Does your conscience bother you?/Now tell the truth.” These lyrics suggest that Lynyrd Skynyrd is in support of Governor Wallace and his racist agenda, right? Possibly, but Lynyrd Skynyrd might also be fucking with us.
For starters, Birmingham is not the capital of Alabama…Montgomery is the State capitol. Why is this a big deal? Rather than mentioning Montgomery, the seat of power, the song mentions the State’s largest city. What was going on in Birmingham? The state was full of civil unrest in the 1960’s but a lot of the worst stuff happened in Birmingham. The police used water cannons and attack dogs to try and stop protesters, including Martin Luther King Jr. Lead singer Ronnie Van Zant pointed out in an interview in 1975 that the line “In Birmingham they love the governor” is immediately followed up by “boo, boo, boo” by the backing vocals. Lynyrd Skynyrd’s somewhat puzzling mention of the then-recent Watergate scandal suddenly makes sense: Lynyrd Skynyrd is not bothered by Watergate because they didn’t do anything wrong, that was an evil act purported by a politician. Likewise, Lynyrd Skynyrd is suggesting that things aren’t as black and white (pun intended) as Young suggests in his song and that not all Southern men love Governor Wallace.
Lynyrd Skynyrd’s song also suggests that all Southerners cannot be lumped into one category. In point of fact, that kind of thinking is just as wrongheaded as the racism that Young was rallying against. In this context, the “we all did what we could do” line appears to be a reference to all the protests that took place in Birmingham. The problem of “Sweet Home Alabama” is that the people hoisting it up as the redneck song to end all redneck songs aren’t as smart as the people who wrote it. Lynyrd Skynyrd proves the old adage about judging books by their covers to be correct: just because someone singing has a Southern accent doesn’t mean they aren’t literate and possessing wit. Further mudding the waters of “Sweet Home Alabama” is the fact that Neil Young and Lynyrd Skynyrd were not enemies as many people think, but actually were friendly admirers of each other. Many fans that missed the irony in “Sweet Home Alabama” also failed to notice that Ronnie Van Zant frequently wore Neil Young t-shirts. He’s even wearing one on the cover of the band’s 1977 album STREET SURVIVORS.
Likewise, Neil Young sported a Lynyrd Skynyrd t-shirt several times in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.
Much like the Confederate flag, “Sweet Home Alabama” has a complicated history and has different meanings for different people. That the song has confounded generations of people is surprising, but perhaps the death of song’s chief architects explains why the song’s obtuse meaning has remained a bit of a secret for so long. Worth noting, in 2009 the State of Alabama started using the phrase “sweet home Alabama” on its license plates. Given that both potential readings of the song are generally unflattering to Alabama, one wonders why the song would be used on anything official from the State. It’s impossible to know the inner workings of other men’s hearts, but based on “Sweet Home Alabama” I wouldn’t characterize Lynyrd Skynyrd as racists. The band members grew up in another era, I’m sure they had some degree of prejudice (which everyone has to some extent). That said, for a band making millions of dollars off a Southern image, I think the band had a progressive attitude when it came to the subject of race. A large part of the band’s attitude, no doubt, stemmed from their love of music—specifically blues music. Consider this the next time someone dismisses popular music as “unimportant.”
Thank you for this – I learned something today. Very informative and well-written.
This is a great article. I remember when I was a little kid, I didn’t even realize all that the Confederate flag symbolizes; to people I knew growing up it just meant you liked Southern rock. As I got older I realized that seeing that flag might mean I’d do well to stay away from the person or place displaying it. I agree it is a complex symbol and I don’t like to live in assumptions, but I also like to be aware and avoid racial confrontation.
I actually like “Sweet Home Alabama,” but sometimes feel weird singing along. I tend to agree with your analysis of the song – It doesn’t seem to pan out as racist to me overall, but that little bit of uncertainly about it has given me pause. In the end, it’s almost in the “Too Classic” category for me. I like the song, but don’t need to hear it too often. “Freebird,” for the Too Classic category, is Exhibit A.
Anyway, it is a very good thing to unravel these complicated histories. There is so much still to uncover re: music and race. I also would like to hear your thoughts about Skynyrd,in relation to guns and drugs.
I’ve been thinking about this post for a few days, weighing how to respond, because it strikes close to home. I like those first-generation Lynyrd Skynyrd songs, too, and I have several on my iPod. They’re catchy, well-played and original. And you’re absolutely right: without Ronnie Van Zandt to further clarify what this particular song is about (and whether he wore the Neil Young shirt out of respect or sarcasm), it’s open to a lot of interpretation depending on the audience’s mindset and so will be experienced in radically different ways.
On the one hand, you have Merry Clayton, one of the backup singers featured in the documentary “Twenty Feet from Stardom,” who sang on this track. She didn’t originally want to sing the song – she had done her own version of “Southern Man” on a solo album – but her husband convinced her to do it as her own form of protest: as she told an interviewer last year, “Okay, I’m going to go to this session, but you better believe I’m going to be singing through my teeth ‘Sweet Home Alabama.’”
On the other hand you have the idiot song of last summer by Braid Paisley and LL Cool J, “Accidental Racist.” If you are lucky enough to have avoided hearing it, here’s the tale it tells: Mr. Paisley is called out at a Starbucks (full of liberals, I’ll wager) for wearing a Lynyrd Skynyrd t-shirt with the Stars and Bars on it … and Mr. J tells him it’s aight: “If you don’t judge my do-rag, I won’t judge your red flag.” Dreadful music, vapid lyrics and an awkward understatement of the issue here.
The South will never have a clean past and so, in my personal opinion, white folks cannot use the symbols of that past in any way, shape or form to celebrate their present. I speak from experience. I was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia. My high school’s mascot was the Rebel, our fight song was “Dixie,” and during football games and pep rallies we’d wave the Confederate flag with true joy and conviction. This was a generation after the civil rights movement and it was not even questioned. Even as we’d explain this to goggle-eyed outsiders as our way to express our “Southern Pride,” we knew enough not to play the song when we were at away games in the city where the teams were predominantly African-American. We knew what all those symbols represented, and we should have known – and done – better by leaving them behind.
That’s why the line, “Does your conscience bother you?” bugs me. It comes off as dismissing Gov. Wallace and his ilk with a shrug: kind of, “C’mon, where’s your sense of humor?” when someone doesn’t find something funny for a really good reason. I agree with you that Ronnie Van Zandt and his band clearly respected black musicians and aren’t necessarily bigots. But this song tolerates a more subtle kind of racism, and any nuance the original song may have had gets lost when it’s framed by Kid Rock or Brad Paisley as nothing more than a catchy tune by a kick-ass band.
Thanks for taking the time to read and comment everyone.
I too grew up in Missouri, Jefferson County. I was born in and returned to rural NY State and I’m multi-racial. I love pre 77 Skynyrd and have made all those points too. I’m a huge fan of the blues and I’m a little bit of a cultured hick. I like Allman Bros a lot too. The post 77 Skynyrd band is an embarrassment. The NY state fair featured them every summer my whole life and you’d be amazed by the number of Confederate Flag waiving, drunken racist rednecks in NY. This was not a marketing mistake.
Thank you so much for a well written article.
The contradictions with Ronnie and “the boys” are many and perplexing.
It has been said that it is “sad that Ronnie isn’t alive to help defend the quality and depth of his lyrics.”
Not sad … I’m not making sure … and this article helps … 🙂
Skynyrd in many ways is a “smile and helping hand … delivered with a baseball bat”.
You love the music … but when you see someone with a Skynyrd tee shirt on … you “give them space” as they walk past on the sidewalk …
Having also applied the linguistic science of “Concordance” to old “period” articles on Lynyrd Skynyrd your analysis is “spot on”.
Ronnie was wise beyond his years … and more of a story teller / lesson provider … the music and Three (3) lead guitars … was just to get everyone’s attention!!!
Gimme the steps …
well said Skynyrd was a legend in their own time the plane crash was a severe tragedy !!!
Thanks David!!! Please email me @ email@example.com … I have my version I would like to share with you … I had to research on microfiche … 🙂
I actually wrote two more posts about Skynyrd–one on guns and another on drugs—but I never posted them because the good folks at Reddit called me an idiot. Which, I guess I kinda am. Anyway, I may dust those off someday.
Ummm … but isn’t that what the first post was about in the first place … 🙂 🙂 🙂 —> Please get those FUCKERS POSTED ASAP … ask yourself one “simple question” … “What would Ronnie do … ” … then do it …
And for the folks @ Reddit … “eat me”
General George S Patton recommends … “When in doubt … ATTACK!!!”
Note the time of this past posting … 11:11 … is also Georgie’s birthday … and Veteran’s day … strange how things work out like that …
Alright, it’s up: https://defendingaxlrose.com/2015/02/18/southern-complexities-lynyrd-skynyrd-guns/
Oh, for the drug one … found it interesting that Ronnie wasn’t a big Pot smoker … it effectively made people “lazy” and not practice enough … “classic Ronnie” … practical all the time … and practice all the time. “Whiskey Baby” ….
This one was focusing primarily on race. I have one about guns that is 99% done (that 1% is just hitting the “publish” button). I guess I do need to man up and just post away…
If you ever post your version online send me a link and I’ll promote it here.
“You love the music … but when you see someone with a Skynyrd tee shirt on … you “give them space” as they walk past on the sidewalk …”
EXACTLY. This was a great band who sometimes get a bum rap thanks to a small segment of their fans.
Seriously, I get tears every time I read this post … totally validates my 31 years of “Skynyrd Fan-hood” …
In the days of my youth I was told what it means to be a man…
The first words, from the first song, from the first Led Zeppelin album
• 1969 – Good Times, Bad Times – Led Zeppelin I
• Jimmy Page, Robert Plant
Amongst those manly things, or traits, I was told, was to have short hair.
Well, very quickly while growing up I discovered that short hair is not an indicator of manhood at all. In school I was taught about a group of longhaired, wig wearing rebels who authored and signed a document called the Declaration of Independence in 1776. This document gave the United States independence, also known as freedom, from England.
A more recent example discovered during my college years is a longhaired band of merry lead by a barefoot lead singer. They travelled world, singing their songs, about good and bad, right and wrong, friends and freedom. This further exemplified the fact that longhaired men can do great things, with their lives and for the world.
This particular band of merry men, lead by one iron fisted Ronnie Van Zant, spent 7 hard-luck years honing their music to a razor sharp edge. Singing and playing harder at every juke joint in the south they could book. Then in 1972 a Yankee slicker discovered them in Atlanta on a fateful Monday evening.
During their 7-year “honing” period they faced endless adversity and overcame overwhelming obstacles, one of them being their high school gym teacher. This gym teacher took it upon himself to strictly enforced rules against long hair, leaving an even longer impression with the band.
Despite the adversity and obstacles, including their gym teacher nemesis, persistence and hard work paid-off. In the 4 short years after being discovered in 1972, this band of men created a catalog of songs and albums of long lasting and legendary stature.
During their endless pace of touring, “torture tours”, as they have been referred to, earned them the reputation of being one of the hardest working rock and roll bands to ever tour, and a worldwide audience of friends and fans that love them and their music to this day. They were very famous, not to be confused with “almost famous”, and literally defined the “work hard and play harder” mantra.
There is one not-so-secret ingredient you hear in their music. As distinct as Ronnie’s vocals and the band’s 3 lead guitarists; it made them different from other bands. Simply put it was their attitude, “we will succeed no matter how much practice and work it takes”. As history shows, that “earn while you learn” attitude served them well.
Their legacy and music, over 30 years after the original lineup of the band ended with a tragic plane crash, is still standard issue on radio play lists, and used in TV and movies as it is classically iconic of the good, bad, and the ugly aspects of the real world.
Travelling down my own Rotgut Life path I used examples from this band of merry gentlemen, lessons taught by my father and others, to stay on track, no matter what obstacles appear in my path, or when I ended up flirting with disaster, a time or a few.
Hard work, perseverance, overcoming obstacles, and sticking up for what you feel is right, often in the face of adversity, are far better indicators of what makes up a man, than the length of ones hair.
– The gym teacher’s name was Leonard Skinner.
– The band’s name is Lynyrd Skynyrd.
These lessons are from their story, to share with you, as taught in….
The Ronnie Van Zant School of Mynygmynt
“Now I’ll tell you plainly baby, what I plan to do…”
The first words, from the first song, from the first Lynyrd Skynyrd album appropriately provide the basis for the first lesson. These words echo truthful clarity and an undying commitment that defined the band that Ronnie Van Zant designed and managed to success.
People are judged by their ability to communicate their intent and follow through with what they said they’d do. In today’s fast paced world with a multitude of different ways to communicate it seems that the ability to do what you say and say what you’ll do is something that can get lost, overlooked
Over the years I’ve wondered about my fascination with Lynyrd Skynyrd’s music and Ronnie Van Zant’s lyrics in particular. The music, driven by 3 lead guitars, a piano player, a bass and drums that served as a mere backup for Ronnie’s timeless lyrics that shoot straight, and for me are distinctly pronounced, making them easy to hear and understand.
It starts with the basics. The core trait of any great storyteller starts with the ability to hear each word spoken, clearly and distinctly. In the case of many lead singers, even those from other favorite bands, the same cannot be said. Whether caused by the overwhelming music or slurred words, there are few that sing as plainly as Ronnie. Telling stories and giving lessons through song, Ronnie tells us not only what he plans to do, but suggest what we all should do.
“If I leave here tomorrow, will you still remember me?”
The first words from the last song on the first album provide the context for the last lesson at the Ronnie Van Zant School of Mynygmynt Rotgut Live MBA program.
The secret behind these words is that if you literally ask this question today and are not sure what the answer is, you are probably too late. This is because to be remembered in a positive context you need to have lived a positive life longer than the 24 hours the question implies.
In other words, to get a “yes” to this question, you will have needed to live a positive life up to the point you die. Leaving positive impressions on people around you, leaving positive work in you past, and of course for those that decide to go this path, a family.
The first foundation my father started, the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, has the motto “For those who follow”. When first pitched this motto by their ad agency my father didn’t like it, responding, “I’m not a follower”. Well, the ad agency explained that it means “for the generations that follow”.
“…to me there is nothin’ freer than a bird, just flying wherever he wants to go…and a, that what’s this country’s all about, ya know, being free. I think everybody wants to be a Freebird.”
Ronnie Van Zant
*** Quoted while fishin’
I have the other 19 chapters … “roughed out …” … this book wrote itself … I just did the typing …
“Everybody is a Skynyrd Fan … they just don’t know it yet” – it seems my mission in life is to prove this to be true … by getting people the “listen to the words” …. SIMPLE … man !!! 🙂
Reblogged this on mavyryk and commented:
My thoughts exactly …
Had any of the Skynyrds ever said clearly, without any doubt, in plain English, “YES we agree with Neil Young and YES we are not racists and YES we despise our Governor”, then I would gladly agree with y’all.
Sadly that never happened and the song has been appropriated by racist hicks. Then you know what? It IS a racist anthem for all practical purposes. English majors can “demonstrate” that GWBush was really a commie.
Thanks for your comment.
Sloppy Joe should probably do some reading before he judges somebody with such arrogance and condescension, because maybe he would have realized Ronnie actually did answer “clearly, without any doubt, in plain English.”
First of all, Wallace was not their governor, and here is what Ronnie had to say about ole’ Wallace.
“The lyrics about the governor of Alabama were misunderstood. The general public didn’t notice the words ‘Boo! Boo! Boo!’ after that particular line, and the media picked up only on the reference to the people loving the governor. The line ‘We all did what we could do’ is sort of ambiguous. Wallace and I have very little in common. I don’t like what he says about colored people. We’re not into politics, we don’t have no education, and Wallace don’t know anything about rock and roll.”
About the use of the Confederate flag, he said “That was strictly an MCA gimmick to start us off with some label. It was useful at first, but by now it’s embarrassing except in Europe, where they really like all that stuff because they think it’s macho American.”
ANd as far as Neil Young goes, they wouldn’t agree that he was right ever, because Neil was wrong by condemning a whole region of people.
“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 said.
Neil Young wrote in his 2012 autobiography Waging Heavy Peace.“I don’t like my words when I listen to [Southern Man]. They are accusatory and condescending, not fully thought out, and too easy to misconstrue.”
Coming from the South, it gets old to get lumped in with all the racists and bigots, and Skynyrd knew what that was like and Ronnie knew how to write a song to reach out to others who deal with that everyday,
I think something that people don’t think about is that maybe Ronnie is not just dishing some out to Neil Young, but also to all those who like to paint the South and it’s people with a broad brush.
“Now Watergate does not bother me, but does your conscience bother you?”
Let’s be honest, racism doesn’t just exist in the South. Martin Luther King said the racism in Chicago was worse than what he had seen in the south. He said “This is a terrible thing. I’ve been in many demonstrations all across the south, but I can say that I have never seen – even in Mississippi and Alabama – mobs as hostile and as hate-filled as I’ve seen here in Chicago.” So maybe Ronnie after mentioning “we all did what we could do” was giving a little minor distraction with his reference to Watergate to be able to land an upper cut on his detractors by asking about their own personal conscience.
This is why people here who don’t agree with the racist heritage of the South can still be proud of where we come from. It’s tougher for us in most facets of life than it is for anybody else. Those who blindly follow the way of the South’s heritage will never be looked down upon like we are, and the North and the West’s issues are not put under the magnifying glass like we are even though people have proven to be just as bigoted elsewhere, but we who are not accepting of the past still get looked down upon even by those people just because of the region we were born. Due to this, if we stay in the South, we are a small minority that finds it exhausting to live under the tyranny of the bigots in office and the uneducated and blind sheep who blindly support those bigots, and it can be trouble to stand up for the rights of those who are not white, christian men, but generally when we leave, we witness the prejudice and close-mindedness of those outside of the South who assume that we must be ignorant or racist bigots ourselves. We also see like Martin Luther King that things really aren’t that much different elsewhere. This is the nature of being from the South, and it is why we pride ourselves that we are from the South…we know that to be from this region and to be progressive is not going to make our lives very easy. We can learn lessons of perseverance and honor even when we are facing defeat, but we can use that for what we hope is gradual positive progress instead of the negative heritage.
When I say tougher for us than anybody else, I mean anybody else of white, European decent.
I love how elitist liberals like yourself refuse to accept that maybe you are not as cool for your idiotic progressive views as you think. I have 1 question for all you liberal idiots who try to explain the meaning song of Sweet Home Alabama. What does “and the governor’s true” mean? Well I am from the South, so allow me to explain. It means loyal, and when you say someone is “true” it’s meant as a compliment. Therefore, the band was praising Wallace and rightfully so, considering what has happened to America since the civil rights movement. Also, boo, boo, boo is not what the real singers are singing. The back up singers who actually sang woo woo woo, never even met the band when they recorded the back up lyrics, so why would they say boo boo boo? They had no idea what the rest of the lyrics to the song were, how many songs do you hear back up singers saying boo boo boo, it sounds no where even close to that. The band was proud of its “Southerness “just as most of us other “redneck” racist southerners are! So kiss our Ass!
Greg, are you calling Ronnie Van Zant a liar? Ronnie was referring to Wallace being True to his own beliefs, not his. You are exactly the example this analysis highlights. Not that smart, but loves to hate. I suppose you dare to call yourself a Christian also, what a joke you are.
In 1975, Van Zant said: “The lyrics about the governor of Alabama were misunderstood. The general public didn’t notice the words ‘Boo! Boo! Boo!’ after that particular line, and the media picked up only on the reference to the people loving the governor.” “The line ‘We all did what we could do’ is sort of ambiguous,” Al Kooper notes. “‘We tried to get Wallace out of there’ is how I always thought of it.” However, neither explanation accounts for the barely audible “and the governor’s true” toward the end of the song. Journalist Al Swenson argues that the song is more complex than it is sometimes given credit for, suggesting that it only looks like an endorsement of Wallace. “Wallace and I have very little in common,” Van Zant himself said, “I don’t like what he says about colored people.”
Greg, also I invite you to spout your racist bullshit on a Facebook Page I manage that has over 9,000 members … see how it goes over there … boy/baby.
THE TRUE LYNYRD SKYNYRD FANS page … https://www.facebook.com/groups/825115647549501/
gary rossington took credit for those three words boo boo boo.those three words kept sweet home alabama from becoming the offical state song of alabama,anyone who states Skynyrd was a racist band is just hiding in the woods looking for booger bears.
hi I’m an aussie and I always loved Lynyrd Skynyrd, but I also felt a tad uncomfortable about that song Sweet Home Alabama – so thanks so much for analysing it properly – now I can appreciate it properly. You know, the reason I found your page was I liked the youtube clips of Freebird etc, and I noticed that the crowds seemed to be 100% white – and I googled whether black americans like Skynyrd. Anybody know?
This black man is a long time fan, and has a friendship with a member. My guitar is also named ‘Cassie’.
Reading your opening paragraph, I thought this was going to be another “judge a book by it’s cover.” Instead you were insightful and truthful. I didn’t even know that Neil Young and Skynyrd admired each other, but you sure enough have evidence of it. This makes me happy. Both produced tremendous music!
The fag cuckold idiot that spouted out this garbage could have done MUCH better to PROVE his argument by mentioning their song “Things goin on” released in ’73 which was speaking out about injustice against coloreds in their own communities. Almost that alone could disprove the stupid fucking theory that the members are “racist” just because they’re “southern white men”
I love you took the time to read and comment. What a hateful fuck.
Excellent thinking and more importantly excellently written. I wasn’t looking for an essay about LS and racism but it has been bugging me in the back of my mind in 2017 when apparently it has been determined that the confederate flag is equivalent to a swastika. As a white boy who grew up in Georgia in the 1970s I can vouch for the fact that “complexities” is a very good term for what you would in find in the minds of thoughtful (and not at least intentionally racist) southerners in those days.