In defense of Sweet Home Alabama point four:I loved this song from the first time I heard it, but until today did not know these facts about it. I have seen the current iteration of Lynyrd Skynyrd on tv and they have black band members today. Rock on boys!
The confederate flag:
The fact that Lynyrd Skynyrd was known to play with a confederate flag in the background has only added fuel to the "they must be racist" fire.
But, much like how the American flag emblazoned all over Bruce Springsteen's Born In The USA cover helped wrongly convince people the song was a patriotic anthem -- when in actuality it was a scathing takedown of the American government over how they mistreated Vietnam veterans -- it seems Lynyrd Skynyrd also did not stand firmly for the values a flag is supposed to convey.
Now, there's no doubting the band was proud to be southern, and that the musicians frequently played up to their "good old boys" image -- however, as Van Zant confessed in 1975, the whole confederate flag thing was solely down to their record company, not their own, personal, choice.
"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," he said, going on to claim that initially it was
bearable to be perceived as rednecks, but a whole different matter to subsequently be categorized as racists.
In defense of Sweet Home Alabama point five:
The whole Neil Young feud thing:
There's absolutely zero doubt Sweet Home Alabama was a revenge song -- a rebuttal to Neil Young's Southern Man. The band was vocal about the origins of, and motivation for, the track.
However, once again, nuance is the key -- as journalist Ross Warner wrote in Glide magazine, "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."
Van Zant backed up that sentiment, explaining, "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."
Even Young himself claimed his lyrical takedown of the South was somewhat heavy handed.
"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," he wrote in his 2012 autobiography Waging Heavy Peace.
But, let's leave the final say to Van Zant -- who is tragically unable to comment any further on the controversy, as he died in a plane crash on October 20th, 1977.
"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