SWEET HOME ALABAMA VS. SOUTHERN MAN
This battle features Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Sweet Home Alabama against Neil Young’s Southern Man.
If my hunch is right, this battle will probably be a blowout, but maybe not. I’m interested to see how it plays out. Regardless of how it ends, this battle was really fun to put together, pitting two iconic songs that both stand the test of time against each other.
Enjoy! And thanks Stephen McCarthy for this fabulous idea and especially for thinking of me when you thought of it. I’m really excited to present it.
There has long been controversy about whether Neil Young and Lynryd Skynyrd’s front man Ronnie Van Zant were friends or foes. After all, Sweet Home Alabama lyrics famously mention Neil Young:
“I heard old Neil talk about her, I heard old Neal put her down
Well, I hope Neil Young will remember
a southern man don’t need him around anyhow”
On its face, it would appear that Lynryd Skynrd is putting Neil Young down in response to his song Southern Man, an anti-racism song which many think broad-stroke paints all Southerners as racists. At least that’s how most people interpret those lyrics. But in reality, were Neil Young and Ronnie Van Zant actually friends?
This question has been pondered for decades and much has been written about it. The conclusion has been drawn that the two actually liked and had deep mutual respect for each other. Most notably evidenced by these photos showing Ronnie Van Zant in concert wearing a t-shirt with Neil Young’s Tonight’s the Night album cover on it and Neil Young wearing Lynryd Skynrd’s Jack Daniels whiskey t-shirt during performance, an obvious nod to one another.
But you can come to your own conclusion. Here’s a good article that goes deep on the subject and starts with this:
“Thanks to Neil Young, Lynyrd Skynyrd was inspired to write the song “Sweet Home Alabama”.
Without Young’s songs that were so critical of the South’s segregationist and racist attitudes for inspiration, it is doubtful that the band would have produced a song with such a long lasting duration that continues to sell well 30 years after its release.
But the ultimate irony of “Sweet Home Alabama” is that for so many, the song’s implied put down of Neil Young was NOT meant as criticism but as support of Young’s anti-racism.”
I tend to believe that they genuinely liked each other. What do you think?
I’ve found two superb live performances of both songs that I think you’ll really enjoy. (Note: the Neil Young song video says it’s 19 minutes long but the song is really only 9:44 in length. At that point, oddly the audio cuts out and the video continues taping the performance. I don’t know why the video doesn’t just end when the song ends but whatever). Anyway, both performances are very strong and full of passion. The question is: which one do you like better? Which song do you like better?
LYNYRD SKYNRD – Sweet Home Alabama (Live at Amsouth Ampitheatre in Tennessee 2003)
NEIL YOUNG – Southern Man (FarmAid performance)
TIME TO VOTE! Which version do you like better and why? And when you’re done voting, please visit these other BOTB participants and check out their cool battles: