Battle of the Bands: Sweet Home Alabama vs. Southern Man

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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.

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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:

 

 

Battle of the Bands RESULTS: To Sir With Love

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It’s Results time for my latest battle and an interesting battle it was! The song was Lulu’s To Sir With Love. Contenders were 10,000 Maniacs (Natalie Merchant, with a little help from R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe) and Australia’s Tina Arena.

Well, I wish one more vote would’ve been cast because as it stands now we have a Tie! Natalie Merchant received 8 votes and when I cast mine for Tina Arena, she ended up with 8 votes. So this battle ends in an 8 to 8 tie.

I really like Tina Arena’s strong voice and I liked the musical arrangement presented in her version. I really didn’t know anything about Tina Arena before finding her version of To Sir With Love but I’ve learned that she is pretty close to being Australia’s sweetheart.

She is a singer-songwriter, musician, musical theater actress, and record producer. She is one of Australia’s highest selling female artists who, as of July 2014, has sold over 10 million records worldwide.

I’ll close this post with a Tina Arena original. Her album Don’t Ask was the highest selling album of 1995 and this is the lead single from that album, Chains:

 

As always, thanks for participating in my battle. See you on February 1st when I present a very different battle! See you then…

Battle of the Bands – To Sir, With Love

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It’s time for another Battle of the Bands and today I’m featuring a well-loved classic from the 60s.

“To Sir With Love” is the theme from James Clavell’s 1967 film To Sir, with Love. The film, one of my favorites, is a 1967 Technicolor British drama film that deals with social and racial issues in an inner-city school. It stars Sidney Poitier and features Christian Roberts, Judy Geeson, Suzy Kendall and singer Lulu making her film debut. James Clavell directed from his own screenplay, which was based on E. R. Braithwaite’s semi-autobiographical 1959 novel To Sir, With Love.

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The song, performed by Lulu (Lulu Kennedy-Cairns, best known by her stage name Lulu, a Scottish singer, actress, and television personality who has been successful in the entertainment business since the 1960s and renowned for her powerful singing voice), was written by Don Black and Mark London (husband of Lulu’s longtime manager Marion Massey).

“To Sir With Love” was initially recorded by Lulu (with The Mindbenders, who also acted in the film). It was released as a single in the United States in 1967 and in October reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, where it remained for five weeks. The single ranked No. 1 in Billboard’s year-end chart. Canada’s RPM Magazine put the song at No. 2 for the year 1967. “To Sir with Love” has the distinction of being the only record by a British artist to reach No. 1 on the US charts while not charting in the UK, where it appeared only as a B-side to “Let’s Pretend.”

Here is Lulu’s version but it’s not a contender in this battle. It is presented here for your enjoyment only.

 

Now for today’s battle, here are the two contenders. Give a listen to each and vote on which one you like better. Let me know why you voted the way you did and I’ll post the results in 6 days!

 

CONTENDER #1:  10,000 Maniacs (Natalie Merchant) featuring Michael Stipe (R.E.M.)

This version is the performance at the MTV inaugural ball for Bill Clinton in 1993:

 

If that video isn’t available in your country, please check this one out:

 

CONTENDER #2:  Tina Arena

Australian singer Tina Arena released her version of the song as the first single from her 2007 album Songs of Love & Loss.

 

If that video isn’t available in your country, please check out this one:

 

Thanks Debbie for the alternative videos! Much appreciated.

 

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:

 

Battle of the Bands RESULTS: Get Ready

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Is everybody having a good year so far? We’re ten days in… Which also means I’m late in posting the results from our New Year’s battle. The song was “Get Ready” and Rare Earth handily won this battle! Most of you preferred their version over the Supremes. And so did I. But The Supremes did garner a respectable three votes. I just love Rare Earth. Which is why I’m closing this post with another one of their great hits.

The battle tally:

Rare Earth:   10 votes

The Supremes:  3 votes:

Here’s Rare Earth’s 1972 hit Hey Big Brother. Enjoy!

 

As always, thanks for participating in my battle. See you on the 15th for the next one!

Battle of the Bands – Get Ready

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It’s a brand new year so let’s GET READY! 

It’s the first day of January and that means Battle of the Bands. I’ll present two covers, you listen and vote which version you like better. I’ll post the results in 6 days!

I’m in a Motown mood. Are you ready??

“Get Ready” is a Motown song written by Smokey Robinson, which resulted in two hit records for the label: a U.S. #29 version by The Temptations in 1966, and a U.S. #4 version by Rare Earth in 1970. It is significant for being the last song Robinson wrote and produced for the Temptations.

The original Temptations version of “Get Ready”, produced by Smokey Robinson, was designed as an answer to the latest dance craze, “The Duck”. The Temptations’ falsetto Eddie Kendricks sings lead on the song, which Robinson produced as an up-tempo dance number with a prominent rhythm provided by Motown drummer Benny Benjamin. In the song, Kendricks informs his lover to “get ready” because “I’m bringin’ you a love that’s true”. Melvin Franklin sings lead on the pre-chorus: “fe, fi, fo, fum/look out/’cause here I come” along with several other similar lines. The song made it to number one on the U.S. R&B singles chart, while peaking at number twenty-nine on the pop charts

Here is the Temptations version, for your enjoyment only. Don’t vote for them…Just listen and groove.

 

CONTENDER #1: Rare Earth 

Rare Earth has the distinction of being the first white band to be signed to Motown. In 1970, Motown’s rock band Rare Earth released a cover version of the song as a single. Rare Earth’s version of “Get Ready” was the band’s first recording for Motown, and was based upon a version of the song it performed as the closing numbers to their live performances.

The band wanted to release “Get Ready” as a single, but Motown declined at first, issuing the unsuccessful “Generation, Light Up the Sky” as the band’s first single. Finally deferring to the band’s wishes in February 1970, Motown released a three-minute edit of the song as a single, which became a hit. “Get Ready” hit #2 on the Cash Box Top 100 and peaked at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100, a far better performance than the original.

Their 45 RPM single version sold in excess of a million U.S. copies, earning a Gold certification from the RIAA. In the live show, each member of the band performed a solo, resulting in a twenty-one-minute rendition of the song. (If you’re interested in hearing the full version, I’ve included that video at the bottom of this post; for the battle, of course I’m using the shorter single version).

 

CONTENDER #2:  The Supremes

The Supremes covered the song on their 1966 album The Supremes A’ Go-Go. It was produced by Motown writing team Holland-Dozier-Holland. Lead vocals by Diana Ross,
Background vocals by Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard. Produced by Brian Holland and Lamont Dozier. Instrumentation by The Funk Brothers.

 

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:

 

Here is Rare Earth’s 21 minute version of Get Ready, in case you’re interested. This is from a 1971 concert:

 

As always, thanks for participating in my Battle of the Bands today!

Happy New Year!