No. 14: Lynyrd Skynyrd, ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ – Top 100 Classic Rock Songs
Lynyrd Skynyrd‘s ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ is still flying the southern rock flag high, thirty-eight years on.
Released in the summer of 1974, ‘Second Helping,’ produced by the legendary Al Kooper, was the band’s sophomore effort, and it’s lead off track would cement the band’s status as American rock royalty.
Skynyrd were perfect for the times they lived in. They combined down-home attitude with a certain flair of street smart rebellion that fans and critics just ate up. ‘Sweet Home Alabama”s calling card is a simple-as-can-be guitar riff that’s as undeniable now as it was back when it was released. Turn it up!
Depending which side of the fence you’re on, it’s either a call to party or a call to run and hide. The solid groove and barrelhouse piano make it irresistible either way.
The various worlds of rock and roll circa 1974 couldn’t have been more disparate. With David Bowie and the glam-rockers in one corner, Yes and their progressive friends on another, and Zeppelin and others from previous waves holding their own, the down-home sounds of Skynyrd might have seemed without a natural home. Well, record buyers certainly welcomed them into their collections, as the single hit the US Top 10 and ‘Second Helping’ achieved platinum status.
And what of all the brouhaha over the lyrics? Addressing the state of the country post-Watergate, singer Ronnie Van Zandt also took a jab at none other than Neil Young. On his ‘After The Gold Rush’ and ‘Harvest’ albums respectively, Young recorded the songs ‘Southern Man’ and ‘Alabama.’
Both songs dealt with attitudes of racism he found still in bloom “down south” in the early ’70s. Van Zandt and the boys didn’t take too kindly to them there words, and decided a rebuttal of sorts was in order, even though ironically, none of them were from Alabama, with most of the band calling Florida home:
“Well I heard mister Young sing about her / Well, I heard ole Neil put her down / Well, I hope Neil Young will remember / A Southern man don’t need him around.”
Despite nearly all original band members having departed this mortal plane, Lynyrd Skynyrd refuses to die, and the continued love and constant airplay for ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ certainly justifies it’s spot on our list of Top 100 Classic Rock Songs.