Jon Reed Goes Off On... March 2005
Monday, March, 14 2005
A Southern Man Don't Need Skynrd Around Anyhow
The greatest rebuttal in rock history belongs to Southern Rock legends Lynrd Skynrd, who made Neil Young look the fool in their signature song "Sweet Home Alabama." As we know, Young's offense was to satire the troubled racial history of the south in a pair of "socially-conscious" diatribes: "Southern Man" and "Alabama." Skynrd's response was swift and definitive: in "Sweet Home Alabama," Neil is informed that "A southern man don't need him around, anyhow!" Knowing they couldn't take Neil on point by point, Skynrd undermined his entire whiny stance with a heavy dose of southern pride, and a lyrical twist so brilliant that even Neil Young himself was obliged to take his medicine like a man. It didn't hurt that the song was a hundred times better: Young's original tracks are all-but-forgotten by everyone except YoungHeads and rock history buffs, while "Sweet Home Alabama" can still bring the house down when someone punches its number on a jukebox or gives it a go at a Karoake bar. But with all their posturing about "Southern Pride," in recent years, Skynrd has let Wall Street know that they are more than willing to part with a little piece of the south in exchange for a little northern-style corporate whoring. If Neil Young wasn't fit to carry the mantle of Southern Pride, we'd like to ask, then how did Reese Witherspoon make the cut? But a movie which neutered the Skynrd snarl was only the beginning: now they've sold the opening lick from "Sweet Home Alabama" to KFC. We're curious, guys: what's the connection between Southern Pride and a multi-national chicken farm operation? When you pull into KFC, don't look for a confederate flag: expect to see the same minimum-wage deep-fried efficiency you find in every KFC in every country in the world (I guess Iran is holding out, but they'll come around soon enough). Little did we know that Skynrd would protect the south from Neil Young only to sell it to suits representing a dead, white-haired man who vowed to load up his customers with as much laboratory-created hydrogenated oils as the human body can consume. If I'm wrong, and KFC is actually a proud representative of traditional southern values, I'll look forward to Skynrd's next rebuttal. In the meantime, we are left to wonder how it is that the soulful can become so soulless, how it is that instead of fighting to the last, folks prefer to just bend over and get it over with. As we've noted in this blog before, the sale of songs is a subjective matter; I tend to cut more slack to "one hit wonders" who probably signed bad record deals to begin with, and have no further way of recouping revenues from their fifteen minutes. That's not Skynrd's predicament. I have no doubt that the members of Skynrd probably spent most of the money they made courtesy good old-fashioned hard living, but if they need the money that bad, they can still hit the road and play to full houses. Sure, they've lost some band members and had their share of hardships, but if that's a viable excuse for selling out, then we might as well lie down and let the corporate highway pave right over our most cherished cultural memories. Meanwhile, we have the case of Neil Young, who is still playing with a fierceness that makes him seem a bit unhinged, still setting the tone as the rock and roll statesman who has everyone's back. He's aging about as boldly and bitterly as we had a right to hope, and he's a lot more concerned with helping the small farmer than lending KFC a hand. Skynrd won the battle years ago, but Young won the war. I'm not sure who's gonna defend the South now; it's kind of grim when Travis Tritt is the last line of defense.