Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Not so sweet home

I am somewhat fascinated with the Lynyrd Skynyrd song "Sweet Home Alabama." It offers so many jumping-off points for the pop-culture curious.

Wikipedia sums many of them up well...how it was a reaction not just to Neil Young's "Southern Man" but to the lesser-known "Alabama" ("What are you doing, Alabama? You got the rest of the union to help you along. What's going wrong?") the controversy over the mention of Governor George Wallace, the Watergate mention, and, of course, all the modern love for the song...at Bama football games, after Shaun Alexander touchdowns, etc.

Again according to Wikipedia, it's one of the most expensive songs to buy for commercials and movies, which makes you wonder how 2002's "Sweet Home Alabama" ever got made. National Review ranked it #4 on a list of "top conservative rock songs." (Songs have political parties? what was #1? Is "Love Is All You Need" the #1 liberal rock song?)

Wikipedia also notes that "in 'Con Air,' the song plays over a scene in which Steve Buscemi's character defines irony as "a bunch of idiots dancing around on a plane to a song made famous by a band that died in a plane crash." Which leads me, of course, to the crash itself, gruesomely described (and perhaps not accurately) in the band's Wikipedia entry. You can even read the entire FAA accident report online (PDF linked from this page). Apparently lead singer Ronnie Van Zant predicted he wouldn't live to turn 30, and the plane crashed 3 months before his birthday.

So, so sad. What a horrific bit of musical history.


Anonymous said...

This is a cool little entry, thanks.

That Guy said...

According to legend, scavengers arrived at the crash site - before rescue crews arrived - and picked souvenirs off the bodies. Classy.

Some interesting quotes from surviving band members and others about the crash: http://www.stevehoffman.tv/forums/archive/index.php/t-23181.html

Julia said...

I'm curious why you like SHA. I live here (and have season tickets to Alabama football games. Yes, I hear it a LOT), but I'm fascinated by people who live on the other side of the country who listen to it.

That Guy said...

It's kind of a drag that SHA is the best known Skynyrd song. There are many better ones in their catalog. Ronnie Van Zant was a taskmaster who worked the band relentlessly, and their 3-guitar sound was tight, well-honed, and (for the time) pretty unique. Along with the Allman Brothers, Skynyrd pretty much invented the southern rock genre.

It's kind of a drag that the legend of the plane crash and the punchline that SHA has become tends to overshadow Skynyrd's importance to rock music, but Lynyrd Skynyrd's influence can still be heard in new southern rock bands like Kings of Leon (go buy their new album Because Of The Times now!) and Drive By Truckers (whose excellent 2002 concept album Southern Rock Opera is all about the legend of Lynyrd Skynyrd and is also very much worth a listen).