It is one of the most famous songs by Lynyrd Skynyrd, and also perhaps one of the most misunderstood in rock history.
The song is “Sweet Home Alabama”, and it came from their second album Second Helping, released in April 1974 (and as a single two months later). It peaked at number eight on Billboard’s Hot 100, becoming one of the band’s biggest hits. However, the song was also notable for a few controversies.
The first controversy in “Sweet Home Alabama”, was over its response to Neil Young’s 1970 tune “Southern Man”, which dealt with the themes of racism and slavery in the American South. To some people, it was believed that the last four lines in the first verse, was a direct attack to Young, but it wasn’t. In fact, Neil Young and Lynyrd Skynyrd were fans of each other’s music, and the lines actually came from an impression producer Al Kooper was doing on Young.
The second controversy involves references to Alabama Governor George Wallace (who was known for supporting segregation) and the Watergate scandal. Some took it both as an endorsement for Wallace and an attack against liberals, which like the Neil Young reference, was also untrue. According to many music historians, Lynyrd Skynyrd was just speaking for the South, and the song’s controversies was just a few examples of how one set of lyrics could make an entire song misunderstood, instead of completely thought out.
Despite its controversies, “Sweet Home Alabama” have become one of the most influential songs of all time. It would inspire covers and samples from other artists incuding Kid Rock, Alabama, and the Geto Boys. It even made its way into movies, including one that bore the same name of the song, and starred Reese Witherspoon and Patrick Dempsey. “Sweet Home Alabama” was ranked as the greatest southern rock song of all time by CMT, and one of the top 400 greatest songs by Rolling St