I’m going to be in Alabama for the next three days so, naturally, I decided that today’s music video should be Sweet Home Alabama. Since the song was recorded before music videos were really a big thing, Lynard Skynard never did a video for their original recording. However, I was able to find a video for Keenan West’s soulful cover version.
Sweet Home Alabama was originally recorded in 1973, as a response to a song by Neil Yong that was called Southern Man. In that song, Neil Young looked down on the South from the safety of Canada and basically damned everything he saw. In response, Ronnie Van Zant wrote:
Well, I heard Mister Young sing about her
Well, I heard ol’ Neil put her down
Well, I hope Neil Young will remember
A Southern man don’t need him around anyhow
Not surprisingly, Sweet Home Alabama has been a popular but controversial song in the past. Over the years, several critics — mostly folks from up north who don’t really get nuance — have assumed that Sweet Home Alabama was meant to be some sort of right-wing political track. What they miss is that the song is openly critical of Alabama’s segregationist governor. (There’s a reason why there’s a chorus of “boo! boo! boo!” after the governor is mentioned.) Sweet Home Alabama was less about defending the South and more about calling out the self-righteousness of northern activists who attacked the South while either ignoring or rationalizing the racism in their own back yard.
(And if you want argue with me about that interpretation, I’m going to need you to first read Common Ground by J. Anthony Lukas. Don’t come at me unless you’re willing to discuss what happened in the early 70s when Boston attempted to integrate its schools.)
Anyway, this is a good cover version and nicely heartfelt video.