It has been a while since we listened to a song by a non-black artist. I heard the name Neil Young before in passing but I was not familiar with his work. This song is also a rock song. A hard rock song. So this song was going to be a different experience to the previous songs.
He makes use of the guitar a lot with it’s gritty sound strumming though piano bars. I’m familiar with the vocal style of the seventies utilizing harmonies and rough voices. The lyrics are basically telling the southern white man to not forget that they oppressed blacks for years asks when they will pay them back.
I’m gonna be honest. I first liked the song. I thought it sounded great and the song sounded angry and demanding for response. Then I did some research which changed my mind. Neil Young wrote and performed the song but would become sensitive to any controversy this song caused. Apparently the group Lynard Skynard from Alabama felt that the song painted the south negatively and in turn wrote “Sweet Home Alabama” a really positive and happy song. Neil Young would then say that he appreciated the criticism and would even play Sweet Home Alabama.
This, to be hones,t ruins both songs for me. Sweet Home Alabama now sounds to me like a song that wants to paint the south as one way and ignore and reject any allusions to its racist past or its racist present. Additionally, Neil Young doesn’t seem to stand by or defend what he wrote in Southern Man which makes me question whether he just used the subject matter to make a great edgy rock song. If you are so afraid of the controversy and will give in to so easily to criticism then maybe you don’t care as much as you actually say you did.