"Free Bird" and "Sweet Home Alabama"
|Above: a picture of Lynyrd Skynyrd.|
I think "Free Bird" by Lynyrd Skynyrd works terribly well as a sort of breakup song. As well as its lyrics ("If I leave here tomorrow, would you still remember me?"), the first half of the song is melancholy and sombre, as if mourning the end of the relationship. However, with every chorus, specifically the line "And this bird you cannot change", the music becomes triumphant and almost angry, as if containing a sense of rebellion against an overbearing spouse. Yet, as if still pondering over whether to leave this person or not, after every chorus the song returns to melancholy. Finally, this side of the track overtakes the melancholy just in time for the mighty guitar solo at the end, as if the protagonist of the piece has finally triumphantly decided to leave the woman after all.
"Sweet Home Alabama", another song by the same band, is also sublime. It was composed as a Southerner's rebuttal to Neil Young's songs "Alabama" and "Southern Man", which, Mr Young himself admitted, condescended and generalised Southern people regarding Dixie's race issues. As Lynyrd Skynyrd singer and songwriter Ronnie Van Zant said at the time of the track's release, "we thought Neil was shooting all the ducks in order to kill one or two". Well, Neil Young admitted his mistakes and is actually a fan of Lynyrd Skynyrd and enjoyed the fact that he was mentioned in their song. You see, "Sweet Home Alabama" isn't just a catchy song, it's an important one.
The Southern United States does have an extremely unpleasant history of slavery and bigotry, which, in many parts of the South I'm sure, continues to this day. But this does not render the Southern United States, and Southern people and culture, an irredeemable black mark on the history of America and humanity. All peoples have blood on their hands - we Britons (and Canadians like Neil Young), who so often like to boast of our superiority to those "dumb Southern American hillbillies", don't exactly have a squeaky clean history ourselves.
Southern culture is rich, fascinating, and utterly unique in the world, and I would hate to see it gradually suppressed to extinction through culturally-enforced white guilt. "Sweet Home Alabama" is a powerful cry to the world from Southerners, that "we're not all bad". The South still has value. An abundance of value. And if I were a Southern man, while I would surely mourn and remember the evils of the past as any moral human surely should, and try to extinguish the remaining evils of the present, I would be so glad to be Southern, and would love my region for the great things it could become, rather than what it once was.