Sweet Home Alabama
In a Nutshell
It might not be too much of a stretch to say that "Sweet Home Alabama" is
Southern Rock. The sound has that classic sound – a little bit blues, a little bit country, and a whole mess of guitar-driven hard rock. The lyrics offer up a robust (if controversial) defense of "the Southland" from outside criticism. And the band – its career tragically cut short by a deadly 1977 plane crash – fully represents two ideas that have long held currency in the South: good ole' boys and famous Lost Causes.
So… to quote Ronnie Van Zant's legendary intro to the song: "Turn it up!" And let this big tune carry you home to see your kin in Sweet Home Alabamy (even if you don't actually have any; after all, neither did the Florida-born boys of Lynyrd Skynyrd, but they obviously didn't let that stop them).
About the Song
||Musician(s)||Ronnie Van Zant (vocals), Ed King (guitar), Gary Rossington (guitar), Allen Collins (guitar), Leon Wilkeson (bass), Bob Burns (drums), Billy Powell (keyboards)
|Writer(s)||Ed King, Gary Rossington, Ronnie Van Zant|
Explore the ways this song connects with the world and with other topics on Shmoop
"Sweet Home Alabama" is a political song, one written in response to the criticisms of Southern racism in Neil Young's songs "Alabama" and "Southern Man." The boys of Lynyrd Skynyrd are clearly standing up for the South's reputation here; "a Southern man don't need [Neil Young] around, anyhow," they sing, dismissing his lyrical indictments of white Southern culture. But what exactly does "Sweet Home Alabama" mean as a political statement? Does the song's seemingly positive mention of infamous segregationist Governor George Wallace mean that Lynyrd Skynyrd opposed the Civil Rights Movement
? What about the line declaring that Watergate – the greatest scandal of the 1970s – "does not bother me / Does your conscience bother you"? What, exactly, are the politics of "Sweet Home Alabama"?
On the Charts
"Sweet Home Alabama" was certified gold as a single, peaking at #8 on the Billboard Top 40 chart in 1974.
The album Second Helping
, on which "Sweet Home Alabama" appears, was certified multi-platinum and peaked at #12 on the Billboard Albums chart in 1974. Rolling Stone
magazine ranked "Sweet Home Alabama" #398 on its list of the Top 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
The National Review
ranked "Sweet Home Alabama" #4 on its list of Top 50 Greatest Conservative Rock Songs.
CMT ranked "Sweet Home Alabama" #1 on its list of Greatest Southern Rock Songs.