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Technique

The song's setting is Alabama, obviously—but it's a particular idealized version of the place. This is an Alabama where the sky's always blue, where your family's waiting there to greet you, where everybody loves the governor too, and where the Swampers' sweet music can lift you up when you're feeling blue. This is a happy, comfortable place, an Alabama not afflicted by any of the bitter social strife that actually existed there in the middle decades of the twentieth century. This Alabama is home—but maybe home more as we'd like it to be than as it actually is.

Almost all the critical attention given to the song's lyrics over the years has focused on the controversial first political verses about Neil Young, George Wallace, and Watergate. But the real key to the song, from the band's perspective, may lie in the last verse, the one full of obscure references to Muscle Shoals and Swampers. You see, none of the boys of Lynyrd Skynyrd were actually from Alabama. But the band cut its first album there, recording in the famous Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in that tiny northern Alabama town. They loved the place, its friendly laid-back atmosphere, and—most importantly—its music. For the members of Lynyrd Skynyrd, those sunny and fruitful days in Muscle Shoals came to represent what Alabama was all about. So when Neil Young went after the state in "Southern Man" and "Alabama", well… Lynyrd Skynyrd didn't like hearing ol' Neil put her down. So they created "Sweet Home Alabama" as a kind of nostalgic defense of Alabama as they remembered it, or maybe as they wanted it to be.
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