Talk:Sweet Home Alabama

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Off topic chat[edit]

Off topic chat

In Agreement with the posts above

First of all a listener would need to read and listen to the lyrics of the songs. Much like a poem it would be a wise measure to digest the directions one could interpret Sweet Home Alabama before posting something publicly.

Whomever wrote the interpretation on Wikipedia could be entirely incorrect? How would you feel as a Southerner reading Neil Young's lyrics in a time of turmoil (Vietnam, Nixon) and following civil rights movement?

If you study the economy and industrialization of Birmingham (steel, manufacturing) a small Pittsburgh, PA in some ways, Neil Young's comments seem too generalized.

Write a song about Eugene Bull Connor and his police force, or Wallace himself. Read parts of Young's songs below.

It's good to think about and healthy to discuss our history and culture in our songs. There are some other powerful songs on civil rights type themes: Dylan James Meredith, Emmet Till, Birmingham Bombing (Joan Baez, beautiful song)...

Here are some lyric samples. WIKIPEDIA, get some help!

Chorus to Neil Young's Southern Man

Southern man better keep your head Don't forget what your good book said Southern change gonna come at last Now your crosses are burning fast Southern man

I heard screamin' and bullwhips cracking How long? How long?

Lyric Samples from Neil Young Alabama

Alabama, you got the weight on your shoulders That's breaking your back. Your Cadillac has got a wheel in the ditch And a wheel on the track

Oh Alabama. Can I see you and shake your hand. Make friends down in Alabama. I'm from a new land I come to you and see all this ruin What are you doing Alabama? You got the rest of the union to help you along What's going wrong?

Strange fact: "George Wallace was the governor of Alabama when this was released. He loved this, especially the line, "In Birmingham they love the governor." He made the band honorary Lieutenant Colonels in the state militia."

There is some lively discussion at this website:

And, "Born in the USA" was used by the Reagan campaign in 1984, even though the lyrics were clearly critical of American society.... —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:15, 16 August 2008 (UTC)

If it's true, then that's very important and needs to be in the article. That site also has a post that claims wallace tried to make SHA the state song but he wanted "BOO BOO BOO" removed. The post said a Van Zant refused, so the song did not become the state song. If true, this would mean wallace liked the song but didn't want the song's clear dissaproval of him to be imortalized officially. (That is, it reflects wallace's own life in that he later regretted adopting segregationist views just because he thought it was a convenient way to get elected. Segregation meant nothing more to him than an "issue", an important messy lesson of history.) The words "BOO BOO BOO" are crystal clear, there is no need for debate as to any other interpretation, the 'B' sound is quite present 3 times over. "woo hoo hoo" sort of ignores that no 'w' sound is heard on the first syllable, and no 'h' is heard on the last two. Ace Frahm 10:01, 16 April 2007 (UTC)

If the song clearly disapproved of Wallace, why leave it in the backing vocals? The fact is the two definitive statements about him are: (1)"In Birmingham they love the governor", and (2) "and the governor's true". I think that's pretty positive.--Jack Upland (talk) 08:40, 17 May 2012 (UTC)

Yeah but, One thing that IS completely verifiable is that the chorus is accompanied by a (black) gospel choir... unlikely the first choice of a pro-segregationist. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:35, 16 January 2013 (UTC)

So the song's message is this: Alabama is a great place, but it's got plenty of racists, and we disapprove of that, and we love those black musicians, but how dare Neil Young criticise it, and by the way what was wrong with the Watergate burglary.--Jack Upland (talk) 10:28, 16 January 2013 (UTC)
No, the song's message is this: Alabama is more diverse than the very vocal racist segment would lead you to believe. Please don't generalize us for the actions and thoughts of some ugly people. Yes Birmingham loves the racist, horrible governor. We don't judge all northerners because of Watergate, please don't lump our band/all Alabamans with Birmingham. Jaweldon (talk) 05:20, 28 July 2014 (UTC)
OK, you basically made that up. No one has ever said that white people are ugly. Look at Kim Kardashian or Nicole Richie. No one has said the Birmingham is the only place that voted for Wallace. No one has said Nixon was a Northerner: he was from California. Gordon Liddy was from Pluto. No one has blamed Northerners for Watergate. No one has said the band was from Alabama. That's like saying a Nazi song is pro-Jewish because Jews invented music. No, it's not... because it makes even less sense.--Jack Upland (talk) 10:27, 1 February 2018 (UTC)

This article talk page is for discussing improvements to the article, not 10 years' worth of guesses as to what the song might be about. - SummerPhDv2.0 16:18, 1 February 2018 (UTC)

Is this song based on a Howlin Wolf Track?[edit]

I have listened to the Howlin Wolf album 'Message to the Young' which appeared in 1971 and the song 'If I were a bird' sounded like Sweet Home Alabama from Lynyrd Skynyrd. Since it was recorded three years earlier I wonder if it was not 'stolen' from Howlin Wolf. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:13, 16 June 2010 (UTC)

Hallo. I would say that the vocal line is ripped off from some older blues. It is the same one in You're looking fine from The Kinks (1966). As Ray Davies never dared to sue Lynyrd Skynyrd for plagio, I guess that perhaps he was conscious of having used something from somewhere. (talk) 11:11, 15 September 2015 (UTC)

So Howlin Wolf attacked Neil Young first?--Jack Upland (talk) 11:24, 15 September 2015 (UTC)

No rock/pop song is born from void. They all have roots in some previous material. I guess this song is more about the clever lyrics than the banal melody46.14.140.220 (talk) 21:04, 11 December 2015 (UTC)


I'm from the south. The word "swamper" is used in the oil field to refer to a crew member who is there for general labor, a helper. The article says they were called "swamper" due to their "swampy" sound. I doubt that is what was actually meant. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Jcacy00 (talkcontribs) 13:31, 15 August 2014 (UTC)

The Similarity Between "Sweet Home Alabama" and "You're Lookin' Fine" by the Kinks[edit]

The comment at the very end of the "Controversy" section of this segment concerning this should be removed. As a professional musician of 40+ years, I hear no distinct correlation between the two songs. The lines "You're Lookin' Fine" and "Sweet Home Alabama" don't even have the same syllabic rhythm. The words "note for note" would imply that the melody was stolen from this song, as "notes" are what constitute the structure of a melody, and not even the cascade of the verse lines are the same. This comment should be deemed bogus and removed. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:48, 3 November 2015 (UTC)

 Done. It should not be added unless it is accompanied by a reliable source. GoingBatty (talk) 05:01, 4 November 2015 (UTC)

Hallo GoingBatty. I came here intrigued after your comment in Youtube on "You're looking fine". I am also a musician and don't see it so clear as you now. That fifth little bridge verse the Kinks sing ("and I said") is very idiosincratic and Lynyrd Skynyrd eagerly replicated it with different syllable counts but same time whole count ("tell the truth" but also "And I think it's a sin", "Now how about you?"). No bogus there. I wouldn't cry to plagiarism or theft but I'd point to a very close unvoluntary quote as it always happens in pop songs. I dare to say that the author of the second song had obviously listened to the first one. Not so strange if you consider that the first band was not so obscure and the author of the second song had listened to mainstream pop in his teens. Anyway, both songs have a simple three-chord blues line and brilliant, different opening riffs. LS's song sticks as an opening guitar riff + clever lyrics. K's song is about a brilliant opening piano riff. By the way, I don't think that the Kinks created their song from scratch. I bet they had heard that bluesy cliché somewhere. I hope some reader leads us to the original source from which both bands are drinking. (talk) 20:37, 11 December 2015 (UTC)

External links modified[edit]

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NOT against Neil Young[edit]

Sweet Home Alabama was NOT a name check against Neil Young! I could argue the point, but just watched 20 Feet To Stardom, and the backup singer on the song elucidates, starting at 47:13 minutes. That song winks at you the whole time it plays. Pb8bije6a7b6a3w (talk) 21:29, 9 October 2016 (UTC)

I guess you meant 20 Feet from Stardom and Merry Clayton's contribution? I haven't seen the movie but in this interview she suggests she wasn't entirely happy about participating, although "the band were great [...] and the rest is history". JezGrove (talk) 23:32, 31 January 2018 (UTC)
Well, the song mentions Neil Young in a derisive way. As stated previously, if the song has no political message, all its political references are pointless. It makes no sense to say that the song made all these references, but didn't mean them at all. Why, why, why?--Jack Upland (talk) 10:05, 1 February 2018 (UTC)
Speculation here is off topic. The article cites reliable sources discussing the meaning of various sections of the song. - SummerPhDv2.0 16:28, 1 February 2018 (UTC)
Is Shmoop University reliable? Are the comments of the band and Neil Young reliable?--Jack Upland (talk) 08:43, 2 February 2018 (UTC)
The band and Neil Young are reliable sources for their own opinions about their own songs. - SummerPhDv2.0 15:31, 2 February 2018 (UTC)
I don't think that's true. We have reliable sources saying that they said those things at some point. We don't know how sincere or accurate those comments were. Many of the comments were made with hindsight, responding to criticism, and are very self-serving. The fact that the band members later said they didn't support Wallace doesn't make it true. It's like Germans saying they didn't vote for Hitler.--Jack Upland (talk) 21:22, 2 February 2018 (UTC)
From the entry: ""We thought Neil was shooting all the ducks in order to kill one or two," said Ronnie Van Zant at the time." The reference is to an article no longer available on the Rolling Stone website but Wikipedia fact checkers had plenty of time to go over it. Some research of your own will indicate the same, that statements were made at the time.
Not supporting Wallace is simple, the lyric "In Birmingham, they love the governor (boo boo boo)" Granted Wallace took this as support, not noticing the booing, but it is safe to say that Wallace believing something is very different from Wallace being correct.
You do know how accurate the comments were, that there are reliable sources. Still, even if neither Ronnie Van Zant nor Neil Young were sincere, said everything in response to criticism, or even as you claim self-serving it's a song. Eight stanzas, not 6 million Jews. Kovar 05:01, 17 July 2018 (UTC)
The Ronnie Van Zant quote indicates they were attacking Neil Young. About Wallace, the boos are in the ear of the beholder. And the song also says the "governor's true". And to say the song is anti-Wallace goes against the spirit of the song, "Sweet Home Alabama". The song also says, "Watergate does not bother me", again excusing a politician who was unpopular with liberals and leftists. Yes, it's a song. Did anyone say it was an elephant? Did anyone compare it with the Holocaust? But the function of an encyclopedia is to present the truth, not cowardly apologetics. It is a racist anthem. Let's be clear about that.--Jack Upland (talk) 08:47, 17 July 2018 (UTC)
Yes, let's be clear: If Van Zant said "water isn't wet", it is completely accurate to say that Van Zant said that water is not wet. It is original research to say that Van Zant was wrong about water, made a joke about water, doesn't understand wetness or lied about water. If you feel it is "self-serving" for Van Zant to have said "water isn't wet", it does not change the verifiable fact that Van Zant said water is not wet.
Your understanding of the "spirit of the song" is your opinion. You are entitled to it, but it is not relevant here. The boos are not "in the ear of the beholder", they are in the reliable sources.
Statements from a figure prominent in the subject are relevant, even if you feel they are "cowardly apologetics". If you would like to include that they are cowardly apologetics, you will need reliable sources that say that.
And yes, someone did compare it to the Holocaust. You compared us not knowing how true statements about a song are to someone saying they didn't vote for Hitler. One is someone discussing writing a song after there has been some reaction to the song and assuming they MUST be lying, the other is someone saying they didn't support a politician who is primarily notable for a world war and the murders of millions of people when it is clear that SOME people voted for him and some clearly have lied about it afterwards. - SummerPhDv2.0 18:20, 17 July 2018 (UTC)

To bring this back on track, the article currently says what it says. We have several disputes based on the charge that we might be too accepting of statements after-the-fact which might be self-serving.

While we cannot add analysis emphasizing that the statements are after some feedback or that gosh, people lie and I think this guy might be lying too, we can strive for objectivity.

We have three basic points:

1) Are the sources reliable. IMO, Van Zant is an unimpeachable source for what Van Zant said, so long as it is not him saying that he said it earlier. If Van Zant says "I hate asparagus", we cannot reasonably argue that he did not say it, so long as it is in a reasonably reliable source. (Frankly, the bar there should be low: Who would make that up and why?)

2) WP:WEIGHT. IMO, what a songwriter says about a song is worth including, so long as we aren't providing lengthy drivel about every single line and thought in the song. If we are including what others have said about the song, the songwriters' responses are certainly relevant. If we report that Rolling Stone and Spin said Jane Blow's new novel supports the mass murder of hipsters, Blow's response should certainly be included.

3) Objectivity. If, using that example, Jane Blow said "The novel presents characters' arguments for the mass murder of hipsters as a way of showing that horrible ideas can be supported by logical statements, but the ideas remain horrible" there are various ways of presenting that. We cannot say logic can support atrocities nor can we say Blow presents the mass murder of hipsters as a horrible idea. We can discuss on the talk page various ways of paraphrasing Blow's statement. If that doesn't work, direct quotes with in-line attribution solves it: In July 2018, Blow said, "The novel presents characters' arguments for the mass murder of hipsters as a way of showing that horrible ideas can be supported by logical statements, but the ideas remain horrible". Whether you agree with her or think she's engaging in apologetics is a moot point.

So, to move forward:

1a) Are there any sources currently in use that anyone feels are not reliable for what they are used to support?

2a) Is there any material that does not seem to be more than trivial?

3a) What particular wordings in the article is anyone uncomfortable with? Do you have alternative wordings to suggest or should we use direct quotes? - SummerPhDv2.0 18:20, 17 July 2018 (UTC)

Reliability of sources
Given that this is about the intention and feelings of people involved in the controversy those quotations are our primary source material. Seeing no contradiction in what they said, or reported to have said, and what was said or reported later I consider them reliable. Kovar 18:37, 22 July 2018 (UTC)
Ronny Van Zant, the primary composer, is a particularly good reference since he had little time to change comments: he died within three years of the songs' release. Kovar 00:05, 26 July 2018 (UTC)

[:The problem is the article relies heavily on quotes from people involved in the controversy (band members and Neil Young). If your writing about the election in 1933, it's not a good idea to rely on the postwar claims of Germans, though these claims could be relevant if you're writing about postwar Germany. Similarly, after his recent summit with Putin in Helsinki, Trump said he'd misspoken. That's worth noting, but it shouldn't dominate coverage of the summit. I have never suggested the quotes from Van Zant etc aren't accurate or notable, but they shouldn't dominate the coverage of the controversy.--Jack Upland (talk) 18:56, 18 July 2018 (UTC)

(Jack: I'm moving this out of the way because Germany's actions before, during and after WWII are irrelevant to this discussion and the article we're discussing. The US president, likewise. So are a number of other topics you might bring up. Please stop using them in correlation to people talking about a song. I'd like to hear your actual contributions but Germany can be moved elsewhere. I'll follow your talk page if you'd like. Or we can just make this a separate section on this page Kovar 18:37, 22 July 2018 (UTC)]

I object to your censorship of this page. This page does not have an extensive Talk page, and there are no major issues which would justify your actions. How would you feel if I "hatted" or moved your comments on arguably spurious protocol grounds??? This is ridiculous. If you think my comments are spurious, you have a right to say so, but you have no right to censor them in an arbitrary, one-sided fashion. You asked me a question and I answered it, and now you are "removing" my answer. This is a kangaroo court on steroids.--Jack Upland (talk) 11:33, 23 July 2018 (UTC)
I take it all back. I've been being a dick. It only just clicked.--Jack Upland (talk) 04:04, 27 July 2018 (UTC)