Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sweet Home Alabama

I don't have a whole lot to say about this song, which is one of the two signature tunes ("Free Bird" being the other) of the band Lynyrd Skynyrd. I just wanted to point out that I'm slightly confounded by its continued widespread popularity.

It's not that it sucks or anything, though I would definitely jot it down on my list of overplayed songs along with the J. Geils Band's "Centerfold" and Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock and Roll". It's just that it is so blamed topical that I can't believe the majority of today's audience even fully understands it. How many listeners know that the references to Neil Young are responses to two specific songs ("Southern Man" and "Alabama")? I am a bigger fan of Neil Young than I am Lynyrd Skynrd, and even I can't argue that "Sweet Home Alabama" is probably more famous than any of Young's compositions. I'm actually too scared to even contemplate how many contemporary listeners don't even know who Neil Young is.

And then there is the business about "the governor" and "Watergate". How much discussion does George Wallace get these days? How many people talk about the 1972 presidential election? How many people understand what Watergate even was, much less why the media feels compelled to attach "-gate" to each and every scandal they can? Sadly, I don't think I want to know the answers to these questions.

I think the biggest lesson we can learn from the continued popularity of "Sweet Home Alabama" in spite of its lyrics being meaningless to many people is that way too many people just don't pay attention to what a song says and means at all. That's unsurprising, but it isn't exactly reassuring.

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