Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Beef Song: The Original Beef Song

Sweet Home Alabama (1974)-Lynrd Skynrd dissing Neil Young

This is probably the first real beef song ever recorded (a quick google search yields some "response" songs that predate Sweet Home Alabama but they weren't really saying anything). It doesn't get much more direct than "I hope Neil Young will remember a Southern man don't need him around anyhow". Even the big, bad rappers don't mention their targets too often, hiding behind the subliminal disses, but these country boys really don't give a mess about no Neil Young (granted, the Canadian folk rocker is a much less imposing target than, say, Tupac but it's still ballsy).

Written as a response to Young's songs critiquing the South's racist resistance to the Civil Rights movements in "Southern Man" and "Alabama", the song has become an anthem for rednecks everywhere, but it's also been an inspiration for your Aunt's favorite Reese Witherspoon movie and a soundtrack for a KFC commercial as well as sampled by that Southern good ol' boy, Detroit's own Kid Rock. The irony of the song is that none of the original members of Skynrd were actually from Alabama and none of them were actually racists or Neil Young haters. While it's been hailed by conservatives and confederate flag waving hillbillies as an indictment of liberal whiners, the song itself isn't really reflective of the band's politics (although performing in front of a confederate flag doesn't help). The mention of segregation loving George Wallace actually was actually not in support (as it is sometimes misinterpreted). If you listen closely you can hear "Boo, Boo, Boo" after his name. Ok, that sounds like a cop out, but we'll take the deceased song writers word for it.

No matter how much of the song is meant to be taken literally or whether or not Neil Young should have feared for his life every time he saw a biker gang driving by (he reportedly loves the song), Sweet Home Alabama still goes down in history as the original Beef Song. They just reacted to what they felt were cheap shots taken by an outsider that made the entire region look bad. Something that I think many rappers today can relate to.

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