No matter where you're from as soon as you hear Ronnie Van Zant say "1,2,3" followed by Ed King's famous riff and Zant say "Turn it up" you automatically recognize the song. You can live on any continent or any country and have heard the song "Sweet Home Alabama" by Lynyrd Skynyrd. It's just one of those classics by such a great band that will live on forever and never get old.
In no way am I discrediting Lynyrd Skynyrd for creating a great song for a great state. The story behind the lyrics gives the song incredible depth as a diss track and bringing light to several controversies happening in Alabama and in the United States at the time.
Neil Young wrote songs such as "Southern Man" and "Alabama" that brought to light the racism in the south primarily in Alabama in the late 1960s. In the lyrics from "Southern Man" Young speaks on how rich white people were versus black people in the South still even in the 1960s with lines "I saw cotton and I saw black, tall white mansions and tiny shacks. Southern man when you gonna pay them back?" Young also brings up the fact that Alabama is a very religious state located in the Bible Belt with lyrics such as "Southern man, better keep your head. Don't forget what your good book said." Again in "Alabama," Young paints a picture of Alabama as being nothing but racist with "See the old folks, tied in white robes, hear the banjo, don't it take you down home?"
In Neil Young's defense, Alabama in the early 1900s through the 1960s was a very racist and segregated state; however, Lynyrd Skynyrd saw the state through the eyes of a Southerner who loves the south but also doesn't support segregation. In "Sweet Home Alabama" Lynyrd Skynyrd states "Well I heard Mister Young sing about her, I heard ole Neil put her down, Well I hope Neil Young will remember, A Southern man don't need him around anyhow."
Neil Young is from Canada and only saw the bad things happening at the time during a visit to Alabama. However Skynyrd doesn't fully believe in the problems in Alabama at the time with "In Birmingham, they love the Gov'nor, boo boo boo, Now we all did what we could do" showing they weren't for Governor George Wallace, because he still believed in segregation. In the lines following Skynyrd brought up issues that the Northern states were facing about the Watergate scandal "Now Watergate does not bother me, Does your conscience bother you, tell the truth." This was to show Young the North had its problems and not just the south. It was later stated that Lynyrd Skynyrd wrote the song more as a joke then just a distrack pointed at Young.
"Sweet Home Alabama" was a great song for many generations but is it too overplayed, too much of just a Southern song, and does it really show what it's like to be a true Alabamian? To me being in the college age of this generation I feel another song has really entered the hearts of many students and country fans all around Alabama and across the US. I went to a concert Saturday night in Auburn and heard a cover of "Bury Me in Dixie" by Riley Green and everyone in the bar started singing at the top of their lungs. I believe if the band had played "Sweet Home Alabama" it wouldn't have done as good of a job.
Riley Green - Bury Me in Dixie (Official Video) YouTube
So is it time to bring in a new generational song? "Sweet Home Alabama" just doesn't stand up lyrically as "Bury Me in Dixie." The hardest part writing about "Bury Me in Dixie" is there are so many lines about why Green loves his home state and is proud to be an Alabamian. The song mentions multiple hot spots around Alabama including Mt. Cheaha, The Coosa River, Montgomery, Tuscaloosa, Lake Guntersville, Toomer's Corner, Jacksonville, The Flori-Bama, and Talladega. As a born and raised Alabama dirt runs through my veins kid I have been to every place he lists and it brings back the good memories I've made with some great people. Isn't that how a song should make you feel about your state? He takes as much pride as I do about this Great Southern State.
To me "Mt. Cheaha is my Everest, and the Coosa is my Nile" because I'll never see the real ones and that's fine by me because what Alabama has to offer is pretty damn great. I grew up in a die-hard Alabama family and Roll Tide is more than just a saying it's a lifestyle and after my father passed the lines "Take me to Tuscaloosa, Plant me under the fifty yard line" I feel it strongly in my heart as I hear it because my dad would love to have been buried there. But the song isn't just about places in Alabama it's about family in saying "Well lay me by my daddy, and my grandpa just the same, I want every headstone next to me, to read my last name."
It's also about being proud of what we do as Alabamians because "Alabama's where I was born and raised, I think I'll stay awhile, sing about Sweet Home, and Dixieland Delight, tell stories about what goes on in Montgomery at Midnight." Then Green mentions different fun things to do around Alabama in "Take me to Toomer's Corner, put me under an oak tree, give 'em toilet paper, till they mummify me" which even as a Bama fan growing up I've done because its about the fun of a big win, and "Take me to Flori-Bama, and set me up at the mullet toss, and everyone drinks on me, I don't care what it costs" which is one of the more fun activities at the beach other than Hangoutfest, but not everyone has a mullet toss. And multiple states have NASCAR but not everyone has Talladega or Dega as Alabamians call it as he sings "But take me to Talladega, Spread my ashes in turn three, Paint my casket black with a big ass number three."
So as for me and my generation "Bury Me in Dixie" will be our new Alabama pride song for such a great state. No more defending our selves for our past but singing for our love of our state and wanting to live and be buried here. And I'll end this the way Riley Green ends his song.
"I'll Rest In Peace,
If they Bury me in Dixie,
Won't God Bless Alabama from Sea to Tennessee,
I'll Rest In Peace,
If they Bury me in Dixie"