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The Story Behind "Sweet Home Alabama"


(Photo: Jon Callas)

For far too long, I lived away from South. When I would return to my parents' home in the paradise of Alabama, I would hear the song "Sweet Home Alabama"--if not on the radio, then in my soul.

42 years ago, the Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd released its iconic tribute to the heart of the Deep South. C.J. Lotz of Garden & Gun magazine interviewed Gary Rossington, one of the founders of the band and composers of the song:

What was the process like to write “Sweet Home Alabama”?

I had this little riff. It’s the little picking part and I kept playing it over and over when we were waiting on everyone to arrive for rehearsal. Ronnie and I were sitting there, and he kept saying, play that again. Then Ronnie wrote the lyrics and Ed [King] and I wrote the music.

The lyrics were a response to a Neil Young song, right?

Everyone thought it was about Neil Young, but it was more about Alabama. We had toured there, going all around playing clubs and National Guard armories. Everyone was real nice. When we were out in the country driving all the time, we would listen to the radio. Neil Young had “Southern Man,” and it was kind of cutting the South down. And so Ronnie just said, We need to show people how the real Alabama is.

We loved Neil Young and all the music he’s given the world. We still love him today. It wasn’t cutting him down, it was cutting the song he wrote about the South down. Ronnie painted a picture everyone liked. Because no matter where you’re from, sweet home Alabama or sweet home Florida or sweet home Arkansas, you can relate. […]

What’s the best thing about being Southern?

I love being Southern because of the people and the fans we have. People down here are more friendly—really warm people. We travel all over the world and it seems like the South is the place where the people are nicest and they think of the fellow man more.

-via Glenn Reynolds


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Several years ago, some friends and I were visiting the old town of Krakow, Poland. There was a man buscing- playing guitar and singing. He was really good and had quite an audience...and he was singing 'Sweet Home Alabama'- only he was singing in Polish! Loved it!
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