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"Sweet Home Alabama" is a song by Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd that first appeared in 1974 on their second album, Second Helping.

Despite controversy, it reached #8 on the US charts in 1974, and was the band's second hit single.

Creation and recording

At a band practice shortly after bassist Ed King had switched to guitar, King heard fellow guitarist Gary Rossington playing a guitar riff that inspired him (in fact, this riff is still heard in the final version of the song and is played during the verses as a counterpoint to the main D-C+9-G chord progression). In interviews, Ed King has said that, during the night following the practice session, the chords and two main guitar solos came to him in a dream, note for note. King then introduced the song to the band the next day. Also written at this session was the track that would follow "Alabama" on the Second Helping album, "I Need You".

A live version of the track on the compilation album Collectybles places the writing of the song during the late summer of 1973, as the live set available on the album is dated October 30, 1973.

The track was recorded at Studio One in Doraville, Georgiamarker, using just King, bassist Wilkeson, and drummer Burns to lay down the basic backing track. Ed King used a Marshall amp belonging to Allen Collins. The guitar used on the track was a 1972 Fender Stratocaster. However, King has said that the guitar was a pretty poor model and had bad pickups, forcing him to turn the amp up all the way to get decent volume out of it. This guitar is now displayed at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum in Cleveland, Ohio.

The famous "Turn it up" line uttered by Ronnie Van Zant in the beginning was not intended to be in the song. Van Zant was just asking producer Al Kooper and engineer Rodney Mills to turn up the volume in his headphones so that he could hear the track better.

There is a semi-hidden vocal line in the second verse after the "Well, I heard Mr. Young sing about her" line. In the left channel, you can hear the phrase "Southern Man" being sung lightly (at approximately 0:55). This was producer Al Kooper doing a Neil Young impression and was just another incident of the band members messing around in the studio while being recorded. According to Leon Wilkeson, it was Kooper's idea to continue and echo the lines from "Southern Man" after each of Van Zant's lines. "Better...keep your head"..."Don't forget what your / good book says", etc. But Ronnie insisted that Kooper remove it not wanting to plagiarize or upset Young. Kooper left the one line barely audible in the left channel.

Following the two "woos" (Leon's the first, Ed's the second) at the start of the piano solo, (at approximately 4:08) Van Zant can be heard ad-libbing "My, Montgomery's [indistinct word] but it's got the answer." The duplicate "my" was produced by Kooper turning off one of the two vocal takes. For Lynyrd Skynyrd's 1976 film Free Bird, this final line was changed to "Mr. (Jimmy) Carter got the answer." in a reference to the 1976 Presidential Election.

The count-in heard in the beginning of the track is spoken by Ed King. The count-in to the first song on an album was a signature touch that producer Kooper usually put on albums that he made.

"Sweet Home Alabama" was a major chart hit for a band whose previous singles had "lazily sauntered out into release with no particular intent." The hit led to two TV rock-show offers, which the band turned down. In addition to the original appearance on Second Helping, the song has appeared on numerous Lynyrd Skynyrd collections and live albums.

None of the three writers of the song were originally from Alabamamarker. Ronnie Van Zant and Gary Rossington were both born in Jacksonville, Floridamarker. Ed King was from Glendale, Californiamarker.

Controversy

"Sweet Home Alabama" was written as an answer to two songs, "Southern Man" and "Alabama" by Neil Young, which dealt with themes of racism and slavery in the American South. "We thought Neil was shooting all the ducks in order to kill one or two," said Ronnie Van Zant at the time. Van Zant's musical response, however, was also controversial, with references to Alabamamarker Governor George Wallace (a noted supporter of segregation) and the Watergate scandal:

In 1975, Van Zant said: "The lyrics about the governor of Alabama were misunderstood. The general public didn't notice the words 'Boo! Boo! Boo!' after that particular line, and the media picked up only on the reference to the people loving the governor." "The line 'We all did what we could do' is sort of ambiguous," Kooper notes "'We tried to get Wallace out of there' is how I always thought of it." Journalist Al Swenson argues that the song is more complex than it is sometimes given credit for, suggesting that it only looks like an endorsement of Wallace. "Wallace and I have very little in common," Van Zant himself said, "I don't like what he says about colored people."

The final line of the song indicates that it may be against racial discrimination: "Montgomery's [indistinct word] but it's got the answer." This is a reference to the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which led to a Supreme Court decision declaring Alabama's racial segregation laws for buses unconstitutional.

In 1976, Van Zant and the band supported Jimmy Carter for his presidential candidacy, including fundraising and an appearance at the Gator Bowl benefit concert.

Muscle Shoals

One verse of the song includes the line "Now Muscle Shoals has got the Swampers/And they've been known to pick a song or two." This refers to the town of Muscle Shoals, Alabamamarker, a popular location for recording popular music due to the "sound" crafted by local recording studios and back-up musicians. "The Swampers" referred to in the lyrics are the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. These musicians, who crafted the "Muscle Shoals Sound," were inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Famemarker in 1995 for a "Lifework Award for Non-Performing Achievement" and into the Musician's Hall Of Fame in 2008 (the performers inducted into the latter were the four founding Swampers — Barry Beckett, Roger Hawkins, David Hood, Jimmy Johnson — plus Pete Carr, Clayton Ivey, Randy McCormack, Will McFarlane, and Spooner Oldham). The nickname "The Swampers" was given to the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section by singer/songwriter Leon Russell.

Part of the reference comes from the 1971-1972 demo reels that Lynyrd Skynyrd had recorded in Muscle Shoals with Johnson as a producer/recording engineer. Johnson helped refine many of the songs first heard publicly on the "Pronounced" album, and it was Van Zant's "tip of the hat" to Johnson for helping out the band in the early years and essentially giving the band its first break.

Lynyrd Skynyrd remains connected to Muscle Shoals having since recorded a number of works in the city and making it a regular stop on their concert tours.

Covers

A few cover versions have appeared, notably a slowed-down rock version by Big Head Todd and the Monsters, as well as a more faithful version by the Charlie Daniels Band and an altered version by the country group Alabama (who changed the lyrics involving the Watergate scandal with a verse talking about Alabama football). This rendition was included on the 1994 tribute album Skynyrd Frynds.

Other covers include:



In the media and popular culture

As of 2009, the State of Alabamamarker has begun using the phrase "Sweet Home Alabama" as an official slogan on license plates for motor vehicles, with Governor Bob Riley noting that Lynyrd Skynyrd's anthem is the third most-played song referring to a specific destination. (This is also the second Alabama license plate in a row to make reference to a popular song, with the state's previous plate having featured Stars Fell On Alabama.)

Sweet Home Alabama has appeared in many commercials, movies, and subsequent recordings by other bands. It remains a popular request on classic rock radio stations and has been featured in many movie, including True Romance, To Die For, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre , Con Air, The Waterboy, Forrest Gump, Joe Dirt, 8 Mile, The Girl Next Door, Sweet Home Alabama, "Crimson Tide" and Sahara. The song was alluded to in Warren Zevon's "Play It All Night Long" (from his 1980 album Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School): "Sweet home Alabama! Play that dead band's song! Turn those speakers up full blast!". The song is also prominently mentioned in Kid Rock's "All Summer Long."

The song has become a favorite among Alabama Crimson Tide fans who include the phrase "Roll Tide Roll" in the lyrics after the chorus "Sweet Home Alabama". Shaun Alexander, the Seattle Seahawks MVP running back and University of Alabama alumnus, had the song played after each home game touchdown.

The song has also become popular with the University of Alabama in Huntsvillemarker (UAH) for hockey games. The Chargers use the song for both home game entrances and occasionally as a pseudo-fight song.

In 1994, the Leningrad Cowboys appeared together with 70 members of the Alexandrov ensemble at the 11th annual MTV Music Awards, at the Radio City Music Hallmarker in New York, where they sang Sweet Home Alabama.

The song's reach also extends to "virtual" sporting events. It was featured on the PS2 and Xbox versions of NASCAR Thunder 2002 because the game creators, EA Sports, had just announced sponsorship of the fall race at Talladega Superspeedwaymarker, located in Alabama.

The song was also played in the movie Crimson Tide. The name of the sub in the film was the USS Alabama.

Further, Sweet Home Alabama has been used in multiple advertising campaigns. An adaptation of the song is used in advertisements for KFC. WWE used the song as the theme song for their Pay-Per-View WWE Armageddon 2000 (which took place in Birmingham).In September 2007, Alabama Governor Bob Riley announced the phrase "Sweet Home Alabama" would be used to promote Alabama state tourism in a multi million dollar ad campaign. No indication has been given if the song itself will be included in the campaign.

Sweet Home Alabama has become well-known in the Dark-Hunters book series created by paranormal romance novelist Sherrilyn Kenyon as the song always played on Sanctuary's jukebox when Acheron enters the bar.

The song is a singable song on the game Karaoke Revolution Volume 2 and SingStar Rocks! A live version, taken from the album One More From The Road, is a playable song in the video games Guitar Hero World Tour and Guitar Hero On Tour: Decades.

In the Kid Rock song "All Summer Long" the refrain ends with "singing Sweet Home Alabama all summer long". Further more, Kid Rock incorporates the chord structure (D, Csus2, and G chords) into the song.

A short, MIDI version of the song's intro was used in Gameloft's mobile game Midnight Billard

This song is usually the first song played in the first Race Driver.

The song was featured in 8 Mile with Eminem freestyling over it.

The Geto Boys sampled the song in their Gangster Of Love song on their eponymous album.

Used in Season 8 of Dancing With the Stars by Louie Vito and Chelsie Hightower who danced a two step

Recognition and Awards



Members



See also



References

  1. Sweet Home Alabama song information, Songfacts.com
  2. Dupree, T. (1974), Lynyrd Skynyrd in Sweet Home Atlanta [Electronic version]. Rolling Stone. Retrieved October 17, 2007.
  3. Ballinger, Lee. (2002 ©1999). Lynyrd Skynyrd: An Oral History. Los Angeles, California: XT377 Publishing. ISBN 0972044639
  4. http://www.alamhof.org/msrs.html
  5. http://www.rollingstone.com/rockdaily/index.php/2008/10/29/kid-rock-keith-richards-help-induct-crickets-muscle-shoals-into-musicians-hall-of-fame/
  6. http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20081029/ARTICLES/810290317/0/NEWS
  7. http://www.governorpress.alabama.gov/pr/pr-2008-10-07-01-new_tags_photo.asp
  8. Associated Press (2007). Lynyrd Skynyrd Song Turns Alabama Tourist Theme [Electronic version]. USA Today. retrieved October 17, 2007.


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