“Sweet Home Alabama” (Kevin Riley)

“Sweet Home Alabama”

Alabama is one of the most southern states in the United States, geographically and metaphorically, and it is on the receiving end of many, many stereotypical jokes; however, to Lynyrd Skynyrd, Alabama is home. The song dedicated to their “home” (despite being from Florida) paints a very pretty picture of the state. The song gives Alabama a positive image and a homely feel. The chorus of the song describes Alabama’s skies as being “so blue,” and several times the singer says he is “coming home,” he’s seeing his family, and he misses Alabama, assumably from being on tour as evidenced by the beginning lines “big wheels keep on turnin’/carry me home to see my kin.” In this song, the negative perceptions of Alabama are also referenced in the second verse. The second verse begins with the line “well I heard Mr. Young sing about her,” which references the artist Neil Young making two songs criticizing the South and Alabama, and ends with “a Southern man don’t need him around, anyhow,” showing that they recognize the criticisms but do not embrace them. It is believed that the lines of this verse are referring to the fact that a true Southern man despises the institutionalized racism of the South and does not want to be generalized as racist due to the institution as a whole. In the third verse, there is another reference to the governor of Alabama in the 1960’s who openly opposed desegregation, but immediately following this reference, there is a chorus of people singing “Boo! Boo! Boo!” in protest of the governor. Lynyrd Skynyrd clearly does not want to be associated with the stereotype of Alabama being a major center for racism, which is the image people like Neil Young associate it with. This song highlights positive parts of the South (family, home, the pretty sky/good weather) while also refuting the negative stereotype put upon them because of their surroundings.