It’s been almost 40 years since “Sweet Home Alabama” first charted on Billboard. Over the last half-century Lynyrd Skynyrd became incredibly famous for two things—”Sweet Home Alabama,” and for playing live in front of a Confederate flag.
And yet after all these years Gary Rossington, the only original member still playing with the band, sent shockwaves through the South when he announced on Friday that the band would stop using the Confederate flag in their branding. Why now? Apparently it’s just come to their attention that it’s kinda racist.
Rossington told CNN:
Through the years, people like the KKK and skinheads kinda kidnapped the Dixie or Southern flag from its tradition and the heritage of the soldiers, that’s what it was about.
Dude. Apparently someone forgot to tell Rossington that the Civil War was kinda racist. The “tradition and the heritage of the soldiers” was farming plantations with slaves, which they thought was fine because they thought black people were sub-human. That’s what the whole war was about—remember?
Also, what is he talking about with his “over the years” thing and lumping the KKK and skinheads into the same spot on the timeline? The KKK was founded in eighteen frigging sixty five—just two years after the Confederate flag was created. And the modern incarnation that lynched blacks to show how adamant they were about not sharing space at the soda-fountain counter was founded in the early 1950s, a good 20 years before Lynyrd Skynyrd was even conceived.
Not to mention “Sweet Home Alabama,” the band’s claim to fame and millions was written as a “fuck you” reply to Neil Young’s song “Southern Man,” which took umbrage with Southerners lynching people. The song’s chorus might as well go, “It’s a free country, I’ll lynch who I want!”
But, still, it has just come to Skynyrd’s attention that some people might think the flag is kinda racist. “We didn’t want that to go to our fans or show the image like we agreed with any of the race stuff or any of the bad things,” Rossington said.
Of course, many Southern commenters, seeing Old Glory simply as a symbol of Southern pride, resented Skynyrd’s move. Salon pointed out one commenter who said “Good luck with you next release, ‘Sweet home Massachusetts.’ I am sure it will climb the charts with a bullet in yankee-land.”
Isn’t it nice that 150 years later we still have our rich tradition of the Mason Dixon line?