Lynyrd Skynyrd - "Sweet Home Alabama"
Disses: Neil Young
As the almost undisputed crown jewel in Lynyrd Skynyrd's cultural legacy (someone's always gonna shout "Freebird," after all), "Sweet Home Alabama" has been performed, covered, and karaoke'd to death. It is one of rock radio's towering pillars, a song we'll likely never get rid of. Over saturation, however, doesn't prevent "Sweet Home Alabama" from packing one of music's greatest disses, a dismissal as bitter and succinct as anything rap has to offer (a kindred spirite to the end of Jay-Z's "The Takeover": "And to y'all other cats throwin shots at Jigga/y'all only get half a bar/fuck y'all n*ggas").
On 1973's "Southern Man" and "Alabama," legendary rocker Neil Young delivered critical indictments of the culture of the American South that perpetuated the racist sentiments historically harbored in the region.
A year later, Lynyrd Skynyrd fired back with what has come to be rather incorrectly interpreted as an anthem of unabashed Southern pride, aiming a four-bar arrowhead straight at Young for painting Southerners with too broad a brush:
"Well I heard mister Young sing about her Well, I heard ole Neil put her down Well, I hope Neil Young will remember A Southern man don't need him around anyhow"
As Ronnie Van Zant sings the first line of the four at around 55 seconds, producer Al Kooper can be heard quietly singing "Southern Man," imitating Neil Young and adding another layer to the jab. Though the war of words between Young and Skynyrd ultimately packed no personal venom (the artists declared mutual respect for one another), "Sweet Home Alabama" contains one of music's great, plainspoken responses, a lasting reminder that Lynyrd Skynyrd was a bit cleverer than the drunk guy belting "Lord I'm coming home to you!" at the end of the bar would have you believe.