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Author: Subject: "Southern Rock" Documentary On The BBC Next Week.

Extreme Peach





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  posted on 4/6/2012 at 08:43 AM

http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/musicblog/2012/apr/05/southern-rock-passion -marred-racism

Southern rock's passion and romance is marred by racism and bigotry

It embraced black soul music but couldn't divorce itself from the prejudices of the south


It was only a matter of time before BBC4 green-lit a Friday night documentary about southern rock. It is irresistible to connoisseurs of once-unfashionable strains of 70s pop culture, and James Maycock's film Sweet Home Alabama more than does it justice.

Sure, Gregg Allmantalks a little slow after his liver transplant, and some of the other "longhaired rednecks" interviewed hardly bring scintillating insight to the topic. But Sweet Home Alabama pulls us back to the early 70s peaks of the Allman Brothers Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd, making us reflect anew on what southern rock really meant.

Was Skynyrd's anthem of the same name a song of defiant pride, cocking a snook at Neil Young's Southern Man, or was it something much worse a strutting defence of old Confederate values, complete with egregious tip of the stetson to segregationist governor George Wallace? Sweet Home Alabama is a stonking song, but Skynyrd's singer Ronnie van Zant wanted it both ways: to be both a bourbon-chugging rock rebel and the Yankee-baiting bigot that Young was decrying.

"Those of us who have characterised [Van Zant] as a misunderstood liberal," wrote Mark Kemp one of Maycock's interviewees in his excellent book Dixie Lullaby, "have done so only to placate our own irrational feelings of shame for responding to the passion in his music."

At least the Allman Brothers had an African American drummer Jai Johnny "Jaimoe" Johanson in their ranks. Jaimoe had toured with Otis Redding, arguably the key influence on southern rockers from the Allmans to the Black Crowes, and it was Redding's former manager Phil Walden who, in 1969, set up the label most identified with southern rock Macon, Georgia's Capricorn Records.

"To the young white southerner, black music always appealed more than white pop music," Walden, who died in 2006, told me. "Certainly the Beach Boys' surfing stuff never would have hacked it in the south. It was too white and it just wasn't relevant. The waves weren't too high down here."

Sweet Home Alabama doesn't shirk from the fact that southern rock was born partly of the deepening racial divide that opened up after Martin Luther King's assassination in 1968. "By the end of the decade, a lot of the results of the civil rights era had served to urbanise black music," Walden said in my 1985 interview with him. "A lot of the people we had considered friends were suddenly calling us blue-eyed devils."

The racial cross-pollination of the southern soul era in Alabama hotspot Muscle Shoals (namechecked in Skynyrd's Sweet Home) came to a shuddering halt. Black music got blacker while white southern rock went back to its first principles of melding country music with rhythm'n'blues.

"In a sense the evolution of southern rock was a reactionary attempt to return rock'n'roll to its native soil," suggested the Texan writer Joe Nick Patoski. "After the decline of interest in rockabilly, white rock in the South had taken a back seat to country and western and soul."

Not that anyone anticipated the way southern rock effortlessly flowed into the post-60s counterculture, with the Allmans eventually co-headlining 1973's colossal Watkins Glen festival with the Band and the Grateful Dead. Along with Skynyrd, who were managed by Phil Walden's brother Alan and whose epic Free Bird mourned the death of Duane Allman, a second wave of southern groups from the Marshall Tucker Band to Black Oak Arkansas was soon sweeping the US. Some of them even played a modest part in getting peanut-farming Georgia boy Jimmy Carter into the White House.

Carter, of course, was a liberal and 180 degrees from the segregationist politics of Wallace. So indeed were most of the bands that recorded for Capricorn until the label went bust in the late 70s. Yet the supposed "romance" of the south touted by those outfits is hard to separate from the legacy of slavery and racism.

Southern rock has lived on in the very different iterations represented by the Black Crowes, the Georgia Satellites, the Kentucky Headhunters, Kings of Leon, Drive-By Truckers, American Idol contestant Bo Bice, and of course REM (whose Mike Mills reminisces in Sweet Home Alabama about attending Capricorn's annual picnics). The music's ornery **** -you spirit meanwhile endures in the work of the charming Toby Keith and his kind. Yet the ambiguities of Van Zant's famous lyric are as troubling as ever, despite the apologia for it offered in Maycock's film by self-styled "redneck negress" Kandia Crazy Horse.

White skin, red necks, blue collars, black music: Sweet Home Alabama tells a quintessential American story that never quite ends.

 

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Ultimate Peach



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  posted on 4/6/2012 at 10:01 AM
Marred by racism? Glorified slavery? Looks like someone trying to stir the pot to get some eyes on the tube.

By the time the ABB were at their commercial peak in 1973 and had a top selling album in the US, a third of the band was African American. It was not "at least" anything. And the ABB, right or wrong, were widely considered the godfathers of Southern Rock.

And maybe the author missed the lines "Boo, boo, boo" right after the Governor is mentioned in Sweet Home Alabama.

And this statement is outlandish: "Yet the supposed "romance" of the south touted by those outfits is hard to separate from the legacy of slavery and racism."

Reach.

 

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  posted on 4/6/2012 at 10:23 AM
The ironic line in the Skynnyrd tune:

"in Birmingham, they love the governor
boo-hoo-hoo..."

George Wallace never carried Jefferson County (where Birmingham is the county seat).

Not sure where this BBC(?) documentary is going or wants to take us. Assigning political affiliation to Ronnie Van Zandt? Man! The guy's dead! who knows what he had in mind?

"Southern rock"" - born of a racial divide"? I always thought music (especially "rock" - even "southern rock") was the band-aid.

But what the hell do I know? I'm just another long-haired redneck!

 

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  posted on 4/6/2012 at 10:26 AM
quote:
Marred by racism? Glorified slavery? Looks like someone trying to stir the pot to get some eyes on the tube.

By the time the ABB were at their commercial peak in 1973 and had a top selling album in the US, a third of the band was African American. It was not "at least" anything. And the ABB, right or wrong, were widely considered the godfathers of Southern Rock.

And maybe the author missed the lines "Boo, boo, boo" right after the Governor is mentioned in Sweet Home Alabama.

And this statement is outlandish: "Yet the supposed "romance" of the south touted by those outfits is hard to separate from the legacy of slavery and racism."

Reach.


I'm surprised at the tone of the article. Although the Guardian is a very "right on" lefty newspaper, Barney Hoskyns is a writer I admire very much. Hopefully the documentary itself will be more objective.

 

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  posted on 4/6/2012 at 10:45 AM
Maybe Skynyrd's waving of the Confed flag adds to the ambiguity? I know of course that plenty of folks see the flag simply as a symbol of states' rights and regional pride, but it appears in the eyes of others as a flat-out symbol of the slave-owning States.
 

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  posted on 4/6/2012 at 10:57 AM
quote:
Maybe Skynyrd's waving of the Confed flag adds to the ambiguity? I know of course that plenty of folks see the flag simply as a symbol of states' rights and regional pride, but it appears in the eyes of others as a flat-out symbol of the slave-owning States.


Slavery didn't exist under "old glory"?

Personally, I have no problem with the confederate (or any other) flag, itself. It just depends on the context within which it is used or displayed.

Can of worms surely to ensue!

 

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  posted on 4/6/2012 at 11:06 AM
quote:
"Those of us who have characterised [Van Zant] as a misunderstood liberal," wrote Mark Kemp one of Maycock's interviewees in his excellent book Dixie Lullaby, "have done so only to placate our own irrational feelings of shame for responding to the passion in his music."

Hmm, what about "Saturday Night Special"?

 

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  posted on 4/6/2012 at 11:15 AM
quote:
Marred by racism? Glorified slavery? Looks like someone trying to stir the pot to get some eyes on the tube.

By the time the ABB were at their commercial peak in 1973 and had a top selling album in the US, a third of the band was African American. It was not "at least" anything. And the ABB, right or wrong, were widely considered the godfathers of Southern Rock.

And maybe the author missed the lines "Boo, boo, boo" right after the Governor is mentioned in Sweet Home Alabama.

And this statement is outlandish: "Yet the supposed "romance" of the south touted by those outfits is hard to separate from the legacy of slavery and racism."

Reach.


Agreed x 2

However, lets not let facts get in the way of a good story.....

 

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  posted on 4/6/2012 at 12:19 PM
As someone who grew up in the south I am sensitive to being called racist. Slavery was horrible but America was part of the UK when it was introduced. So this author should
feel guilt? Racism is an unfortunate part of the human experience that each person must
deal with. I was raised by liberal parents in Atlanta in the sixties and Identify with Martin
Luther King, not George Wallace. With the advent of television cultural differences became blurred in the sixties. The Stones, Beach Boys, Allman Brothers, whatever. It was rock and
roll. A chance to escape to the counter culture myth for a few hours. It has always amused me how people who have never been here seem to know all about the South. Vent over, I feel
better now.

 

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  posted on 4/6/2012 at 03:27 PM
I was born and raised and graduated from college in the deep South.
I love the '70's southern rock bands.
Neil Young thought Sweet Home Alabama's reference to him was humorous.
ABB was a southern integrated band.

Most southerners see the Confederate battle flag as some kind of regional pride symbol.
They won't say it to anybody except each other.

The KKK forever ruined the flag. Few southerners identify with the hateful, murderous KKK.

Personally, I don't think the writer knows or understands what he talks about. Don't know his
a** from a hole in the ground, as southerners used to say.

I was not raised in a racist family. My grandmother used to go fishing with a black lady. My youngest sister(now deceased) belonged to the African Penecostal Church in the small town where she lived and ran her business. I won't say more. I just hope people I love here do not take my remarks the wrong way.

 

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  posted on 4/6/2012 at 04:01 PM
Interesting article about who actually owned slaves:

http://americancivilwar.com/authors/black_slaveowners.htm

 

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  posted on 4/6/2012 at 07:13 PM
As George Carlin once said, "symbols are for the symbol - minded." Flags, pictures, etc. only have value if the individual allows.
 

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  posted on 4/6/2012 at 07:33 PM
quote:
I was born and raised and graduated from college in the deep South.
I love the '70's southern rock bands.
Neil Young thought Sweet Home Alabama's reference to him was humorous.
ABB was a southern integrated band.

Most southerners see the Confederate battle flag as some kind of regional pride symbol.
They won't say it to anybody except each other.

The KKK forever ruined the flag. Few southerners identify with the hateful, murderous KKK.

Personally, I don't think the writer knows or understands what he talks about. Don't know his
a** from a hole in the ground, as southerners used to say.

I was not raised in a racist family. My grandmother used to go fishing with a black lady. My youngest sister(now deceased) belonged to the African Penecostal Church in the small town where she lived and ran her business. I won't say more. I just hope people I love here do not take my remarks the wrong way.



Well said Ruthie! Lots of Yankees feel the same way. Long Live The South!

 

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  posted on 4/6/2012 at 07:50 PM
My only regret about the article is Ronnie is not alive to show the author what he really meant.
 

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  posted on 4/6/2012 at 08:10 PM
I'll reseve judgement until after the program (if I can see it), but trying to pidgeonhole music is always difficult if not impossible. Especially since the ABB resisted the label of Southern Rock from the beginning. How then does one decide some tunes were tinged by racism?

Perhaps looking at videos today where the battle flag was displayed in the 70's would tell someone from another country that all were racists at those shows. It's more complicated than that. What is now considered offensive was not necessarily so then. I always liked the battle flag, but when GA finally removed it from the state flag in the 90's, I favored that.

I was not born in the south, but have been here since I was three. I tell people, however, that I was born on the SOUTH side of Chicago!




 

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  posted on 4/7/2012 at 06:27 AM
quote:
I wish Patterson Hood was my high school history teacher. I might have stayed awake and not have been called upon to answer a question that was posed to the class while I was asleep, lol.

Patterson enlightened me to the truth regarding the dynamic between Skynyrd and Neil Young. I always thought Skynyrd hated him until I heard a couple of tracks off the Drive-By Trucker's album Southern Rock Opera. I learned more Alabama history in one hour than I had in all my years of schooling.


Couldn't agree more , great history leson for me also , all of skynyrd had long hair and that was looked down upon as much as being black , plus would a racist write a song like Curtis Lowe ?

 

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  posted on 4/7/2012 at 07:20 AM
quote:

Sure, Gregg Allman talks a little slow after his liver transplant, and some of the other "longhaired rednecks" interviewed hardly bring scintillating insight to the topic.

It's hardly surprising that their answers weren't "scintillating" when the premise of the documentary seems flawed to begin with...

 

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  posted on 4/7/2012 at 07:38 AM
Calling the Southern Rock groups racists, and a host of other misinformed comments just show that the writer of this article has his head so far up his butt I doubt he'll be able to get it out.
 

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  posted on 4/7/2012 at 07:47 AM
quote:
quote:

Sure, Gregg Allman talks a little slow after his liver transplant, and some of the other "longhaired rednecks" interviewed hardly bring scintillating insight to the topic.

It's hardly surprising that their answers weren't "scintillating" when the premise of the documentary seems flawed to begin with...

Bingo!

 

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  posted on 4/7/2012 at 09:04 AM
quote:
I wish Patterson Hood was my high school history teacher. I might have stayed awake and not have been called upon to answer a question that was posed to the class while I was asleep, lol.

Patterson enlightened me to the truth regarding the dynamic between Skynyrd and Neil Young. I always thought Skynyrd hated him until I heard a couple of tracks off the Drive-By Trucker's album Southern Rock Opera. I learned more Alabama history in one hour than I had in all my years of schooling.


This Brit found Southern Rock Opera very educational also. Really interesting about George Wallace being a political opportunist rather than an out and out racist and that he got something like 90% was it? of the black vote the last time he ran for Governor.

 

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  posted on 4/7/2012 at 09:12 AM
Wow! After the doco airs next Friday we have "Southern Rock at the BBC" featuring live performances from the BBC archives followed by 2 Old Grey Whistle Test Specials. Skynyrd live from 1975 which I've seen before and "Macon Whoopee" which I certainly have not!

Macon Whoopee

DURATION: 1 HOUR
Bob Harris goes to Macon, Georgia, in search of the Capricorn Picnic, a 1976 open-air party thrown by the head of Capricorn. It features many Southern rock bands and performers, including Wet Willie, Marshall Tucker Band, Dickey Betts, Bonnie Bramlett and Stillwater.

 

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  posted on 4/7/2012 at 10:13 AM
I remember the original broadcast of Whispering Bob getting "blissed out" at the Capricorn Picnic!

Expect a lot of interviews, not much music (understandably, for copyright reasons) and a lot of "This is such a beautiful vibe"s!

The "Southern Rock at the BBC" spot features The Ozark Mountain Daredevils ("Jackie Blue", no doubt), Marshall Tucker Band, Black Oak Arkansas, Charlie Daniels Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd.










[Edited on 4/7/2012 by Shavian]

 

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  posted on 4/7/2012 at 10:54 AM
I'll give the article one thing: Mark Kemp's "Dixie Lullaby" is a definite must-read for anyone who enjoys a good book.

 

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  posted on 4/7/2012 at 11:23 AM
I cannot believe the Beeb are finally showing Macon Whoopee again after 36 years.
I had been trying to get a copy of this all that time and finally through a friend at the BBC managed to get a copy just before Xmas.
I will be in the USA for Wanee but will definetly have the Skybox set to record Friday evenings programmes.
Its worth watching just for the 5 or so minutes of Dickey playing acoustic slide on his porch.

 

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  posted on 4/8/2012 at 12:41 AM
>>>>The KKK forever ruined the flag. Few southerners identify with the hateful, murderous KKK.>>>

Correct and that is what I think Ronnie was saying in his song Sweet Home in Alabama. Neil definitely over simplified matters. It was easy for him to do that as a Canadian.

>>>Personally, I don't think the writer knows or understands what he talks about. Don't know his
a** from a hole in the ground, as southerners used to say.>>>>

Totally agree. He kind of implies that Ronnie (and Southern Rock) was a racist but really, where's the beef (evidence)?

>>> I was not raised in a racist family... I won't say more. I just hope people I love here do not take my remarks the wrong way.>>

Why worry about that? If you say something there's always a few people who take it the wrong way.

To me when I read the lyrics of Sweet Home in Alabama, I feel like Ronnie was making fun of the whole politicization of (the) Southern Man. His line: Now Watergate does no bother me" sounds to me like he's saying it doesn't bother me cause well, politics is bull sh*t. Nixon was bull sh*t. (He was a criminal really.) It sounded like Ronnie was mocking the political establishment. And the boo hooo, well that sounds like he definitely was mocking the Governor, not praising him. That everyone did what they did, is your conscience bothering you about what you did? (Some people's did and other people's didn't.) Is it a sin to miss Alabama, home of your kin? Yes Ronnie says, but think no, because he is mocking anyone who says he shouldn't be happy going back home to his kin.

No one should assume white southerners are more racist than white people from any other USA region. There are racists all over this country. It's totally unacceptable to think that southerners especially renegade rockers from the south are any more or less racist than rockers from other parts of the country.

The question I have more is, why are most fans of rock music white? Even an interracial band like the ABB hasn't attracted large droves of blacks to it, even if the music is based in Mississippi and southern blues and Orleans Jazz. The question in my mind is why haven't Blacks embraced rock music in this country? Other than perhaps the funk lovers coming out of Philly and Detroit?

Southern rock musicians have traditionally been more aware of and play (not only pay) homage to the contributions of Black people who brought them/us the blues, jazz and eventually rock music. Moreover, the influx of the British invasion, on American rock music, in turn had a tremendous amount of influence on the early "Southern" rockers like the ABB and LS. I think their influence (the British Invasion) on the 60's and early 70's "Southern" rock musicians who were coming up in the south is highly underestimated.

Did Duane ever play with Jimi?

 
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