Comparison Poetry: Is the Civil War still going on?

While some would argue lyrics do not constitute poetry, I might argue otherwise, especially having studied some in Intro. to Lit. books.  That said, I heard “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd this morning and began to think about Neil Young’s “Southern Man.”  The two songs made for scathing dialog.

In the 1970’s, the time in which these songs were written, pro-segregation sentiment, particularly in the South, was very much alive even though it was illegal. The bombing of a church in Birmingham, among other events related to the black Civil Rights movement, tainted the image of the South.

However, Young’s condemnation of an entire region and its people flew in the face of a culture much prided and not without positive attributes.

The looming question for me became, “What does this musical debate have to do with the Civil War, and is there still tension between our Northern and Southern states?”  Take a look and let me know what you think.

Southern Man
by Neil Young

Southern man
better keep your head
Don’t forget
what your good book said
Southern change
gonna come at last
Now your crosses
are burning fast
Southern man

I saw cotton
and I saw black
Tall white mansions
and little shacks.
Southern man
when will you
pay them back?
I heard screamin’
and bullwhips cracking
How long? How long?

Southern man
better keep your head
Don’t forget
what your good book said
Southern change
gonna come at last
Now your crosses
are burning fast
Southern man

Lily Belle,
your hair is golden brown
I’ve seen your black man
comin’ round
Swear by God
I’m gonna cut him down!
I heard screamin’
and bullwhips cracking
How long? How long?

Sweet Home Alabama

by Lynyrd Skynyrd

Big wheels keep on turning
Carry me home to see my kin
Singing songs about the Southland
I miss Alabamy once again
And I think its a sin, yes

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

Sweet home Alabama
Where the skies are so blue
Sweet Home Alabama
Lord, I’m coming home to you

In Birmingham they love the governor
Now we all did what we could do
Now Watergate does not bother me
Does your conscience bother you?
Tell the truth

Sweet home Alabama
Where the skies are so blue
Sweet Home Alabama
Lord, I’m coming home to you
Here I come Alabama

Now Muscle Shoals has got the Swampers
And they’ve been known to pick a song or two
Lord they get me off so much
They pick me up when I’m feeling blue
Now how about you?

Sweet home Alabama
Where the skies are so blue
Sweet Home Alabama
Lord, I’m coming home to you

Sweet home Alabama
Oh sweet home baby
Where the skies are so blue
And the governor’s true
Sweet Home Alabama
Lordy
Lord, I’m coming home to you
Yea, yea Montgomery’s got the answer

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