Song Lyric Sunday — Southern Man

The directions Jim Adams gave us for this week’s Song Lyric Sunday were simply directions: north, south, east, and west. The song I chose might be a bit of a bending of a strict interpretation of the rules, but since this is my blog, I can bend the rules if I want to. I chose “Southern Man” by Neil Young.

“Southern Man” was a track on Neil Young’s 1970 album After the Gold Rush. The song was about racism in the American South, with oblique to references to slavery and the Ku Klux Klan. Young claimed the song was more about the civil rights movement than the South, but many southerners didn’t appreciate the negative generalization.

In his autobiography, Young apologized for the song, writing, “I don’t like my words when I listen to it. They are accusatory and condescending, not fully thought out, and too easy to misconstrue.”

The southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd wrote “Sweet Home Alabama” as a response to “Southern Man.” Young is mentioned in the line, “I hope Neil Young will remember, a Southern man don’t need him around anyhow.” The members of Lynyrd Skynyrd were actually big fans of Young. “Sweet Home Alabama” was meant as a good-natured answer to “Southern Man” as well as to Young’s song, “Alabama,” from his 1972 album, Harvest.

Here are the lyrics to “Southern Man.”

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?

As a bonus this week, here’s Neil Young’s “Alabama” with lyrics.

And as a second bonus, here’s Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama.”

12 thoughts on “Song Lyric Sunday — Southern Man

  1. Lisa Coleman March 8, 2020 / 8:01 am

    Neil Young is amongst the greatest song-writers of all time who spoke his mind. While I don’t always like his lyrics, he is a genius!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. newepicauthor March 8, 2020 / 8:45 am

    Great music and your bonus songs are appreciated. Neil’s song did cause a lot of controversy.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. msjadeli March 8, 2020 / 12:10 pm

    The truth hurts. I just wish our nation’s people could come together instead of being so polarized.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Marleen March 8, 2020 / 1:13 pm

    I especially like the Harvest album, although I admit I’m not very familiar with the song, Alabama. I also liked his singing of Let’s Impeach the President (with Crosby, Stills, and Nash).

    Liked by 1 person

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