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Keith, Brandon P.
Southern rock music as a cultural form
h [electronic resource] /
by Brandon P. Keith.
[Tampa, Fla] :
b University of South Florida,
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Thesis (M.A.)--University of South Florida, 2009.
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ABSTRACT: Southern rock bands of the 1970s were a cultural formation that displayed racially and politically progressive views in the post-civil rights South through the cultural form of southern rock music. Southern rock bands, such as The Allman Brothers Band, and Lynyrd Skynyrd, responded to the political and social changes in the South brought forth by the civil rights movement by reconciling pride for southern heritage with progressive racial views through their music. The southern rock era was essentially between the years of 1969, when The Allman Brothers Band released their first album, until 1977, whe n a tragic airplane crash took the lives of members of Lynyrd Skynyrd, including lead singer Ronnie Van Zant. Southern rock music was both a reflection of, and a response to, the changing way of life for southerners as a result of the civil rights movement.The political and cultural shift that occurred because of the civil rights movement forced many in the South to reexamine traditions and regional identities. Although many southerners had a strong sense of regional pride, the civil rights movement exposed many of the unfavorable characteristics of the South, and forced southerners to reexamine what it meant to be a "southerner." As those in the South reexamined their southern identities, southern rock bands emerged and offered a way to embrace southern pride, while rejecting traditional racist views, through the cultural form of music. As a cultural formation, southern rock bands not only demonstrated progressive racial views, they also demonstrated progressive political views through the lyrics and subjects of their songs, as well as by actively participating in the 1976 presidential campaign of Jimmy Carter.The cultural form of southern rock music is political in that many songs address social issues like racial injustice, poverty, gun control, domestic violence, and drug and alcohol abuse. These inclinations towards liberal politics went against the political trend being set by many white southerners who increasingly supported the more conservative Republican Party in the post-civil rights South.
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Advisor: Andrew Berish, Ph.D.
x American Studies
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.
Southern Rock Music as a Cultural Form By Brandon P. Keith A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts Department of American Studies College of Arts and Sciences University of South Florida Major Professor: Andrew Berish, Ph.D. Raymond Arsenault, Ph.D. Daniel Belgrad, Ph.D. Date of Approval: June 25, 2009 Keywords: the South, race, pol itics, formations, genre Copyright 2009, Brandon P. Keith
Dedication This thesis is dedicated to my beloved Om a, who is a constant and renewing source of inspiration and encouragement.
Acknowledgements I would like to thank my advisor, Dr. Andrew Berish, for his assistance and patience in this endeavor, as well as co mmittee members Dr. Raymond Arsenault and Dr. Dan Belgrad. I would also like to thank Gene Odom and Rick Hirsch for their willingness to be interviewed for this project.
i Table of Contents AbstractÂ…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…....ii Introduction Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â….1 Chapter One: Genre of Southern RockÂ…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…6 Chapter Two: Southern Rock Bands as a Cultural FormationÂ…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…...12 Chapter Three: Southern Rock Music as a Cultural FormÂ…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â….................18 Chapter Four: The Politics of Southern RockÂ…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…........38 Jimmy CarterÂ…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…..40 George WallaceÂ…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…..48 ConclusionÂ…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â….57 BibliographyÂ…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…..59
ii Southern Rock Music as a Cultural Form Brandon P. Keith ABSTRACT Southern rock bands of the 1970s were a cultural formati on that displayed racially and politically progressive views in the post-civil rights South through the cultural form of southern rock music. Southe rn rock bands, such as The Allman Brothers Band, and Lynyrd Skynyrd, responded to the pol itical and social changes in the South brought forth by the civil rights movement by r econciling pride for southern heritage with progressive racial views thr ough their music. The southern rock era was essentially between the years of 1969, when The Allman Brothers Band released their first album, until 1977, when a tragic airplane crash t ook the lives of members of Lynyrd Skynyrd, including lead singer Ronnie Van Zant. Southern rock music was both a reflecti on of, and a response to, the changing way of life for southerners as a result of the ci vil rights movement. The political and cultural shift that occurred because of the civil ri ghts movement forced many in the South to reexamine traditions and regional identit ies. Although many southerners had a strong sense of regional pride, the civil rights movement exposed many of the unfavorable characteristics of the South, and forced southe rners to reexamine what it meant to be a Â“southerner.Â” As those in the South reexamined their southern identities, southern rock
iii bands emerged and offered a way to embrace s outhern pride, while rejecting traditional racist views, through the cu ltural form of music. As a cultural formation, southern rock ba nds not only demonstrated progressive racial views, they also dem onstrated progressive political views through the lyrics and subjects of their songs, as well as by activ ely participating in the 1976 presidential campaign of Jimmy Carter. The cultural form of southern rock music is political in that many songs address social issu es like racial injustice, poverty, gun control, domestic violence, and drug and alcohol abuse. These inclinations towards liberal politics went against the political trend being set by many white southerners who increasingly supported the more conservative Republi can Party in the pos t-civil rights South.
1Introduction Southern rock bands of the 1970s were a cultural formati on that displayed racially and politically progressive views in the post-civil rights South through the cultural form of southern rock music. Southe rn rock bands, such as The Allman Brothers Band, and Lynyrd Skynyrd, responded to the pol itical and social changes in the South brought forth by the civil rights movement by r econciling pride for southern heritage with progressive racial view s through their music. Southern rock, then, is a paradox between two modes of southern identity. On the one hand, southern rock musicians openly expr essed pride in their s outhern heritage and southern identity through their music. But on the other hand, southern rock musicians demonstrated racially tolerant and politically liberal views that were in opposition to what may be considered traditional conservativ e southern views, which included racial intolerance and prejudice. The tension created from this para dox is evident in the music, as well as the politics, of southern rock. Southern rock music was both a reflecti on of, and a response to, the changing way of life for southerners as a result of the ci vil rights movement. The political and cultural shift that occurred because of the civil ri ghts movement forced many in the South to reexamine traditions and regional identit ies. Although many southerners had a strong sense of regional pride, the civil rights movement exposed many of the unfavorable characteristics of the South, and forced southe rners to reexamine what it meant to be a
2Â“southerner.Â” As those in the South reexamined their southern identities, southern rock bands emerged and offered a way to embrace s outhern pride, while rejecting traditional racist views, through the cultural form of music. Unlike other styles of popular music lik e blues or jazz, southern rock has not endured a large amount of scholarly review. It has only been in recent years that scholars have taken a fresh look at southern rock music in order to explore its historical significances and contributions. Some scholars, like J. Michael Butler, have explored the religious aspects of southern rock, while other scholars, like Thad A. Burkhart, Ted Ownby, and Jason Eastman, have analyzed the white male tradition and identity of southern rock. Still, other scholars like C. Ki rk Hutson, have looked at southern rock in the larger picture of the evol ution of popular music. Les Bl ack touches on the issue of race in southern rock music in his larger wo rk that deals with Â“blackÂ” music and how it has evolved in the Â“racistÂ” world of white culture. Little research has been completed with respect to the political and racial aspect s of southern rock, which is what I aim to address in this thesis. The southern white male identity, howeve r, has been of interest to scholars and writers throughout the twentieth century. When considering the image of the southern man, it is important to keep in mind W.J.Cas h, a writer and southern ethnographer in the early twentieth century. In his 1941 book, The Mind of the South he discusses varied characteristics of the southern male, and desc ribes a stereotype that he dubs a Â“helluva
3fella.Â” CashÂ’s Â“helluva fellaÂ” was largel y removed from the modernity of the early twentieth century, and was independent, hard working, hard drinking, simple, but ready to fight at all times. More recently, contemporary scholars have examined the southern male identity. Ted Ownby builds on CashÂ’s description by addi ng other characteris tics that he says apply to the image of a southern man in th e southern rock genre. Ownby argues that the characteristics all pertain to the differen ces between southern white males and women and blacks. First, he argues that southern white male s strive to be independent and not rely on others because to do so woul d put them in the position of slaves, women, or men with no character. Second, southern white males liv e with honor and have a desire to prove themselves within their communities, and are extremely sensitive to challenges. The concept of chivalry is important in this respect because southern white males see it as their duty to protect women. Th ird, Ownby asserts that an inhe rent characteristic in the southern male of the southern rock genre is racism. He argues that white men have long shown a desire to have power and contro l over black men, and black women. Finally, Ownby sees the concept of CashÂ’s helluva fell a relevant to the southern white male in southern rock, specifically the idea that violence is often necessary.1 1 Ted Ownby, Â“Freedom, Manhood, and the Male Trad ition in 1970s Southern Rock MusicÂ” in Haunted Bodies: Gender and Southern Texts, ed. Ann Goodwyn Jones and Susan V. Donaldson (Charlottesville, VA: Un iversity Press of Virginia, 1997), 370-371.
4 Although I agree that the image of the southern man had traditionally included many of these characteristics, I reject OwnbyÂ’s assertion that racism applies to the image of the southern male in southern rock. In fact in this thesis, I will argue that the southern rock movement was a cultural formation that so ught to bridge the racial gap and redefine the southern male identity to include racial and politically progressive qualities. Having lived and grown up in the South during the Ci vil Rights era, southe rn rock musicians played an important role in confronting a nd reconciling these very personal and bitter issues important to all southerners. As a cultural formation, sout hern rock musicians attempted to accomplish this via music. Although Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Allman Brothers Band are perhaps the most well-known southern rock bands, they were onl y the originators in a genre that spawned dozens of bands that followed in their footst eps. These bands expre ssed southern pride by emphasizing their regional identi ties, demonstrated racial tolerance, and lived the lifestyle of a rowdy, rebel, rock and rollers. Ba nds such as The Marshall Tucker Band, The Outlaws, Charlie Daniels Band, Blackfoot, Mo lly Hatchet, Black Oak Arkansas, Wet Willie, and 38 Special, can all be descri bed as southern rock bands As much as southern rock is a paradox, it is also a musical hybrid, as exemplified in the multi-genre classification of some bands. This concept is also discussed later in the thesis. Considered the originators of the southern rock genre, the primary bands of focus
5in this thesis will be Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Allman Brothers Band, with supplemental discussion of other southern rock bands when relevant. This thesis combines three personal inte rests: politics, history, and music. Based on interviews with southern rock musicians, scholarly critique of existing literature on the subject, biographical informati on, and analysis of the music, this thesis explores the relationships between race, poli tics, and southern rock. Southe rn rock music is inherently political in that it confronts social and racial issues. In a more literal context, southern rock is political in that The Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Marshall Tucker Band campaigned on behalf of fello w southerner Jimmy Carter during the 1976 presidential election.
6Chapter One Genre of Southern Rock Before an analysis of southern rock as a cultural formation can occur, it is necessary to discuss and define the Â“genr eÂ” of southern rock music. However, the concept of genre is itself more complex than simply a label or a category. Modern approaches to the idea of genre have shifte d from classification of categories towards a fluid, flexible concept that takes into acc ount social and histor ical contexts, the relationship between performer and audience, and is not defined solely by analysis of stylistic features.2 Genre, therefore, becomes more than style or form; it is the product of historical and social factors, and is Â“dependent for its de finition on context, function, and community validation and not simply on formal and technical regulations.Â”3 Using this approach, we can discuss the genre of southern rock music not only as a style of 1970s American rock music, but al so as a product of historical and cultural intersections and interactions. The genre of southe rn rock is distinguishable by the historical era in which it rose to prominen ceÂ— the post civil-rights era of the 1960s and 1970s. This was a time of great strife in the South, and resulted in the creation of the 2 Jim Samson, Â“Genre.Â” In Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/ subscriber/article/grove/music/ 40599 (accessed Ja nuary 19, 2009); Charles Hamm, Â“Genre, Performance, and Id eology in the Early Songs of Irving Berlin Â” in Popular Music Vol. 13. No.2. (May, 1994): 144. 3 Hamm, 144.
7genre of southern rock by, a nd largely for, southern white men as a renewing source of southern pride. By analyzing the historical and social c ontext in which a spec ific genre of music was produced, we are able to identify severa l important aspects about the genreÂ— for instance, for what reason did the genre originate?; for whom and by whom was it created?; what was the purpose of the partic ular genre?; and, how well did it serve its purpose? This method, when applied to the genre of southern rock music of the 1970s, provides an interesting assessmen t of the context, purpose, and goals of the southern rock movement. Southern rock bands attempted to re define southern white male identity in the post-civil rights South by demonstrating raci ally and politically progressive ideals. To explain why and how southern rock bands did this, it is most useful to identify southern rock musicians as a cultural forma tion that demonstrated racially tolerant and politically liberal views through the cultural fo rm of music. This idea is discussed in detail in chapter two. Musical genres and labels have histori cally been used by the music industry as marketing tools, intended to promote sp ecific performers to specific audiences.4 This is also true of southern rock music. Although the origins of the term Â“southern rockÂ” are 4 Robert Wasler, Â“ The Rock and Roll Era Â” in The Cambridge History of American Music ed. David Nicholls (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 347.
8unknown, it was a style of music that became i nherently linked to southern culture and southern identity because of both the hybridist style of the music, as well as the use of southern imagery in southern rock. Within the larger context of popular music, southern rock would best be described stylistically as a subgenre of American rock mu sic, infused with the blues, rockabilly, and country forms of music that are indigenous to the South. Southern rock bands appeared on the popular music landscape in the early 1970 s, shortly after the psychedelic, flowerpowered era of the 1960s. But unlike many popular bands of the 1960s (Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, or any bands from the British Invasion, for example), southern rock bands returned to the roots of Â‘rock-and-rollÂ’ by bringing elements of black, rural, southern culture into white, suburban, mainstream American society. Southern rock continues the Â‘rock-and-rollÂ’ tradition brought forth by Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and ot hers, who combined elements of rhythm and blues, rockabilly, and country music to crea te a musical style unique to the South. Record companies marketed southern rock bands with Â“a self-conscious southernessÂ” not yet s een in American music.5 Through songs like Â“Sweet Home AlabamaÂ”( Lynyrd Skynyrd ), Â“Statesboro BluesÂ” ( The Allman Brothers Band ), Â“The SouthÂ’s Gonna Do It, AgainÂ” ( Charlie Daniels Band ), Â“Dixie RockÂ” ( Wet Willie ), and 5 Bill C. Malone and David Stricklin, Southern Music/American Music (Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 2003), 113.
9Â“Carolina DreamsÂ” ( Marshall Tucker Band ), southern rock ba nds proudly sang about, and identified with, southern places. Bands also used imagery to display southern pride, the most obvious example being the use of the Confederate flag, which is discussed later in this thesis. Furthermore, bands considered a part of the southern ro ck genre were signed to either Capricorn Records, or MCAÂ’s Sounds of the South. Th ese record companies were based in the South, and actively sought bands which c ould be marketed as southern rock. Additionally, southern rock bands shared similar musical styles and influences. For instance, Ronnie Van Zant, and Duane a nd Gregg Allman among others, have praised blues musicians like Muddy Waters and BB King, and have openl y acknowledged the influence of the blues on southern rock, as we ll as country musical influences, like Merle Haggard. As the first southern rock band, The A llman Brothers Band has been credited by music journalist Chet Flippo for Â“retur ning a sense of worth to the South.Â”6 In the words of Rick Hirsch, guitarist for the band Wet Willie, Â“southern rock was defined by Duane Allman and the Allman Brothers Band. Everyone who followed was pretty much emulating or at the very least inspired by the AllmansÂ…The Allman's template became formulaic for bands coming up around the Sout h eventually. It did morph into country 6 Malone, 114.
10rock and a lot of what you hear out of Nas hville now is certainly derivative of that formula.Â”7 Structurally, southern rock bands followe d the instrumental format of The Allman Brothers Band, usually consisting of two or th ree guitarists, two drum mers, a bassist, and a keyboardist. This format was in large part due to Duane AllmanÂ’s fascination with the way James Brown utilized two drummers in or der to achieve a stronger rhythm section, and Allman sought to emulate this in The Allman Brothers Band.8 Stylistically, southern rock music is centered on a strong rhythm s ection, usually featuring a guitar (or several) and a piano/organ, with up-tempo hooks, and ha rmonic instrumentati on. Originating from The Allman Brothers Band, the southern rock sound is most notable for dueling harmonic multi-instrument solos, as demonstrated in songs like Â“RamblinÂ’ Man,Â” and Â“Jessica,Â” but also used by other bands such as Wet Willie and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Some in the southern rock community were not particularly fond of the term Â“southern rockÂ” because of the Â‘redneck Â’ connotations associated with it.9 Some southern rock musicians shunned the label, arguing, as R onnie Van Zant did, that they were a rock band that just happened to be from the South.10 7 Rick Hirsch, email message to the author, March 11, 2009. 8 Scott Freeman, Midnight Riders: The Story of the Allman Brothers Band (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1995), 37. 9 Marley Brant, Southern Rockers: The Roots and Legacy of Southern Rock (New York: Billboard Books, 1999), 22-23. 10Gene Odom, Lynyrd SkynyrdRemembering the Free Birds of Southern Rock (NewYork: Broadway Books, 2002), 106.
11 Interestingly, the southern rock brand originated with the establishment of Phil WaldenÂ’s Capricorn Records in Macon, Ge orgia. Founded in 1969, Capricorn Records was an Atlantic Records subsidiary that focused on producing sout hern musical talent, much like Motown in Detroit, or Stax Record s in Memphis. Walden was frustrated by the failure of the South to hold onto its rock mu sicians, and established Capricorn Records in Macon, as a means to make use of the rich mu sical traditions of th e South, as well as to keep many musicians based in the South.11 Capricorn Records was the first company to capitalize on what would be known as southe rn rock by actively s eeking out southern bands, recording them in the South, and ma rketing the southern image of the bands.12 11 Malone, 112. 12 Brant, 47-59.
12Chapter Two Southern Rock Bands as a Cultural Formation In The Sociology of Culture social theorist Raymond Williams discusses the concept of cultural formations. Williams uses the term to describe groups of artists that share a common style and background that work together towards common artistic or political goals.13 Williams identifies the artistic product of these formations as cultural forms. Williams writes Â“formations of the more modern kinds may be seen to occur, typically, at points of transiti on and intersection within a co mplex social history, but the individuals who at once compose the forma tions and are composed by them have a further complex range of diverse positions, inte rests, and influences, some of which are resolved (if at only times temporarily) by th e formations, others of which remain as internal differences, as tensions, and ofte n as the grounds for subsequent divergences, breakaways, breakups, and further attempted formations.Â”14 This description is applicable to the cultu ral formation of southern rock bands, or what has been referred to as the southern rock movement. Southern rock bands were a cultural formation that demonstrated racially and politically progr essive views via the 13Dan Belgrad, Â“Theories and Methods: Interpretative Strategies in Literary and Cultural StudiesÂ” (working paper, Department of American Studies, University of South Florida, Tampa. 2008), 4.14Raymond Williams, The Sociology of Culture (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1981), 85-86.
13cultural form of southern rock music. The southern rock era occu rred at a point of transition and intersection within the complex so cial history of the South, that is, the post civil rights era of the late 1960Â’ s/ early 1970Â’s. In order to e xplicate the idea of southern rock being a cultural formation, it is importa nt to understand the pol itical history of the South, as well as the dilemma of the southern white male in the post-civil rights South. Throughout the 20th century, the battle for civil rights was largely waged in the South and exposed many of the unfavorable and unfortunate char acteristics of the traditional SouthÂ— fervent racism, intolerance, resistance to change, and contempt for the federal government. Southerners born in the 1940Â’s and 1950Â’s grew up in the midst of the Civil Rights battle, and this included those who would go on to establish the genre of southern rock. In the early twentieth century, racism a nd discrimination were accepted aspects of life in the South. But after Wo rld War II, the struggle for ci vil rights accelerated, and led to the Supreme CourtÂ’s landmark 1954 decision, Brown v. Board of Education which desegregated public schools. The civil ri ghts movement, led by groups like the NAACP, the Congress of Racial Equality, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, rapidly gained moment um, while trying to advance a non-violent agenda to secure prot ection of civil rights for blacks, and end discrimination in the Jim Crow South. These groups advocated on behalf of civil rights by staging protests and demonstrations throughout the South. Although many of the
14protests were intended to be peaceful demonstrations, protesters were met with violence from many whites who opposed the cause. After the assassination of President Ke nnedy, President Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which has b een described as Â“the most sweeping affirmation of civil rights ever made by a U.S CongressÂ”.15 The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a landmark piece of legislation that essentially outlawed se gregation in public facilities. Over the next several years, mo re civil rights legisla tion was passed, including the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Civil Rights Act of 1968. As the sixties grew into the seventies, racial issues mi grated from the South to the North, while many southerners adjusted to th e implementation of the Civil Rights Acts. Civil rights issues, such as busing as a m eans to desegregate public schools, became a part of the national debate, as other states in the Union adapted to the new civil rights laws.16 The significant achievements with respec t to civil rights legislation forever changed the social fabric of the South. These events had an important role in the formation of southern rock. The tremendous political and cultural shift that occurred because of the civil rights movement forced many in the South to reexamine thei r traditions and regional identities. Although those in the South had a strong sense of regional pride, the civil rights movement exposed 15 Dewey Grantham, The South in Modern AmericaA Region at Odds (New York: Harper Collins, 1994), 238. 16 Jason Sokol, There Goes my Everything: White Southern ers in the Age of Civil Rights,1945-1975 (New York: Vintage Press, 2007), 237.
15many of the unfavorable characteristics of the South, forcing southerners to reexamine what it meant to be a Â“southerner.Â” As thos e in the South reexamined their southern identities, southern rock bands emerged a nd offered a way to embrace southern pride, while rejecting traditional racist views. Living in poor, interracial neighborhoods as many of them did, southern rock musicians largely grew up around the bitter and entrenched racism that was so prevalent in the South.17 However, because of this, as youngsters, many southern rock musicians were exposed to various elements of black culture, including rhythm and blues music. Perhaps the empathy towards blacks is al so in part because Southern rock musicians have felt the cold chill of pr ejudice and discrimination themselves, though certainly nothing comparable to that e xperienced by blacks. As teenagers and young adults, the members of Lynyrd Skynyrd and Th e Allman Brothers Band were perceived as hippies and encountered intolerance in th e conservative South because of their long hair, even to the extent of being assa ulted and harassed by other southern whites.18 Similarly, Rick Hirsch from Wet Wil lie is Jewish and has experienced discrimination as a result. Â“(As a Jew, I felt) the direct effect of bias and prejudice on more than one occasion. It only served to increase my awareness and to make me 17 (For information on southern rock musicians growing up poor and/or in interracial neighborhoods, see Ballinger, Lynyrd Skynyrd 2-6; Odom, 113; Freeman, 4-7.) 18 Odom, 40; Freeman, 96.
16stronger in the end, and in fact enabled me to act on my great intere st in the music that had been and was being created by black musicians,Â” said Hirsch.19 The image and reputation of the South, and of course, southern white males, had been scarred and diminished because of the S outhÂ’s resistance to civil rights. According to historian Ted Ownby, whites of the southern rock genre had grown up hearing a great deal of criticism about the South, since ma ny whites had not endur ed the civil rights movement with much dignity.20 Arguably, much of this was deserved, although southerners will insist they were resisting government intrusion on the southern way of life, and not resisting Civil Rights, per se. In conclusion, the post-civil rights era was a time of change in the United States, but especially in the South, and southern white males found themselves in a chaotic period as they searched for pe rsonal and region al identities.21 In response to the changing times, a new generation of southern white males, who had grown up in interracial neighborhoods, and whose musical style wa s heavily influenced by blues music, appeared on the national scene as the southe rn rock movement, and offered a way for southern white men to be racially progressi ve and still maintain pride for southern heritage through the cultu ral form of music. 19 Rick Hirsch, email message to the author, March 11, 2009. 20 Ownby, 370. 21J. Michael Butler, Â“Â‘Luther King wa s a Good OleÂ’ BoyÂ’: The Southern Rock Movement and White Male Identity in the Post-Civil Rights South,Â” Popular Music and Society (Summer 2003): 43.
17 This idea may seem contradictory, especi ally when considering the paradox of being racially progressive with the use of Confederate imagery, both of which are characteristics of southern rock music. Howe ver, as discussed in the following chapter, southern rock bands, as a cultural formati on, acknowledged the shameful history of the South and tried to move forward racially, while still having pride in that which was honorable about the South.
18Chapter Three Southern Rock Music as a Cultural Form As a cultural formation, southern rock musicians demonstrated racially progressive views through the cultural form of music. This was done in several ways, the most obvious being the open acknowledgement of black musical influences in southern rock. This is demonstrated most commonly by southern rock bands recording old blues songs, what is known in the music busin ess as Â“coveringÂ” a song. Although most southern rock bands covered blues songs at some point, the Allman Brothers Band had a string of recordings that intr oduced a new generation of southern rock fans to traditional black blues music. On their debut self-titled album in 1969, the Allman Brothers Band included a version of Muddy WatersÂ’ Â“Trouble No More,Â” and followed that with a version of Willie DixonÂ’s Â“Hoochie Coochie ManÂ” on their second album, Idelwild South The Allman Brothers took the unusual step of rel easing their third album as a live recording called Live at Fillmore East On this album, the band includ ed four live covers of blues songs: Â“Statesboro BluesÂ” by Blind Willie McTell; Â“Done Somebody WrongÂ” by Elmore James; Â“Stormy MondayÂ” by T-Bone Walk er; and Â“You DonÂ’t Love MeÂ” by Willie Cobbs. (In the 1990s, the compact disc release of this album included even more blues covers not previously released on the album.)
19 This trend would continue with subsequent albums. The release of Eat a Peach in 1972 included live covers of Elmore JamesÂ’s Â“One Way OutÂ” and WatersÂ’s Â“Trouble No More.Â” 1976Â’s Win, Lose, or Draw album included a cover of another Muddy Waters tune called Â“CanÂ’t Lose What You Never Had.Â” Later albums included live versions of blues cover songs. For example, featured on the 1988 Duane Allman Anthology is an early recording by The Hourglass ( the band that became The Allman Brothers Band), simply titled Â“BB King Medley,Â” in whic h Duane and Gregg Allman honored the legendary blues man by recording a seven-minut e medley of Â“Sweet Little Angel/ItÂ’s My Own Fault/How Blue Can You Get.Â” Eventually, the Allman Brothers Band experienced a series of band breakups and personnel change s in the late 1970s a nd Â‘80Â’s, and did not record any more blue s covers until 1991Â’s Shades of Two Worlds which included Robert JohnsonÂ’s Â“Come On in My Kitchen.Â” Other southern rock bands honored bl ack musicians by covering their songs, although nowhere near the extent of The A llman Brothers Band. The Marshall Tucker Band, whose name was an homage to a black pi ano tuner who owned the rehearsal hall in which the band practiced, reco rded Memphis SlimÂ’s Â“Everyday I Have the BluesÂ” on their 1974 album Where We All Belong, a song made popular by BB King. Charlie Daniels recorded Stick McGheeÂ’s Â“Drinki nÂ’ Wine, Spo-Dee-O-DeeÂ” on his 1972 album Te John, Grease and Wolfman. Daniels also featured BB KingÂ’ s Â“The Thrill is GoneÂ” on the live recording of the 1976 Volunteer Jam, an annual festival concert featuring a
20variety of musicians and bands. Blackfoot, the only southern rock band that was led by a Native AmericanRicky Medlocke, recorded Elmore JamesÂ’s Â“RollinÂ’ and TumblinÂ” on their 1982 live album Highway Song Live. In 1981, Molly Hatchet recorded Little RichardÂ’s Â“Long Tall SallyÂ” on the Take No Prisoners album. Lynyrd Skynyrd recorded a version of Robert JohnsonÂ’s Â“C rossroadsÂ” on their 1976 live album One More for the Road. Although Â“CrossroadsÂ” was the only blues song covered by Lynyrd Skynyrd, the band referenced blues musician Son House in the song Â“Swamp MusicÂ” on their second album, Second Helping Wet Willie paid homage to black musical influences by covering songs like Otis ReddingÂ’s Â“Shout Bamalama,Â” Little RichardÂ’ s Â“Keep A Knockin,Â’Â” Elmore JamesÂ’s Â“It Hurts Me Too,Â” and Little MiltonÂ’s Â“Grits ai nÂ’t Groceries,Â” which were featured on the bandÂ’s second album Wet Willie II and Arthur CrudupÂ’s Â“Tha t All Right,Â” which was featured on the bandÂ’s third album, Dripping Wet Live .22 It is important to mention that southern rock bands were certainly not the first white musicians to record Â“blackÂ” music. From Elvis PresleyÂ’s early recordings of Â“Big MamaÂ” ThorntonÂ’s Â“Hound DogÂ” to Pat BooneÂ’s recording of Little RichardÂ’s Â“Tutti Frutti,Â” the white appropriation of Â“blackÂ” mu sic has been the subject of much scholarly debate. Some scholars, like Nelson George in The Death of Rhythm and Blues have suggested that white musicians essentially Â“stealÂ” black music, while other scholars, like 22 Butler, 50.
21Gilbert Rodman in his article A Hero to Most?: Elvis, My th, and the Politics of Race, argue that white musicians, specifically El vis Presley, transformed Â“the mainstream pop music scene [which was] dominated by the wh ite-bread sounds of Perry Como and Frank Sinatra into a more integrated and dive rse beast than it had ever been before,Â” thereby facilitating the rise and acceptance of black musicians into mainstream popular music.23 In this thesis, I am expanding Rodman Â’s argument to include the idea that southern rock bands continued integration of popular music by introducing black music to white audiences. White southern rock musi cians were less interested in trying to reproduce black music in order to sell records to white audiences, and more interested in paying homage to these blues musicians, and in fact, introducing white audiences to these blues musicians. Whereas Pat Boone and Elvis Presley releas ed their versions of Â“blackÂ” songs at the same time the originals were released (Boone recorded Â“Tutti FruttiÂ” and Â“Long Tall SallyÂ” the same year that Little Richard recorded themÂ— 1956; PresleyÂ’s version of Â“Hound DogÂ” was released in 1956, three years after Â“Big MamaÂ” ThorntonÂ’s), southern rock bands recorded blues songs that they had grown up listening to, and were years, if not decades, old. The Allman Brothers Band recorded Â“Statesboro BluesÂ” in 1971, over 23Gilbert Rodman,Â“A Hero to Most?: Elvis, Myth, and the Politics of Race,Â” Cultural Studies (October 1994): 473.
22forty years after it was written by Â“BlindÂ” Willie McTell; Lynyrd Skynyrd recorded Â“CrossroadsÂ” in 1976, forty years after it wa s recorded by blues legend Robert Johnson. Also, southern rock bands were different than Boone or Presley because they openly, and commonly, acknowledged the influe nce of these blues musicians on their music, and would identify the blues musi cians who wrote the songs which they performed. For instance, on vari ous live recordings including Live at Fillmore East The Allman Brothers Band introduced blues songs by identifying the songwriter (e.g. Â“This next song is an old Muddy Waters tuneÂ”). In the 1960s, bands from the United Ki ngdom, like Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, and Cream were also heavily influenced by American blues musicians and paid homage by covering blues songs. Southern rock bands were different, however, because they grew up in the same region as their blues in fluences, and witnessed firsthand the racism of the South. According to Jerry Wexler, former President of Atlantic Records, Â“southern rock bands were saturated in blues because th ey didnÂ’t have to learn their blues by buying a Barbecue Bob record at a second-hand counter on Fleet Street (in London). They lived the life. They were the low end of AmericaÂ’s ag rarian society, just like the blacks were. They were some poor boys. They did the same things that the blacks did. They heard the exultation, the frenzy of the black church, di rectly in the church. Not off the records.Â”24 24 Brant, 23.
23 As youngsters, Gregg and Duane Allman ha d black friends, played in interracial bands, and immersed themselves in blues musi c, even as they were questioned by their mother for Â“playing with those niggers.Â”25 As The Allman Brothers Band, they did the same thing. Duane Allman worked as a sess ion guitarist at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and had worked with legend ary black musicians like Aretha Franklin, Wilson Picket, John Lee Hooker, and King Cur tis, among others. At Fame Studios he met Jai Johnny Johnson, a black percussionist, w ho would become the drummer for The Allman Brothers Band.26 With Johnson on drums, The Allman Br others Band symbolized the southern male identity that the southern rock moveme nt would attempt to redefine to include racially progressive ideals. In 1973, after th e death of original bassist Barry Oakley, Lamar Williams was tapped to replace Oakl ey, making him the second African-American member of the preeminent southern rock band at the time.27 As mentioned before, southern rock bands were influenced in large part by blues music and black musicians. However, it is worth noting that there was perhaps no musical influence more instrumental to Th e Allman Brothers Band than Miles Davis. DavisÂ’s eminent jazz album, Kind of Blue, has been credited for being a major influence on the improvisational style of The Allman Br others Band, and DavisÂ’s (as well as John 25 Freeman, 10. 26 Brant, 42. 27 Freeman, 143.
24ColtraneÂ’s) influence on Duane Allman and Dickey Betts is evident in their long improvisational solos.28 According to Dickey Betts, Â“a lot of our guitar arrangement ideas come from the way (Miles Davis and John Coltrane) played their horns together.Â”29 Betts paid homage to Davis with the instrumental Â“In Memo ry of Elizabeth Reed,Â” a song with a sophisticated blend of intricat e melodies and furious jamming.30 As a blueprint for the song, Betts used DavisÂ’s Â“All BluesÂ” from his jazz masterpiece Kind of Blue which, incidentally, has been identified as Duane AllmanÂ’s favorite song.31 On the Brothers and Sisters album insert, a photo appeared in which various multi-racial friends and family members of the band sat on a back porch. Although the band was experiencing inner-turmoil because of the usual stress that accompanies a sudden rise to fame and success, the photo in sert demonstrated the bandÂ’s convictions of racial equality. Similarly, the band Wet Willie from Mobile, Alabama, included a photo of guitarist Ricky Hirsch holding a young, African-American boy on the back of their second album Wet Willie II, and a picture of Reverend Pe arly Brown, a blind AfricanAmerican blues guitarist on their third album, Keep on SmilinÂ’. 32 28 Randy Poe, Skydog: The Duane Allman Story (Milwaukee: Backbeat Books, 2008), 183-191. 29 Paul Wells, Â“The Last Rebel: Southern Rock and Nostalgic ContinuitiesÂ” in Dixie Debates: Perspectives on Southern Culture, ed. Richard King and Helen Taylor (New York: New York University Press, 1995), 122. 30 Freeman, 73. 31 Freeman, 63. 32 Butler, 51.
25 The roots of Wet Willie are steeped in African-American influenced rhythm and blues, gospel, and blues music. Band founders Jimmy and Jack Hall were brothers who sang at the Baptist church they attended in Mobile, Alabama, and learned to play the harmonica by listening to bluesmen Jimmy Reed, Little Walter, and Slim Harpo.33 Guitarist Rick Hirsch grew up listening to musicians such as Muddy Waters, Elmore James, BB King, and HowlinÂ’ Wolf, and acknowledges that, as a young adult, his musical style was heavily influenced by the likes of Ray Charles, Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye and James Brown.34 Like other southern rock bands, Wet Willie endorsed racial equality by paying homage to the bl ack musical influences that inspired them. Whereas The Allman Brothers Band a nd Lynyrd Skynyrd were influenced by blues music, Wet Willie was heavily influen ced by another genre of black musicÂ— funk. Guitarist Rick Hirsch described Wet Willie as a Â“funk and rollÂ” band, a fitting description of the band. This is also evident when looking at th e Â“blackÂ” songs Wet Willie chose to cover, and the ways in which they recorded them. Â“Wet Willie was different in that we produced much rawer versions of these covers than say Elvis or Pat Boone,Â” according to Hirsch. Â“We were pretty rock and roll, 33 Brant, 81. 34 Rick Hirsch, email message to author, March 11, 2009.
26and if you listen to the way we did Â“That's Alright, MamaÂ” on Drippin' Wet it becomes quite apparent quickly.Â” 35 Although Wet Willie is by all accounts a southern rock band, their music incorporates elements of funk, and rhythm and blues more than any other band in the genre. Songs like Â“Baby Fat,Â” Â“Keep on SmilinÂ’, Â” Â“Airport,Â” Â“Country Side of Life,Â” and Â“Lucy Was in Trouble,Â” could easily be categ orized with other 1970s funk songs from bands like Sly and the Family Stone or The Ohio Players. However, Wet Willie did not neglect their southern roots, and sang about the South in Â“Dixie Rock.Â” In the song, Jimmy Hall proclaims So gimme some nasty pickin Some blues on a black guitar DonÂ’t you dig that Dixie, lady? No matter who you are You can hear me down in Alabama WeÂ’re playing down in Tennessee From Georgia to Louisiana, TheyÂ’re dancing to the boogie beat Of that Dixie rock and that Dixie Roll Got a real good beat and a whole lotta soul In the song, Hall acknowledges the influe nce of black music on those in the southern rock genre, or as he calls it Â“Dixie Rock.Â” By as king for Â“some nasty pickinÂ’, some blues on a black guitar,Â” and then declar ing that Dixie rock has Â“a real good beat and a whole lotta soul,Â” Hall is recognizing the contribution of black music in southern rock. But he is also recogni zing that the black influence on southern rock is evident in the musicÂ— from the guitar notes of the minor pentatonic scale (als o referred to as the blues 35 Rick Hirsch, email message to author, March 11, 2009.
27scale), to the howling, raspy vocals of Gregg A llman, the influence of black music can be heard in southern rock music. This type of music, which Hall refers to as Â“Dixie Rock,Â” can be heard throughout the South, and in the typical southern rock fashion, Hall specifically identifies these southern places in the song. In addition to covering African-Ameri can composed songs, recognizing the contribution of black music on the South in their songs, and including blacks on the front and back covers of their LP s, Wet Willie, like The Allm an Brothers Band, was an interracial band Â—backup singer Ella Brown was black, as was drummer T.K. Lively, who joined the band in 1978. Southern rock bands attempted to bridge the racial gap of the South by not only having interracial bands, but by touring and performing with African-American musicians. Lynyrd Skynyrd burst onto the s cene in 1973 with the re lease of their first album, Pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd and soon after toured as an opening act for a variety of blues musicians, includin g Dr John, BB King, John Mayall, and Muddy Waters.36 The members of Lynyrd Skynyrd were childhood friends who grew up in the interracial neighborhoods of Jacksonville, Fl orida. They attended Robert E. Lee High School where they were harassed for their l ong hair by gym coach Leonard Skinner. As the band began considering a name change, someone at a concert mockingly yelled out 36 Odom, 205.
28the name of Coach Skinner, and the audien ce reacted positively to it, hence giving the band their new name. Unlike The Allman Brothers or Wet Willie, Lynyrd Skynyrd was not a racially diverse band and did not incl ude blues cover songs on any of their studio albums. That is not to say, however, that they were not influenced by the blues. Blues music was a tremendous influe nce on the original songs of Lynyrd Skynyrd. The first song on their debut album Pronounced Â“I AinÂ’t The OneÂ” is an upbeat song, centered around a funky guitar riff, and is structurally a varia tion on the common IIV-V pattern in twelve-bar-blu es, but also features The blues influence is also eviden t in Lynyrd SkynyrdÂ’s second album Second Helping In addition to the J.J. Cale song Â“Call Me the Breeze,Â” which follows the I-IV-V structure of other 12 bar blues, Second Helping features another blue s song, an original composition called Â“The Ballad of Curtis Lowe.Â” In the song, which incorporates a very blues-sounding slide guitar, Van Zant tells th e story of an aged black man who owned a country store, and would pay money to the tenyear-old narrator for the return of glass bottles. The essence of the song, however, is in the chorus: Play me a song Curtis Loew, Curtis Loew I got your drinking money, tune up your dobro People said he was useless, them people are the fools 'Cause Curtis Loew was the finest picker to ever play the blues The chorus of the song acknowledges the hate and discrimination felt by blacks in the South. Although there was no actual Curtis Lowe, the protagonist in the song was described as Â“useless,Â” which is reminiscent of hateful descriptions of blacks by racist
29whites in the South. The young narrator, as represented by Van Zant, called LoweÂ’s detractors (presumably whites) Â“foolsÂ” for not recognizing the talent of Â“the finest picker to ever play the blues.Â” This is an example not only of the admiration that southern rock musicians felt towards the black musicians w ho were important influences in southern rock, but also an example of the admiration extended towards blacks with whom southern rock musicians had personal relationships. Van Zant seems to be making the point th at those who have i ll-feelings towards blacks are missing something because they donÂ’t recognize the genuine talent and goodwill in even the unlikeliest of characters. Also, he makes the point that this man, who was thought so little of by others, was an influe ntial and inspiring fi gure in the young life of the musician to whom the audience is listeni ng. In this respect, Van Zant is pointing out the paradox, or perhaps hypocrisy, in being a fan of southern rock music and being a racist. Conversely, Van Zant himself may be rein forcing racial stereotypes with his sentimentalization of Curtis Lowe. In the s ong, Lowe is presented as a poor, black man, who relies on the young narrator for his Â“drinki ng money.Â” Van Zant attempts to show how Lowe made a positive impact in the life of the young narrator, yet he portrays Lowe in an unflattering light, declaring in the song that when Lowe Â“l ost his life, that was all he had to lose.Â” Additionally, Van Zant claims th at Lowe Â“lived a lifetime playing the black manÂ’s blues.Â” By describing Lowe in this way, Van Zant may be reinforcing racial
30stereotypes through his sentimentalization of a poor, old black man whose hard life amounted only to his importance to a young white child. Although it is unknown if this was Van ZantÂ’s intent, this description of Lowe demonstrates the complexities and ambiguities when dealing with southern race relations. It is important to note, however, that Curtis Lowe was not an actual person, but a composite of several people that had influe nced Ronnie Van Zant, a fact missed by other scholars examining this song.37 Curtis Lowe is a composite of several influential people important to Van Zant, including, legenda ry blues icons Robert Johnson, and Muddy Waters, family friend Shorty Medlock, a nd neighborhood store owner Claude Hamner.38 The song was most heavily influenced, however, by Hamner, who owned ClaudeÂ’s Midway Grocery in the Jacksonv ille neighborhood in which Van Zant grew up. As a child, Van Zant did odd jobs around the st ore, from sorting bo ttles to sweeping the floor, and other various tasks asked of him. Hamner played guita r and taught the young Van Zant some guitar chords. As stated by Gene Odom, Â“Ronnie was ve ry much aware that many talented blues artists had never had the opportunities that he had, simply because there were black. And 37 (Scholars and writers on the subject of Â“The Ballad of Curtis LoweÂ” have mist akenly argued that Lowe was actual person; See Ownby, 383; Butler, 52-53.) 38 Odom, 111; Ballinger, 84-85.
31so, to honor them all, along with the men he knew, Ronnie made Â‘CurtisÂ’ an old black man with white curly hair.Â”39 According to scholar Michael Butler, the inclusion of the song on the album Second Helping Â“demonstrates that Skynyrd endorsed a form of racial integration and black acceptance that deviated from traditiona l Southern attitudes, which contributed to and reflected the perception of a changing concept of wh ite masculinity in the 1970s South.Â”40 Â“The Ballad of Curtis LoweÂ” was one of several southern rock songs about African-Americans. Some southern rock ba nds were even more specific in their references to blacks in their music, and wrot e tribute songs to an African-American they much revered Â— Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. Southern rock bands who composed, recorded and released tributes to the slain ci vil rights leader risked backlash and protests, not to mention poor record sales and poor c oncert attendance, from fans who may not have been as empathetic to the civil rights cause. In Â“You CanÂ’t Keep a Good Man Down,Â” Black Oak Arkansas, a southern rock band from, interestingly enough, Black Oak, Ar kansas, praised King as a Â“good olÂ’ boyÂ” that Â“gave people hope.Â” This song, featured on their 1977 release 10 Year Overnight 39 Odom, 113. 40 Butler, 53.
32Success praises KingÂ’s achievements and dream s, and encourages the audience to continue to carry the torch: Luther King was a good olÂ’ boy, raised in poverty CouldnÂ’t be broke or even provo ked, made rock and roll history Gave the people hope with a good full scope of freedom been denied Politicians know that freedom grows, and because of that he died. By describing King as Â“a good olÂ’ boy,Â” lead singer Jim Â“DandyÂ” Mangrum is imposing on King a term of endearment usually reserved for southern white men. Mangrum is identifying King as someone w ho is Â‘one of usÂ’Â— he was a good olÂ’ boy who was raised, like many southerners, in poverty. The lyric is significant. It demonstrates how, as a cultural formation, so uthern rock bands displayed progressive racial views in the post civil-rights South through music. The song was not merely an acknowledgement of an influential African-A merican in the life of a southern rock musician as was Â“The Ballad of Curtis Low eÂ”Â—it was a tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr., the man who became the face of the civil right s movement. King was not a person to whom many white southerners referred affectionately as Â“a good olÂ’ boy,Â” and Mangrum risked alienating many white southe rn rock fans by openly proclaiming this about King. Mangrum goes on to credit King for making rock and roll history. This assertion, however, is not offered with any explanation of how exactly King did this, which leaves room for listener interpretati on. One possibility is that Mangrum is acknowledging the
33impact of the civil rights movement on the ge nre of southern rock since KingÂ’s influence and inspiration was felt by the southern rock musicians who had grown up in the wake of the civil rights movement. Or perhaps more generally, Mangrum may have meant that KingÂ’s impact, and that of the civil rights movement, was felt throughout various genres of music and/or pop culture. In the second verse of the song, Mangrum calls on listeners to carry on the Â“flame of hopeÂ” even through unbeatable odds: I feel like singing to you this song for all the living underdogs The flame of hope must carry on even against unbeatable odds Mangrum makes it clear in the first line of this verse that he is on the side of the Â‘living underdogsÂ” who are presumably those fighting on behalf of civil rights. By calling on those who are Â“livi ngÂ” to continue the fight, Mangrum subtly acknowledges the progress made in the struggle for civil ri ghts by those who are no longer living. His encouragement to keep fighting on even in the face of overwhelming challenges clearly shows his support of the civil rights movement, and thus is another example of how southern rock musicians advanced progressive racial ideologies th rough the cultural form of southern rock music. The Allman Brothers Band also recorded a song about Martin Luther King, Jr. titled Â“God Rest His Soul.Â” Th is tribute was composed early in the musical career of Gregg and Duane Allman, but was not released until 1989Â’s Dreams, an Allman Brothers
34Band box set compilation. Unlike Black Oak Arkansas, The Allman Brothers Band never mentions King by name. However, the reference is quite clear. In the song, Gregg Allman sings: A man lay dying in the streets, A thousand people fell down on their knees Any other day he would have been Preaching Reaching all the people there But Lord knows I can' t change what I saw I Say God Rest His Soul The Memphis battleground was red cause blood came pouring from his head Women and children fallin' down crying For the man they loved so well The morning sun will rise again w ith all the passions growing thin What we gonna do when war is come and weÂ’re dying Dying for the cause I know Although the songÂ’s only Â‘call to armsÂ’ is a warning that Â“their (presumably those fighting on behalf of civil ri ghts) patience is growing thi n,Â” the lyrics promise that Â“another day will rise again.Â” The songÂ’s refrai n admits that the narrator Â“canÂ’t change what I saw,Â” but asks that Â“God rests his soul .Â” The verses in the song describe the pain and horror on the day of KingÂ’s assassinati on, while the music of the song is a slow, funky shuffle reminiscent of early Motown. A lthough the structure of the song is not that of a typical blues progressi on, the influence of black music is obvious through Gregg AllmanÂ’s soulful, expressive voice that gives character to the song through his syncopated, improvisational vocal style, whic h, because of the minimal instrumentation of the song, is the essence of the song.
35 One of the great paradoxes in southern rock music is that southern rock bands play their blues influenced music, in (som etimes) interracial bands, while still using Confederate imagery to display their version of southern pride. For example, Black Oak Arkansas and Lynyrd Skynyrd both adorned th eir stages with Confederate flags and performed renditions of the southern anthem Â“DixieÂ” at their concerts. Furthermore, a poster for an Allman Brothers Band show at the Winterland concert in San Francisco included a picture of slaves and Confederate soldiers.41 Southern rock bands have stated that the use of Confederate imagery was meant to display their pride of the South, not an endorsement of racism. This notion, however, creates a muddled dichotomy between two mode s of southern identity, one which never fully gets resolved in southern rock music, or possibly even in white southern culture. As southerners tried to move forward from the racist tendencies of the past, the tension created by trying to integrate imagery and icons from the past into contemporary southern culture conveyed a sense of ambiguity and an elusiveness to recognize past transgressions. Yet this was something that southern rock bands attempted to do. By displaying the Confederate flag, and other si milar images, bands demonstrated southern pride, while simultaneously rejecting the raci sm, and dishonorable history, of the South. As a cultural formation, southern rock bands displayed liberal views on race and politics. However, these displays were not al ways received by the audience as bands had 41 Butler, 46.
36intended. Audiences misconstrued the use of th e Confederate flag as an endorsement of the racial views of the Conf ederacy, causing Lynyrd Skynyrd to quit using the flag at its concerts, and to stop playi ng Â“DixieÂ” as a show opener.42 According to Lynyrd Skynyrd, the idea of associating themselves with th is imagery came not primarily from them, but from MCA Records as a way to market and promote the band.43 Southern rock bands, however, were obviously complic it in the record companiesÂ’ strategic marketing of Confederate imagery. The tension between these two modes of southern identity affected even the very musicians central to the southern rock move ment. While some regarded the Confederate flag as a symbol of southern pride and heritage, others recogn ized that it was a polarizing reminder of the SouthÂ’s shameful past. Â“I hated the fact that they ran the Star s and Bars, the rebel flag, behind everything that Lynyrd Skynyrd did,Â” said Skynyrd drum mer Artimus Pyle. Â“They donÂ’t know that all that was MCA trying to sell a southern ro ck band and figured that the Confederate flag would be the way to go. People see the Confed erate flag and hear the music and think that we hate black pe opleÂ…ThatÂ’s not true.Â”44 Others saw the use of the flag differently. According to Ronnie Van Zant, Â“as far as the Confederate flag is concerned, weÂ’ve 42 Odom, 109. 43 Odom, 106; Ballinger, 58. 44 Ballinger, 58.
37carried that with us for a long time before we did anything; itÂ’s a pa rt of us. WeÂ’re from the South, but we are not bigots.Â”45 In conclusion, southern rock bands de monstrated racially progressive views through the cultural form of music by openly acknowledging the influence of black musicians in southern rock music. However, the use of confederate imagery by southern rock bands as a means of displaying southern pride created a paradox that is even more muddled when considering the politically progr essive views of southern rock bands. As discussed in the following chapter, southern rock bands displayed progressive political views in music and in action by working on be half of the 1976 Democratic presidential candidate. 45 Ballinger, 59.
38Chapter Four The Politics of Southern Rock As a cultural formation, southern rock ba nds not only demonstrated progressive racial views, they also dem onstrated progressive political views through the lyrics and subjects of their songs, as well as by activ ely participating in the 1976 presidential campaign of Jimmy Carter. The cultural form of southern rock music is political in that many songs addressed social issues like ra cial injustice, poverty, gun control, domestic violence, and drug and alcohol abuse. These inclinations towards liberal politics went against the political trend being set by many white southerners who increasingly supported the more conservative Republican Party in the postcivil rights South. In order to understand why southern rock bands rebelled against the trend of white southern conservatism, it is necessary to understand the political context in which the Republican Party rose to power in the S outh. From the end of Reconstruction until the mid-twentieth century, Republicans were nearly powerless in the Sout h as a result of the antipathy southern whites had developed to ward the Republican Party (the party of Abraham Lincoln, the great emancipator), and its agenda of civil rights for blacks.46 An implicit agreement between southe rn whites and the Democratic Party ensured that southern whites would continue to support the Party so long as it avoided 46 Michael Nelson, Â“How th e GOP Conquered the South Â” The Chronicle of Higher Education (October, 2005): B14.
39addressing civil rights issues. However, beginning with the Truman administration, Democrats took a more favorable approach to the issues of civil ri ghts, which continued until the Johnson administration and the passa ge of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, thereby driving traditional southern Democrats who felt Â“abandonedÂ” by the national part y to the reemerging Republican Party. 47 This political realignment has been descri bed as Â“the legacy of the Civil Rights Acts,Â” and resulted in southern whites fl ocking to the Republican Party, which actively appealed to conservative southerners di smayed by the advancements of racial integration.48 Conversely, southern blacks, who ha d been disenfranchised throughout the Jim Crow South, exercised their newly gr anted freedom by actively supporting the Democratic Party. The irony is, then, that during the 1976 presidential race, white southern rock bands ardently campaigned on behalf of the Democratic governor of Georgia, Jimmy Carter. 47 Nicholas A. Valentino and Davi d Sears, Â“Old Times There Are No t Forgotten: Race and Partisan Realignment in the Contemporary South Â” American Journal of Political Science (July 2005): 673. 48 Sokol, 237.
40Jimmy Carter Jimmy Carter, a former peanut farmer, be gan his political ca reer as a Georgia state senator before being elected Governor in 1970. As the stateÂ’s Democratic governor, he expressed liberal views on racial equality and worked successfully to achieve environmental, tax, judici al, and welfare reform.49 An unlikely candidate, he expressed an interest in running for President to his mother to which she famously asked Â“president of what?Â”50 During his term as Governor, Carter trav eled the country, speaking to nearly any group that would have him, and began organi zing support for his candidacy. Because of NixonÂ’s devious reputation and involvement in the Watergate scandal, Carter knew that the 1976 Presidential election was going to fo cus more on the charac ter of the candidate than politics.51 Carter was a deeply religious man and ran his campaign on the promise of restoring honesty and integrity to the White House. At first, Carter seemed to be a long-shot candidate, but after early victories in the New Hampshire and Iowa primaries, his campa ign gained momentum which led to other primary victories. In the South, Carter was victorious in the Florida primary, signifying that Carter was able to present himself as a moderate, alternative to another southerner, 49 Burton Kaufman, The Presidency of James Earl Carter, Jr (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1993), 8. 50 Kaufman, 15. 51 Numan V. Bartley The New South 1945-1980, (Baton Rouge: Louisiana Stat e University Press, 1995), 413.
41Alabama Governor George Wallace, who la unched his third presidential bid in 1976.52 After Carter became the Democratic nomi nee, he was endorsed by Wallace, who was promoted as a possible running mate.53 The strength of CarterÂ’s appeal to southern rock bands was that he was a southerner. According to Lynyrd SkynyrdÂ’s fo rmer road manager Gene Odom, it was the fact that Carter was a southerner with a r easonable chance of becoming President that initially got Lynyrd Skynyrd interested in pres idential politics, even though no one in the band was registered to vote.54 That is not to suggest that the band was apolitical; in fact Ronnie Van Zant had outspoken political op inions, and was described by friend and guitarist Jeff Carlisi as being Â“tuned into the political climateÂ” of the 1970s.55 Although Rick Hirsch described the politic al leanings of his band Wet Willie as Â“liberal,Â” he also claimed that the bandÂ’s s upport of Jimmy Carter was more a display of southern unity than an outspoken en dorsement of CarterÂ’s politics. Â“I think, given the circumstances, it was mo re a case of his being a southerner,Â” said Hirsch. Â“And he was very close to home. After all, Phil Walden basically funded his campaign, and Phil had some serious clout with his roster of bands, which of course we 52 Grantham, 292. 53, Patrick Anderson, Electing Jimmy Carter: The Campaign of 1976 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1994) 37; Grantham, 292. 54 Gene Odom (former Lynyrd Skynyrd road manager), in discussion with author, March 2009. 55 Ballinger, 150.
42were part of. But if Wet Willie had been from Texas or somewhere else, we likely would not have been campaigning for Carter.Â”56 As governor of Georgia, Carter befr iended Phil Walden, and members of The Allman Brothers Band. The governor was a fan of the southern rock sound coming from Macon, and genuinely enjoyed the mu sic of The Allman Brothers Band.57 Walden invited Carter to watch a live recording session w ith Dickey Betts at Capricorn Studios. As governor, Carter hosted and entertained Wa lden and members of the band at the GovernorÂ’s mansion. When Carter announced his candidacy for President, Phil Walden arranged to have The Allman Brothers Band, The Mars hall Tucker Band, and The Charlie Daniels Band perform at fundraisers which help ed raise nearly $600,000 for the campaign.58 These fundraisers are credited with helping Ca rter in the early pres idential preference primaries, and established Carter a viable Presidential candidate.59 Other southern rock bands supported Ca rter as well. The Â“Sunshine Jam,Â” a fundraiser for CarterÂ’s campaign, took place at the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, and featured southern rock bands Lynyrd Skynyr d, The Outlaws, .38 Special, Charlie Daniels 56 Rick Hirsch, email message to author, March 11, 2009 57 Brant, 165. 58 Freeman, 210-211. 59 John Orman, The Politics of Rock Music (Chicago: Nelson Hall Inc Publishing, 1984), 19.
43Band, and Marshall Tucker Band.60 Southern rock bands may not have necessarily agreed with all of CarterÂ’s political views, but for them, he was a southerner. Ronnie Van Zant acknowledged that southern rock bands united behind one of their own, which is why they were outspoken Carter supporters.61 For a campaign theme, Carter used the Charlie Daniels Band song, Â“The SouthÂ’s Gonna Do It, Again,Â” in which Daniels te lls the listener to Â“be proud youÂ’re a rebel because the SouthÂ’s gonna do it again.Â”62 As another example of the influence of blues music in southern rock, the song uses the I-IV-V structure of a twelve bar blues, performed in an upbeat tempo, yet accente d with traditional country and western instruments; a fiddle, a steel guitar, and a Fender telecas ter guitar solo. However, keeping in tradition with othe r southern rock songs, Â“The SouthÂ’s Gonna Do It, AgainÂ” also re ferences southern places: Well, the train to Grinder's Sw itch is runnin' right on time And them Tucker Boys are cookin' down in Caroline People down in Florida can't be still When ol' Lynyrd Skynrd's pickin' down in Jacksonville People down in Georgia come from near and far To hear Richard Betts pickin' on that red guitar Â“The SouthÂ’s Gonna Do It, AgainÂ” ce lebrates the music and musicians of southern rock with an ambiguous chorus that leaves room for liste ner interpretation. But 60 Odom, 145. 61 Ballinger, 65. 62 Mark Kemp, Dixie LullabyA Story of Music, Race, and New Beginnings in a New South (New York: Free Press, 2004), 130.
44the question, as posed by hi storian Ted Ownby remains: Â“wha t is it, exactly, that the SouthÂ’s going to do again? Fight again? Secede again?Â”63 Clearly, the songÂ’s political implication was that the South was going to rise again with CarterÂ’s ascension to the Presidency. The song became a political anthem that celebrated the South, and allowed southerners to display a renewed sense of southern pride through support for CarterÂ’s presidential campaign. On October 6, 1975, Carter introduced The Allman Brothers Band at a concert in Atlanta. Concert attendees did not shar e The Allman BrothersÂ’ fondness for the Democratic presidential nominee, however and the candidate was met with boos and light applause.64 After Carter won the election, Ph il Walden was appointed to the PresidentÂ’s inaugural committee, and as a resu lt, several southern rock bands performed at the Presidential inauguration on January 19, 1977, including The Allman Brothers Band, The Marshall Tucker Band, and The Charlie Daniels Band.65 Having southern rock bands perform at the Presidential inaugurati on seemed appropriate since, as described by New York Times music critic Robert Palmer, Â“sout hern rock band(s) predated and perhaps helped create the climate for Jimmy Carter.Â”66 63 Ownby, 369. 64 Brant, 165. 65 Kemp, 135. 66 Robert Palmer, Â“Southern Rock is Spreading Across the Country,Â” New York Times, July 24, 1977, D18.
45Although southern rock bands campaigne d on behalf of Carter, as well as demonstrated other liberal political tendencies, many southerners at the time did not share the same political views. Generally, the Sout h was viewed as the most conservative region of the country, so it is ironic that southern rock ba nds displayed political views contrary to many other southe rn whites during this time. In the election, Carter carried nearly 90 pe rcent of the black vote in the South, and won all of the southern states except Virginia.67 Carter carried these states partly because he was a southerner, but also because he was a born-again Southern Baptist and had the support of white evangelical voters.68 Conversely, his opponent, President Ford had more support from non-evangelical southern whites.69 CarterÂ’s victory in the general election was a proud moment for southern ers who were elated by the fi rst election of a President from the South since 1848.70 As President, CarterÂ’s major achievements dealt with foreign policy and international relations, speci fically, the Camp David accords which ended the conflict between Israel and Egypt. However, at hom e, CarterÂ’s presidency was marred by increasing economic troubles. During his term cost-of-living rates increased by double digits, interest rates increased to 20 percen t, the value of savings diminished, and the 67 Grantham, 293. 68 Nelson, Michael., B14 69 Grantham, 293. 70 Grantham, 293.
46prices of meat, milk, and oil rose to prices never before seen.71 Although many of the economic problems at this time were the re sult of factors that were hard for the government to control, Carter, as President wa s held responsible for them. By the end of his term, the PresidentÂ’s approva l rating had fallen to 33 percent.72 Regardless of low approval ratings, Cart er was still looked at favorably by southern rock musicians. Charlie Daniels, who years later would become a staunch political conservative, acknowledged that Cart er Â“was too good a ma n for the powers that be in WashingtonÂ” and when history judges th e Carter presidency, it will show that Â“he was the man who put decency back in the White House.Â”73 Only ten months into the Carter Presiden cy, tragedy struck in the world southern rock. On October 20, 1977, a plane carrying members of Lynyrd Skynyrd crashed into a Louisiana swamp en route to a concert in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. According to the official report by the Nationa l Transportation Safety Board, Â“the probable cause of the accident was fuel exhaustion and total loss of power from both engines due to crew inattention to fuel supply. Contributing to th e fuel exhaustion were inadequate flight planning and an engine malfunction of undeterm ined nature in the right engine, which 71 Bruce Schulman, The SeventiesThe Great Shift in American Culture, Society, and Politics (Cambridge, MA: DeCapo Press, 2001), 131. 72 James. T Patterson, Restless GiantThe United States from Watergate to Bush v. Gore (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 110. 73Kemp, 135.
47resulted in higher than normal fuel consumption.Â”74 Killed in the crash were guitarist Stev e Gaines, backup singer Cassie Gaines, and lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, as well as th e two pilots of the plane. The remaining passengers were all injured, including road manager and childhood friend of Ronnie Van Zant, Gene Odom, who was interviewed for th is thesis. Interestingly, after the plane crash, it was Governor Wallace who sent personal letters of condolences to the surviving members of the band, expressi ng his sympathy over the loss.75 74 Odom, 175. 75 Gene Odom, (former Lynyrd Skynyrd road manager), in discussion with author, March 2009.
48George Wallace Alabama Governor George Wallace was a political chameleon, infamous for his outspoken segregationist views. During his fi rst campaign for Governor of Alabama in 1958, Wallace campaigned as a segregationist, though he was less strident in his views than his opponent, and was even endorsed by the NAACP. His loss in the Democratic primary that year to the outspoken segrega tionist John Patterson compelled Wallace to adopt a stronger anti-civil rights platform, on which he vowed Â“never to be out-niggered again.Â”76 Four years later in 1962, his, staunchly se gregationist views le d to a victorious campaign for Alabama governor. Throughout the 1960s, Wallace attempted to block school integration by using the Alabama National Guard to deter civil rights protesters, and publicly affirmed his belief of Â“segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.Â” In the mid-1970s, Wallace toned down his segregationist rhetoric, and adopted a moderate approach to race relations and a renewed focus on championing the rights of the poor and downtrodden, a political move aimed at appealing to newly enfranchised blacks.77 This earned him praise 76 Daniel Mccabe, Paul Stekler, Steve Fayer. George Wallace: Settin' the Woods on Fire ". The American Experience PBS. 2000. Complete transcript of the PBS documentary http://www. pbs.org/wgbh/amex/wallace/filmm ore/transcript/index.html. Retrieved on 3-23-2009. 77 Sokol, 250.
49from many southerners, including many southern blacks who supported him in subsequent elections.78 Like Carter, Wallace was an important fi gure in southern politics, which was reflected in southern rock music. The most popular song on Lynyrd SkynyrdÂ’s 1974 album Second Helping Â“Sweet Home AlabamaÂ”, included a vague, and often misinterpreted, condemnation of Wallace, wh ich is another example of southern rock bands demonstrating a propensity for racial equality. The song was Van ZantÂ’s response to Neil YoungÂ’s song Â“Southern ManÂ”, in which Young chastises the South for its raci al strife. The song was meant to convey Ronnie Van ZantÂ’s view that, according to drummer Artimus Pyle, Â“southern men arenÂ’t like that anymore. We donÂ’t have bullwhips and we ainÂ’t bullwhipping nobody. And if somebody is (bullwhipping), I will help you fight against them.Â”79 In the second verse of the song, Ronnie Van Zant sings: In Birmingham they love the governor We all did what we could do Watergate does not bother me Does your conscience bother you? After the first line of the verse, the female back-up singers express the bandÂ’s disapproval of Wallace by proclaiming Â“boo-boo-boo.Â” The Â“boo,Â” however, is somewhat indistinguishable on the original recording, and it sounds as if the back-up 78 Sokol, 251. 79 Ballinger, 73.
50singers are simply singing Â“ooh.Â” The Â“boosÂ” were intended to demonstrate the bandÂ’s disapproval of George Wallace, although this reference was misunderstood by southern rock fans and critics. (Audiences also seem ed to miss that Montgomery, not Birmingham, is the state capital of Alabama). Ronnie Van Zant is on record stating th at Â“the lyrics about the governor of Alabama were misunderstood. The general public didnÂ’t notice the words Â‘boo! boo! boo!Â’ after that particular lin e, and the media picked up only on the reference to the people loving the governor. I donÂ’t agree with everything Wallace says, I donÂ’t like what he says about colored people.Â”80 Skynyrd producer Al Kooper asserts that although the line Â“we all did what we could doÂ” is ambiguous it was meant to convey that they Â“tried to get Wallace out of there.Â”81 In spite of Lynyrd SkynyrdÂ’s attempt at distancing themselves from Wallace, writers, scholars, critics, and fans alike have misinterpreted the reference to Governor Wallace, something that members of band came to regret. In an article on southern rock in the journal Popular Music and Society Michael Butler falsely asserts that Â“SkynyrdÂ…went a step farther than other so uthern rock groups in projecting an adherence to traditional southern racial ideals in their glorificationÂ” of Wallace in Â“Sweet 80 Ballinger, 74-75. 81 Ballinger, 74.
51Home Alabama.Â”82 Writer Bruce Schulman inaccurately claims that the song was meant to Â“honorÂ” the governor, and in fact, that it was the band th at Â“still loved the governor.Â”83 Historian Bill Malone described the song as Â“a militant hymn of praise to (the South) with at least an ambi valent defenseÂ” of the governor.84 Scholar Paul Wells argues that the defense of the southern man in th e song added with Â“an endorsement of George Wallace into the bargain only serves to support the view that southern rock expresses a mode of unquestioning traditionalism which signals separateness and resists ideological revisionism and political guilt.Â”85 These misconceptions reflect a narrow interpretation of the song, demonstrating that th e complexities of southern ro ck, and the tension created by attempting to interweave traditional southern id entity with racially progressive views, are often missed by scholars. In 1975, Wallace acknowledged Lynyrd Skynyrd by making each member of the band an Honorary Lieutenant Colonel in th e Alabama State Militia. As pointed out by Skynyrd former road manager Gene Odom, Â“W allace was a skillful politician, and in all likelihood it was his political acumen that motivated him to honor Lynyrd SkynyrdÂ…either way, there were a lot of Lynyr d Skynyrd fans in Alabama at the time, and Wallace figured that some of them might be voters.Â”86 82 Butler, 46-47. 83 Schulman, 103. 84 Malone, 114. 85 Wells, 122. 86 Odom, 108.
52The band, however, seemed to have mi xed feelings about the honorary titles bestowed upon them by the governor. Ronnie Van Zant called the event a Â“bullshit gimmick thing,Â” and bassist Leon Wilk eson summed up his view on Wallace by declaring Â“I support Wallace about as much as your average American supported Hitler.Â”87 However, guitarist Ed King defende d Wallace for standing up for the South, and defending the rights of working class Southerners.88 The cultural formation of s outhern rock is complex, as mentioned earlier, as it attempts to reconcile two modes of southe rn identityÂ—one of immense pride of southern heritage with one that embraces racially progr essive characteristics. There is no clear-cut resolution, and the tension create d because of it is reflected in the politics of southern rock. As demonstrated in Â“Sweet Home Alab ama,Â” southern rock bands, vis--vis Lynyrd Skynyrd, reject southern racism by expressing their disapproval of Governor Wallace, yet in action and through their musi c, they endorsed populist politics and showed concern for the poor and impoverished.89 Regardless of the different views on race between the band members and the governor, Lynyrd Skynyrd subscribed to Wall aceÂ’s brand of populism, which also had 87 Ballinger, 74-75. 88 Kemp, 155. 89 Odom, 108.
53strong support from blacks in Alabama.90 This led a music critic in Rolling Stone magazine to describe Lynyrd Skynyrd as a band with a Â“ populist character.Â”91 It is evident through lyrical analysis that Ronnie Van Zant demonstrated populist tendencies and a sincere regard for the less fort unate, regardless of race. Featured on the album Â“ Prounounced Â…,Â” the song Â“Things Going OnÂ” is a harsh indictment of politicians who, as Van Zant sees it, have misplaced priorities. In the song, Van Zant asks: Â“Have you ever lived down in the ghetto? Have you ever felt the cold wind blow? If you don't know what I mean Won't you stand up and scream? 'cause there's things goin' on that you don't know Ask them why they spend lives across the ocean ? Ask them why they spend millions on the moon? Well, until they make things right Lots of people gonna be uptight They better make some changes pretty soon They gonna ruin the air that we breathe y'all They gonna ruin us all bye and bye Telling all you beware I don't think they really care Think they just sit up there and just get high In the song, Van Zant asks the listener if he or she has ever felt the cold wind blow in the ghetto. Clearly the lyrics can be interpreted as re ferring to the racial inequalities that continued even after the Ci vil Rights era had ended. The song is a call to arms for those who seek to end the injustices still continuing in the South at the time, which was an audacious move for a band tryi ng to sell records to an audience that had recently experienced the civil rights battle in a very personal way. Van ZantÂ’s frustration 90 Kemp, 155. 91 Odom, 117.
54is directed against a governm ent that would rather wage war and send a man to the moon than feed its poor, hardly a position espoused by the conservatives of the era. By including this song in their debut album on MCAÂ’s Sounds of the South label, Lynyrd Skynyrd took an important step by demonstr ating that southern rock bands embraced ideologies that confronted southern pove rty and destitution, re gardless of race. In 1978, the band released Â“SkynyrdÂ’s Firs tÂ…and Last,Â” a collection of early recordings from the Muscle Shoals recording sessions of the early seventies. This album features one song notable for its populist, so cially-aware lyrics. In Â“Lend A Helping Hand,Â” Van Zant sings, Â“Oh, now when you think the times are great, take a look around Â‘Cause babies are dying from dis ease, sleeping out on the ground. People never see the tortured eyes from a foreign land When you see somebody whoÂ’s down and out Lend a helping hand, Lend a helping hand, if you can Lend a helping hand, Do it if you can Oh, every time you feed your face, do you bow your head? Hunger kills each and every day, WonÂ’t you share your bread? If youÂ’ve ever felt the pain inside, I know youÂ’d understand With these lyrics, Van Zant is reminding the listener of the p light of the poor and downtrodden in society by refe rencing childhood disease, homelessness, and hunger. The song is underscored by the minor key tonality in which it is played, as well its off-meter beat that emphasizes the songÂ’s message of looking out for those less fortunate. In the second verse, Van Zant tells th e listener that if he or sh e has ever felt the pain of
55starvation that he or she would have a better understandi ng of what it would be like to go without food or shelter. Van Zant is impl ying in the second verse that he understands what life is like for those less fortunate probably because of his humble upbringing. These issues make no distinc tion regarding race, and by singing about them, Van Zant is demonstrating the populist, progressive views of the cultural formation that is the southern rock movement. Southern rock bands sometimes advocated liberal political positions on social issues, such as gun control. In the song Â“Saturday Night Sp ecial,Â” from the 1975 album NuthinÂ’ Fancy Lynyrd Skynyrd takes on an issue sacred to many southernersÂ— gun control. The song is a persuasive artistic argument against hand guns in which Van Zant sings in several gripping verses of sensele ss killings, followed by the suggestion that all hand guns be thrown to the bottom of the sea. In the final verse, Van Zant sings: Hand guns are made for killin' Ain't no good for nothin' else And if you like your whiskey You might even shoot yourself So why don't we dump 'em people To the bottom of the sea Before some fool come around here Wanna shoot either you or me Then, in the chorus: ItÂ’s a Saturday night special Got a barrel that's blue and cold Ain't no good for nothin' But put a man six feet in a hole
56 Van ZantÂ’s assertion that handguns are made for nothing but killing and should be disposed of flies in the face of southe rn gun-rights advocates who cherish their constitutional right to bear arms. Additionally, Van Zant is on record stating that guns should be thrown away.92 According to former road manager Gene Odom, Van Zant believed that the small-caliber guns known as Â‘S aturday night specialsÂ’ could not be fired with any accuracy, which made them worthl ess for hunting and inadequate for self defense.93 By coming out strongly in favor of gun control, Van Zant is expressing a liberal political view that strongly risked alienating, if not angering, conservative southern rock fans. But it was a view th at Van Zant obviously felt strong enough about that he was willing to take that risk. 92 Ballinger, 98. 93 Odom, 115.
57Conclusion As discussed throughout this thesis, southern rock musicians of the 1970s were a cultural formation that demonstrated racially and politically progr essive views through the cultural form of music by openly ac knowledging the influen ce of black music on southern rock, performing in interracial bands and addressing racial and social issues through song lyrics, as well as campai gning on behalf of Jimmy Carter. However, it remains difficult to examine the extent to which southern rock bands were successful in conveying their racial and political views to their audience, as well as the extent to which these views influenced their audience. In some respects, southern rock bands failed: racism did not end in th e South; Jimmy Carter was not reelected in 1980; and the South increasingly became more conservative throughout the 1980s. In other ways, southern rock may have been successful: the music of southern rock has remained consistently popular, and songs like Â“Sweet Home Alabama,Â” or Â“RamblinÂ’ Man,Â” have become staples of clas sic-rock radio, as well as used in current television commercials, and have been re made by contemporary musicians, like Kid Rock. In the 1970s, southern rock musicians repr esented a paradoxical ideal of the white male in the post-civil rights era South thr ough the integration of pride for southern heritage with progressive raci al and political views, thus creating a sense of ambiguity and ambivalence that even persists to this da y. This begs the question: does southern rock
58music still represent today what it did back then? I would suggest that it does not. In modern times, southern rock bands adorn them selves with Confederate flags, not distance themselves, and many contemporary southern ro ck audiences appear more interested in the nostalgic idea of the southe rn rock than in progressive racial, or political, causes. Southern rock music does not have the social si gnificance that it did in when it originated and peaked in the 1970s. As an unfortunate epilogue to this thes is, many original southern rock musicians have died within the last decade: Leon Wilkeson (Lynyrd Skynyrd) in 2001; Bruce Waibel (The Allman Brothers) in 2003; Danny Joe Brown (Molly Hatchet) in 2005; Duane Roland (Molly Hatchet) in 2006; Capr icorn Records founder Phil Walden in 2006; Hughie Thomasson (Lynyrd Skynyrd) in 2007; and Billy Powell (Lynyrd Skynyrd) in 2009. Southern rock music is experiencing a co meback of sorts, as demonstrated by the current popularity of Lynyrd Skynyrd and Th e Allman Brothers Band, among others. Many of the southern rock bands mentioned in this thesis still tour and perform throughout the world, albeit without most of the original line ups. Clearly, southern rock music still has an audience, and the bands th at tour are expected to perform the fanfavorite songs from the southern rock era. A lthough southern rock may not be as socially relevant as it was during the 1970s, there is no doubt that the music has transcended regional and generational boundaries, and has immeasurably impacted popular culture.
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