Neil Young: Southern Man Meaning
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Southern Man Lyrics
better keep your head
what your good book said
gonna come at last
Now your crosses
are burning fast
I saw cotton
and I saw black
Tall white mansions
and little shacks.
1TOP RATED#1 top rated interpretation:anonymous Sep 1st 2009 report
This song is actually about the history of America's racism and brutality.
It refers to interracial sex, lynching, violence, White supremacy, and slavery.
Neil Young is telling the "Southern man" to look within himself and see all the terrible things he has done.
2TOP RATED#2 top rated interpretation:anonymous May 27th 2006 report
Although the first person is correct about the Bible, the slavery, whipping and all that, they are very incorrect about the Lynyrd Skynyrd song Sweet Home Alabama being an attack on Southern Man. In fact, Neil Young is both a friend of Lynyrd Skynyrd's lead vocalist, Ronnie Van Zant, as well as a fan of the song Sweet Home Alabama. Neil Young often plays Sweet Home Alabama in concert for fun, and Van Zant often wears a Neil Young T-shirt on tour. Sweet Home Alabama was no attack, just a song to show the good things about the south. If you don't believe that Sweet Home Alabama wasn't against Southern Man, look up Southern Man on Wiki.
On July 21, 1969, Lillie Belle Allen was a young African American woman from Aiken, South Carolina driving through York, PA to NYC. According to an FBI report (see link below), The car in which Ms. Allen was riding approached a white neighborhood, and their car was attacked by gunfire. In the report, white state troopers were suspected to be in the white mob attacking the car. Ms. Allen died from wounds descibed from a high power rifle.
So, by using "Lilly Belle" in Southern Man it seems reasonable that Neil Young was stating that nothing has changed from the Civil War to present day.
This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway
anonymous Oct 9th 2014 report
Who cares, they're 2 awesome songs still much admired 30 years on. We'll never know for sure anyway as sadly LS are no longer with us and both sides always treated it as a bit of a joke and liked to keep us guessing.
anonymous Oct 26th 2012 report
mY INTERPRETATION WAS OF nEIL yOUNG INDICTING THE BIGOTRY THAT WAS STILL GOING ON IN THE SOUTH IN THE SIXTIES THAT'S ALL THERE WAS TO IT. tHE PERSON ABove who called this an attack on Neil Young and that they became friends later is wrong. Van Zant's exact words about it were, "I laughed like hell when I first heard that song" "We only wanted Neil to lighten up on Alabama."alabama " from Harvest was another Neil Young song that helped to inspire Sweet Home's second verse. Van Zant went on to say, "but the truth is we love Neil Young and we love his music. Yes Van Zant did OFTEN wear on stage and on pictures on two album covers a t-shirt that has the image of the cover of Neil's 1974 record "Tonight's the NIGHT' Rumor even has it that he was buried in that T-shirt. Neil Young wrote one of his best songs "Powderfinger" about Sherman's march in the civil war and intended to offer it to Skynyrd just before the plane crash.
anonymous Jul 21st 2011 report
I don't think anybody here is even close, except the person saying that the song is about the Civil War era, rather than the present day. The song is a Union soldier talking to the southerners, telling them how mean they are. But in the end we see the Union soldier's true motivation: fine southern poontang!!! He's jealous of the newly empowered black man, and rather than liberate him, he'd just as soon kill him, for messing around with the Southern Belles which he assumed would be his.
anonymous Sep 21st 2010 report
In the 90s I read in a Album cover that told why Neil wrote'Southern Man. Neil wrote the song after seeing 'Gone With The Wind' for the first time. Neil found the inspiration to write 'Southern Man', it isn't speaking of post slavery events. It all dates back to the Civil War, not the 60s.
anonymous Sep 10th 2009 report
I don't think Ronnie Zant still wears Neil Young t's anymore man.
anonymous May 4th 2009 report
Anybody pick up on the Lily Belle line?
The hypocrisy of the white southern slave masters wives surreptitiously sleeping with the blacks too?
anonymous Apr 30th 2009 report
Actually it was in response to "Southern Man" and "Alabama" but they didnt write it as an attack against Neil. Ronnie and Neil are good friends and they are both fans of each others songs.
anonymous May 30th 2008 report
Well, I heard Mister Young sing about her
Well, I heard ole Neil put her down.
Well, I hope Neil Young will remember
a southern man don't need him around anyhow.
There is not much room for interpretation here; this is an attack. They might have become friends before Van Zant died, but they were not when this was written.
anonymous Sep 13th 2006 report
The next guy is almost right, as well. "sweet home alabama" is not an attack on neil, but it is a response to a song. The song is "alabama", though, not "southern man".
Neil sings that the state of alabama has "a wheel in the ditch and a wheel on the track" and asks "what's going wrong?" skynrd replied with "I heard mr. Young sing about her" refering to their "beloved" state. This is also interesting, since ls originated in california.
This song is about slavery and oppression towards black people. Young points out to the southerners: "Don't forget what your good book says..." as the southerners are quite the bible thumpers, yet they whipped and oppressed slaves.
Lynyrd Skynyrd struck back at Young in the song "Sweet Home Alabama", telling him that a southern man didn't need him around anyhow. Great comeback guys!
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