What does Southern Man mean?

Neil Young: Southern Man Meaning

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Album cover for Southern Man album cover

Southern Man Lyrics

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

I saw cotton
and I saw black
Tall white mansions
and little shacks.


    #1 top rated interpretation:
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    Sep 1st 2009 !⃝

    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.

  2. anonymous
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    May 29th 2023 !⃝

    I’m from the south. Louisiana. I had ancestors that owned slaves. I’m ashamed of that. The song Southern Man is exactly about slaves and oppression. They did HORRIBLE things. And the truth is it didn’t change a damn thing in 100 years after emancipation. Jeezus. And fyi the van Zants were not from Alabama lol. They were from Florida ppl

  3. anonymous
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    May 9th 2021 !⃝

    songs need to be deep . thats what gets every body thinking this is what sells them to us. who cares the romans had slaves most places around the world also had slaves.this black man white man crap is kids stuff grow up.men are judged by there skin tone haha what a joke.if a black cop kills a black man do we riot. here maybe there are just bad men and good men out there .rascist is a made up word another joke i like the black man next door we have drinks some times great fun yet the black man over the road is a monkeys head i dont like him so am i rascist???

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway
  4. BLove
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    May 29th 2020 !⃝

    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.

  5. kooljohn176
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    Jul 22nd 2015 !⃝

    A powerful vividly raw statement made in this song called ''Southern Man'' by Neil Young that captured the horrors and the injustices of racisim in anger and hatred done by slavery to the souls of the foreign and American Negros ''more'' in the southern states of the Americans with the American Indians who have been living on the land. Ever since Cristabal Colombus voyagers to the new world with a handful of his ''Morranos'' that went of course to start the slave trade first in capturing hundreds of indians to sell in the old world and then later the African Negroes by the thousands and then millions to the new world that the bad morranos in the states and the states themselfes became wealthy on the backs of slaves, especially the southern plantation owners that led to the civil war with the north. Believe, it was more about economics and independent rights for the southerners that were trying to hold on to. For the south it was the same reason that they did not want to be ruled by the British anymore. Now the descendants of these same ''bad morranos'' that got them to be slaves in the first place used and lied to the Negroes to fight in the civil war against the south to burn and cut it down in order for the slaves to get their freedom, wich was more of a lie with only some truth that angered and shamed the southerners even more to form the KKK later that led up to the riots of the 60's and on that left many scars on both sides that we have to endure as a country to survive in the hope of forgivrness in paying each other back to hold on to our healthy roots that are still alive and well.

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway
  6. anonymous
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    Oct 9th 2014 !⃝

    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.

  7. anonymous
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    Oct 26th 2012 !⃝

    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.

  8. anonymous
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    Jul 21st 2011 !⃝

    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.

  9. anonymous
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    Sep 21st 2010 !⃝

    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.

  10. anonymous
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    Sep 10th 2009 !⃝

    I don't think Ronnie Zant still wears Neil Young t's anymore man.

  11. anonymous
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    May 4th 2009 !⃝

    Anybody pick up on the Lily Belle line?
    The hypocrisy of the white southern slave masters wives surreptitiously sleeping with the blacks too?

  12. anonymous
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    Apr 30th 2009 !⃝

    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.

  13. anonymous
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    May 30th 2008 !⃝

    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.

  14. anonymous
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    Sep 13th 2006 !⃝

    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.

  15. anonymous
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    May 27th 2006 !⃝

    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.

  16. username
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    Jul 9th 2005 !⃝

    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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