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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Ronnie and Neil

Posted by Ned Lannamann on Wed, Jul 9, 2008 at 3:44 PM

vanzant.jpg
Ronnie Van Zant sports a Neil Young T-shirt

Southern rock progenitors Lynyrd Skynyrd play tonight at Edgefield, and we all know the band is now a cobbled-together shell of its former self. Johnny Van Zant has since taken over on vocals for his dead brother Ronnie Van Zant in a morbid, eerie replacement strategy that's part Kermit the Frog and part Gallagher II.

Anyway, you're probably familiar with the story of "Sweet Home Alabama," where Ronnie calls out Neil Young for the Canadian's scathing indictments of the state of George Wallace's Alabama in the early '70s:

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.

But that's not the whole story. Patterson Hood of Drive By Truckers puts it best in his album notes for 2001's Southern Rock Opera:
I wrote this song to tell of the misunderstood friendship between Ronnie VanZant and Neil Young, who were widely believed to be bitter adversaries, but were in truth very good friends and mutual admirers.

He's talking about "Ronnie and Neil," one of the many highlights of a double album that mythologizes rock of the '70s with passion and grit. (And while it's certainly true that Young and Van Zant were fans of each other, Hood does take some liberties: The lyrics here put Neil as one of Van Zant's pallbearers, which didn't happen. Nor is it likely that Van Zant was buried in his Tonight's the Night T-shirt, as urban legend would have it.)

LISTEN:







Drive By Truckers - "Ronnie and Neil"

And you can read the lyrics at Drive By Truckers' website here.

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