Was There Really A Feud Between Neil Young And Lynyrd Skynyrd?

By | August 27, 2019

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Left: Gary Rossington, Steve Gaines and Ronnie Van Zant of Lynyrd Skynyrd,on the field before the 1977 Season Opening Atlanta Braves Game. Right: Neil Young on a poster for his 1974 album 'On The Beach.' Sources: Tom Hill/WireImage; Pinterest.

Canadian rocker Neil Young criticizes the American south in a couple of songs; southern rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd call him out by name in their anthem "Sweet Home Alabama" -- it's one of the most famous feuds in rock history. But was it a feud at all?

Even though fans of the artists want there to be a massive feud between these two titans of the ‘70s, everyone involved says that there was never a feud, just good-natured jabs. But isn’t that what everyone would say when they’re trying to play nice and mitigate a disaster? Getting to the bottom of the Neil Young and Lynyrd Skynyrd rivalry uncovers the way that fandom and regional love can make a good-natured jab into an all-out rivalry. 

Neil Young Fired The First Shot Against The South

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source: pinterest

In 1970 Neil Young released After the Gold Rush, an acclaimed album that contained the track "Southern Man." a track that puts the microscope on the south’s racist past and the way in which the people in the area at that time weren’t doing anything to change from the mindset of the Civil War. In the song Young sings 

I saw cotton and I saw black
tall white mansions and little shacks
Southern Man, when will you pay them back?

As you might expect, people in the south weren’t pleased with being painted with such a broad brush. They felt that comparing a contemporary, generic "Southern Man" with a slave owner was unfair. Liberal minded people who lived in the south and who were working with the desegregation movement weren't too keen on the song's generalizations either. 

On Young's next album, Harvest, he included another song addressed to the south, "Alabama." In this one, he brought up the Ku Klux Klan ("the old folks tied in white robes") and portrayed the state's resistance to change as either stubborn or stupid:

What are you doing, Alabama?
You got the rest of the Union
To help you along
What's going wrong?