Lana Del Rey Changes Lyrics to "Sweet Home Alabama" in Alabama

Lana Del Rey headlined the Hang Out Festival this weekend in gulf shores of Alabama.

Because she's amazing, and also prepping people for her forthcoming new country record, Lasso, the singer invited Jelly Roll on stage to sing a Lynyrd Skynyrd classic with her.

Jelly Roll, you may remember, won hearts and minds at Stagecoach last month right before Eric Church freaked people out by playing a gospel set of covers.

Together Lana and Jelly covered "Sweet Home Alabama," which couldn't have been more perfect on many levels. Skynyrd, like so many today from Beyoncé to Post Malone to Lana, was not interested in being pigeon-holed into one genre. Like the Allman Brothers before them, Skynyrd's southern rock sound was a combination of country, blues and classic rock.

Another rebellious musician was Canada's Neil Young who grew up in rural Omemee, Ontario, population 1,200, where he grew up on country, folk, and pop.

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Young was also deeply rooted into the counter-culture politically-based protest music of the '60s and '70s, writing some of the best songs of that genre like "Ohio," inspired by the Kent State killings of peaceful college protesters.

Lana is a huge fan of Neil's which is why she rode into Coachella on the back of the motorcycle with his "Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)" playing via a recording. She also references it in "Get Free" from 2017's Lust For Life, which she segued into on her first song once the motorcycles delivered her and her dancers to the stage.

Even Oscar-winning Anne Hathaway adores "Get Free"

Therefore, when she slightly altered the lyrics Friday at Hangout Festival, it was because she knows how complicated that Skynyrd classic is to many, including Neil fans like herself.

It starts with "Southern Man," the incredibly biting condemnation of racism and the shamefully dark history of the Confederate South, Young wrote and released in the 1970 when Neil was cranking out hits for his own solo albums and with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

CSN&Y singing "Southern Man" in 1988.

At the time of its creation, Neil was living in a three-story home in the hippy-dippy paradise of Laurel Canyon near Hollywood with his first wife who he'd soon divorce. Young says one day he was supposed to be doing something for her but got an idea for "Southern Man" and ran down to the first floor to write down some of the new lyrics when his bride started yelling at him and throwing things at the closed door.

That angry dynamic bled into the words and music giving it the edge that lifts the damning song to a next-level put down:

I saw cotton and I saw black
Tall white mansions and little shacks
Southern man, when will you pay them back?
I heard screaming and bullwhips cracking
How long? How long? Ahhhhhhhhhh

Lana receiving a Waffle House hat from a fan at the Hangout Festival. Why? Because when Lana "worked" at the Waffle House not long ago, it was one in.... Alabama.

Young also had a song called "Alabama" which he has only performed twice, which is also damning of the South, but particularly of the Yellowhammer State.

Skynyrd, who loved Neil Young, heard both songs and while writing in their tin shack cabin nicknamed The Hell House (because it had no air conditioner), with their brand new guitar player, Ed King, they came up with the music to "Alabama" while singer/lyricist Ronnie Van Zant was fishing at nearby Peter's Creek.

The creek was so close he could hear the music coming out of the shack and when they said they were ready for words, he began by singing about how much he loved riding and driving through the backwoods of Alabama, particularly around Muscle Shoals studio where they recorded some of their greatest hits including "Free Bird."

But in the second verse Van Zant injected commentary about "Southern Man."

Well, I heard Mr. Young sing about her
Well, I heard ol' Neil put her down
Well, I hope Neil Young will remember
A Southern man don't need him around, anyhow

But unlike what this may have looked like on paper or on the radio, this was not the feud like what we are currently in the midst of with Kendrick and Drake. These two loved each other.

Neil would later say how he regretted the wide brush he painted the South with on "Southern Man" and "Alabama." He says he should have been more specific.

Skynyrd says their song is often misunderstood.

When Van Zant sang "In Birmingham they love the governor" - in reference to the arguably racist Gov. George Wallace - the Skynyrd background singers sing "boo boo boo."

When Van Zant then sings, "now Watergate does not bother me / does your conscious bother you," he's saying Richard Nixon was a Californian who was voted in by the majority of Americans.

Ronnie isn't pointing his finger at the majority of the nation, therefore, before your judge the South, clean up your own backyard.

Of note, Skynyrd swears they never thought the song would take off and notes that their record label MCA didn't even make it the first single.

At the end of the day Young wore Skynyrd shirts, Skynyrd wore Neil shirts.

In fact, a month after the Southern rockers were in a plane crash that killed three members of the band, including Van Zant, Neil played a festival in Florida (where the band is mostly from) and performed both "Alabama" and "Sweet Home Alabama" as tribute.

It was the first time Neil ever played "Alabama."

Which finally gets us to Lana.

Friday the bicoastal Brooklyn Baby / Venice Bitch who spent a little time in a Florence, Alabama, Waffle House last summer, entered the stage on the back of another vehicle. But this time it wasn't Neil Young playing over the loudspeakers, it was Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Simple Man."

This is what they in the South call "fo shadowing."

Lana played a beautiful set that included guest spots from Tommy Genesis, Benson Boone and Nessa Barrett.

But it was her goodbye song that tied it all together.

This is where her final guest, Jelly Roll joined her for the Skynyrd tune.

When the tattooed singer finished his verse he sang, "we love you, Lanita" which just might be her new nickname now. I don't make the rules.

Then Lana sang-sang:

Well I heard Neil Young sing about her

I heard Neil Young put her down

Well I hope you remember

How he squashed that beef into the ground

Which is exactly how a Neil fan, who knows the entire story, sings that song in 'Bama.

Lana now heads to Europe for a handful of festival gigs. Get tickets to those through her website.

Jelly Roll's tour begins in 10 days and goes on through the fall. Tickets available on his site.

Neil Young is on tour with Crazy Horse. Tickets available here.

Lynyrd Skynyrd hit the road this summer with some dates alongside ZZ Top. Tickets available on their website.

A live recording of Neil doing "Alabama" into "Sweet Home Alabama" in 1977.

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Last updated: 21 Jun 2024, 21:52 Etc/UTC