1974 – Lynyrd Skynyrd release “Sweet Home Alabama”

It’s not clear how much real malice they bore him, but Lynyrd Skynyrd certainly seemed pissed with Neil Young when they released “Sweet Home Alabama” in 1974, singling out his songs “A Southern Man” and “Alabama” for particular scorn. Mind you, the lyrics also state that Watergate doesn’t bother them, which would have made them about the only people in America it didn’t bother at that point. (Band members have repeatedly claimed that the lyrics were misunderstood.)

“Sweet Home Alabama” reached number 8 on the American charts, becoming Skynyrd’s first (and only) hit. It eventually sold Platinum, and has been used on so many film soundtracks that it is now more or less impossible that you haven’t heard it. In a move that would probably have annoyed the members of Lynyrd Skynyrd (were they still alive), the state of Alabama now uses those three words on its number plates.

Referenced in:

All Summer Long — Kid Rock
Ronnie and Neil — Drive-By Truckers
Play It All Night Long — Warren Zevon

1912 – The RMS Titanic sinks on its maiden voyage

It is probably the best known maritime tragedy in history. The RMS Titanic, the largest passnger ship afloat and pride of the White Star Line, was three days out of Southampton on its maiden voyage to New York City when it collided with an iceberg and sank. Of the 2223 passengers and crew, fully 1517 of them were drowned, largely due to an insufficiency of lifeboats.

It’s a matter of historical record that the eight members of the ship’s band continued to play as the ship sank, in a feat of gallantry intended to keep spirits high. All eight of these men died in the sinking. Debate has raged over what their final song was. Some claimed that is was ‘Autumn’, others that it was ‘Nearer My God To Thee’. The debate is further complicated by the fact that ‘Autumn’ could have referred to either hymn tune known as “Autumn” or the tune of the then-popular waltz “Songe d’Automne” (although neither of these tunes were included in the White Star Line songbook). Similarly, there are two arrangements of ‘Nearer My God To Thee’, one popular in Britain and the other in America (and the British one sounds not unlike ‘Autumn’) – and a third arrangement was found in the personal effects of band leader’s fiance.

Referenced in:

Dance Band on the Titanic — Harry Chapin
Rest In Pieces (15 April 1912) — Metal Church