1977 – Several members of Lynyrd Skynyrd die in a plane crash

A total of 24 passengers and 6 crew were aboard the Convair CV-300 that crashed on the evening of October 20, 1977 after running out of fuel near Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Six people died: the pilot Walter McCreary and co-pilot William Gray, along with three members of Lynyrd Skynyrd, lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist/vocalist Steve Gaines, backing vocalist Cassie Gaines (Steve’s older sister) and the assistant road manager of the band Dean Kilpatrick.

The band did not continue to tour after the crash, only reforming with a substantial changeover in membership some ten years later. They left a legacy of two of the best known songs in the world: “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Freebird”.

Referenced in:

Ronnie and Neil — Drive-By Truckers
Play It All Night Long — Warren Zevon
(He’ll Never Be An) Ol’ Man River — This Is Serious Mum

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

1970 – Neil Young releases ‘Southern Man’

Neil Young, that ageless and eternal figure of musical protest, has rarely attracted more controversy than in 1970, when he released “Southern Man”. Nearly six minutes long, it expressed Young’s contempt for slavery and slaverholders in his trademark hard rock style, and left no one with ears to hear in any doubt as to where he stood on the issue of race in America.

Never released as a single (the song appeared as the fourth track of Young’s 1970 album “After the Gold Rush”), its uncompromising lyrics made it one of the best known songs on the album – a notoriety that only grew after Lynyrd Skynyrd prominently criticised the song in their best known song “Sweet Home Alabama”.

Reportedly, there was no particular animosity between Young and the members of Skynyrd regarding the songs, just an honest disagreement of opinions. Indeed, at the time of the plane crash that killed Skynyrd, Young and the band were trying to sync up their schedules so that Young could perform “Sweet Home Alabama” with them sometime.

Referenced in:

Ronnie and Neil — Drive-By Truckers
Sweet Home Alabama — Lynyrd Skynyrd