'Sweet Home Alabama': a tapestry of southern discomfort + Labour MP's music error

Unfurling 'Sweet Home Alabama,' a tapestry of southern discomfort

EXCERPT: . . . In a way, the song began as a contradiction: It was written by two guys from Florida and one from California, none of whom ever lived in Alabama. So where did members of Lynyrd Skynyrd get the gumption to write about a state they had only driven through? In part, it was because a Canadian got there first. Neil Young's song "Southern Man," released in 1971, took the entire South to task for the bloody history of slavery and its aftermath.

[...] lead vocalist Ronnie Van Zant, explained that the musicians wanted to counter what they saw as Young's one-dimensional stereotype. [...] "What are you talking about, you know?" Van Zant said. " From what I'm told you were born in Canada." Even as the song was positioned to dispel some stereotypes of the South, the band was embracing others. [...]

The definitive take on the meaning of "Sweet Home Alabama" may have left the world decades ago. [...] three members of Lynyrd Skynyrd and their road manager, as well as a pilot and copilot, died when their chartered plane went down. Ronnie Van Zant was among the dead, and he remains the ghost in the room when the intent of the song is discussed.

For Merry Clayton, the song's meaning was crystal clear. She was an in-demand background vocalist [...] "I really don't want to sing anything about Alabama after what happened in Alabama." Clayton is African-American, and says she could not stop thinking about the infamous 1963 Ku Klux Klan bombing of a church in Birmingham. [...] And yet, there she is on the finished track. [...]

Some still insist that Southern pride, absent the racism, is what "Sweet Home Alabama" is all about. At a concert featuring the reconstituted Lynyrd Skynyrd in Kansas City, fan Nick Paul was tailgating outside before the show. "It's honestly an American anthem — it really is," he told NPR. "I feel like that personifies a lot of America. I don't think you can go to a party and play that song without everybody singing along."

Dr. Henry Panion III thinks so, too. He's a composer and professor of music at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, who recently arranged the song for marching band and symphony orchestra. Panion is also African-American. "What they were trying to do when they wrote it was say, 'Everybody's talking about the South, but there are some wonderful things about the South,' " he says. "And everyone don't necessarily subscribe to the policies and practices of bigots and racists."

MORE: https://www.npr.org/2018/12/17/676863591...can-anthem

Labour MP sorry for backing musician accused of anti-Semitism

EXCERPT: . . . Islington Council had banned saxophonist Gilad Atzmon from playing with Ian Dury's old band the Blockheads at the Islington Assembly Hall. The council said Mr Atzmon's appearance "might harm" relationships with the London borough's religious communities.

The MP [Chris Williamson] had posted a link to a petition calling for him to be reinstated. [...] He deleted the message and posted an apology after social media users and Jewish groups expressed their anger.

[...] Despite Mr Williamson's apology, the Jewish Labour Movement called for Mr Williamson to be suspended from the party. [...] A Labour spokesman said: "Gilad Atzmon is a vile anti-Semite. Chris Williamson has said he was not aware of Atzmon's appalling views and rightly apologised for his tweet."

[...] Speaking to the Islington Gazette, Mr Atzmon accused the council of having "adopted the role of book burners".

MORE (details): https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-46652775

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