Saturday, November 1, 2014
Not Pronounced Lie-Nerd Sky-Nerd
Before the band was called Lynyrd Skynyrd (LS), Allen Collins married Kathy Johns in 1970. Allen Collins was one of three high school buddies - along with Ronnie Van Zant and Gary Rossington - who formed a series of bands with names like "My Backyard", "The Noble Five", and "One Percent".
Ronnie, Allen and Gary eventually released five albums as a band [Billboard peak](names of popular songs)
1973 - Pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd (Gimme Three Steps, Simple Man, Free Bird)
1974 - Second Helping  (Sweet Home Alabama, Don't Ask Me No Questions, Call Me The Breeze)
1975 - Nuthin' Fancy  (Saturday Night Special, On The Hunt)
1976 - Gimme Back My Bullets  (Title Song)
1977 - Street Survivors  (What's Your Name, That Smell, I Know A Little)
The band members, especially Ronnie, were notoriously heavy drinkers and fighters with rumors of Ronnie being capable of lashing out at any time. As one would expect this led to problems and, in my opinion, is the root of their "bad luck".
Lynyrd Skynyrd as a band broke up for awhile but then was resurrected. It was never the same after the plane crash. Allen and Gary formed the Rossington-Collins band while Allen's wife Kathy was pregnant with a third child. Kathy died of hemorrhage during the pregnancy.
I've always had this theory that most great bands only have three maybe four good albums in them. I'm not sure if they run out of ideas or maybe the environment that produced such rich artistry dissipates, but for some reason three to four is usually it.
If you look at their five albums, their best stuff was on the first three. I rank their best songs as Simple Man, Free Bird, Call Me The Breeze, Sweet Home Alabama, Gimmee Three Steps (in that order). And they didn't write Call Me The Breeze - it was written by J.J. Cale of Escondido, CA.
So to my eye, it appears the band was running out of ideas already - the loss of future musical classics was probably not that great.
But the personal losses certainly were. Mostly due to bad behavior it seems, with one very unfortunate pregnancy complication and one bad decision to fly on a plane with known problems. I surely wish none of these things had happened to them.
Now, the feud with Neil Young. I've poked into this a bit, and I've found it is urban legend. No such feud existed. There are interviews with both Ronnie and Neil Young and they both say there was no feud.
Ronnie claims the Sweet Home Alabama lyrics were written in jest and that many of the lyrics are misinterpreted. Looking at the evidence presented on multiple websites, I would have to agree.
Let's start with the song Sweet Home Alabama. It contains the lyrics:
In Birmingham they love the Governor
(Boo, boo, boo)
This refers to the black children killed in the Birmingham church bombing and the racist governor George Wallace who helped fuel the situation. The "boo, boo, boo" voices LS's displeasure with the situation and helps point out that while Sweet Home Alabama expresses fondness for the south and Alabama, the band members knew there were certainly problems with the south too. Ronnie even stated that his problem with Young's "Southern Man" was not the thoughts expressed, but that it made it sound like all southern men were that way. They were not then and are not now.
If that's not proof enough that the feud did not exist, consider that Ronnie is wearing a Neil Young t-shirt on the cover of the last album Street Survivors. This was a failed attempt to quash the feud rumor once and for all. The Skynyrd-Young feud myth continues to this day.