Monday, August 26, 2013

40 Year Itch : This Bird You Cannot Change

When Lynyrd Skynyrd first climbed out of the Florida swamp and began honing their rock and roll sound in juke joints and biker bars, nobody yelled out "Free Bird!" at them. That only happened to every band--every single band-- that followed these "American Rolling Stones". 

   That famous nine minute /three guitar epic appears on their debut album Pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd which was released in August of 1973. Thanks in part to an opening slot on The Who's Quadrophenia tour, Lynyrd Skynyrd quickly rose to fame, selling two million copies of Pronounced.

 Lynyrd Skynyrd weaved the best things the South had to offer: blues, country, boogie and a "heritage not hate" pride in all things Southern.. (Naturally they went to Jacksonville's Robert E Lee High School). The songs are defiant, some are sentimental. All are ageless.

I always like to write something that helps you listen to albums in a new way. But I think I'll let the man who discovered Skynyrd , Al Kooper, take it from here. This is from one of those egregious Rolling Stone Magazine issues where they rank  Eminem and Jay Z as greater artists than Talking Heads, Tom Petty or Lynyrd Skynyrd ( who ranked #95).

Ronnie Van Zant was Lynyrd Skynyrd. I don't mean to demean the roles the others played in the group's success, but it never would have happened without him. His lyrics were a big part of it — like Woody Guthrie and Merle Haggard before him, Ronnie knew how to cut to the chase. And Ronnie ran that band with an iron hand. I have never seen such internal discipline in a band. One example: These guys composed all of their guitar solos. Most bands improvised solos each time they performed or recorded. Not them. Ronnie's dream was that they would sound exactly the same every time they took the stage.

  After three or four albums, Lynyrd Skynyrd transcended the Southern-rock tag. They became one of the greatest rock and roll bands in history. They feared no one. On their very first national tour, they opened for the Who. And got encores!

  When Ronnie went down in that terrible 1977 plane crash, the forward progress of the band ended. After the survivors all healed, they miraculously reassembled. Ronnie's kid brother Johnny took over, and you had to rub your eyes to make sure it wasn't Ronnie. But while the band could duplicate the majesty of past live shows (and still can), the heart and soul of the band was gone forever.

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