Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ released 50 years ago

Lynyrd Skynyrd’s anthemic “Sweet Home Alabama” was released 50 years ago on June 24, 1974. It was the band’s highest-charting song, reaching No. 8 on the Billboard Top 100, and went on to become a worldwide standard.

The unmistakable opening guitar riff has been ranked among the best in the history of rock ‘n’ roll. It’s played over the public address system at University of Alabama home football games, and not a single member of the band is actually from Alabama.

They’re all from Florida except for Ed King, who was originally from California, according to AL.com. The band was formed in Jacksonville; according to the band’s website, the name of the group was inspired by Leonard Skinner, a boys’ physical education teacher at Lee High School. The teacher was known for his strict policy forbidding boys to sport long hair.

The band was inspired to write the song after recording an album at the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in 1970 and touring the state, according to Garden & Gun. Gary Rossington told Garden and Gun in 2015 that they were touring the backroads of the state playing “clubs and National Guard armories.” The guys really liked the people of Alabama. While they were driving, Neil Young’s “Southern Man” played on the radio incessantly. Young’s tune put the South down, Rossington said. Lead singer Ronnie Van Zant said they needed to write a song that defended Alabama, the name of another derisive song by Young taking aim at the state’s reputation for racism.

There was never a real feud between Young and the band. It was all about the music.

“Sweet Home Alabama” was entered into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2009. The exclusive list honors songs that are at least 25 years old and have proved to have “qualitative or historical significance.”

Speaking of which, here are a few little-known historical facts about the Lynyrd Skynyrd tune that rivals even “Free Bird” for the band’s most timeless work.

The song begins with a countdown of 1-2-3 and Van Zant says, “Turn it up.” That wasn’t planned, he was just into it, AL.com reported.

“Sweet Home Alabama” has been part of the soundtracks of multiple movies, TV shows, and video games, AL.com reported. Among them: “Forrest Gump,” “Con Air,” “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” “8 Mile,” and the 2002 Reese Witherspoon rom-com “Sweet Home Alabama.”

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