One of the Ironies of Skynyrd…

So I was spinning some Lynyrd Skynyrd (All-Time Greatest Hits) earlier this evening, finishing off the pot of coffee I drank as I was reading the Sunday edition of the Houston Chronicle. As I was doing so, I was flipping through the liner notes to the cd, and the author of the essay contained therein talked about the song “The Ballad of Curtis Lowe” and its illustration of how the blues “captured the imagination of a generation of white, Civil-rights-era Southern youngsters, transforming both their consciousness and their music.” Most of you know the song, I am sure…

“People said he was useless, them people all were fools,
‘Cause Curtis Lowe was the finest picker to ever play the blues…”

I think that’s probably as elegantly simple a denunciation of racism from any period that you’re ever going to see. And I was well aware of the Skynyrd hit “Saturday Night Special”; in fact, it’s one of my favorite songs from them, even though it’s not a portrayal of responsible gun ownership. So you can imagine my surprise when I heard about the racist origins of the term “Saturday Night Special”. Now, given something like “Curtis Lowe,” I really don’t think the guys were racists, but still, I wonder if they knew about those ignominious origins, or if they or anyone else back then or now appreciated the irony — I bet you ole Curtis probably had him one o’ them Saturday Night Specials to keep the lynch mobs away. (Yes, I know Curtis Lowe wasn’t a real person, but there were a few black musicians who fit his description…) And, of course, being the Southern boys they were, I’d like to think that Ronnie and the gang knew good and well that a handgun was not in and of itself an evil object, and not just “made for killin’.” I don’t know if I’ll ever find out for myself, though…maybe one day.

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