Southern Rock through the Generations (1960s-today)

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by admin on December 1, 2016

I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that most Americans have heard “Freebird” at least once in their lives and that many have secretly shredded the air guitar and belted out the lyrics when the song comes on the radio.  This is the most popular Southern rock song of all time and is the most requested live song in existence according to Rolling Stone. But what exactly defines Southern rock? Well, there are no set boundaries defining the genre, sometimes making it hard to discern between Southern rock and blues rock or just plain rock and roll. The main markers of this sound are the feelings and themes found in the music.  The music is bold, yet rustic and strong, yet familiar. It is a genre inspired by the geography and collective culture of the south. The sounds and themes found in the music are rooted in a long history.

The late 60s and early 70s gave us iconic bands such as Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Allman Brothers, The Outlaws, The Eagles, and more. These bands popularized Southern rock and defined the sound, though there were many different Southern rock styles. For example, The Allman Brothers focused on jamming and blues while Lynyrd Skynyrd focused on guitar solos and hard rock. Popular songs from Lynyrd Skynrd include “Tuesdays Gone” and “Gimme Three Steps”, and a few classics from the Allman Brothers are “Ramblin’ Man” and “Midnight Rider”.

Today, Southern Rock is still alive and well; influenced by all the great predecessors, today’s Southern rock sounds are fresh and speak to a new generation. Current bands include Kings of Leon, Alabama Shakes, and Gov’t Mule.  These bands all have unique sounds and are unified by the South, which is the muse of most Southern rock bands. The current bands have more history to build upon and are more globally connected than ever before. Because we now live in an age where we have any song or album at our fingertips, this has changed the content of music in the current generation of southern rockers. The three bands highlighted below represent the eclectic styles of music found within the genre.

The Kings of Leon are influenced by rock and roll bands like Led Zeppelin, although their Southern upbringing really comes through in their music.  Their sound was described by Rolling Stone as “Southern boogie and gritty garage rock.”  Some of my favorite songs by King of Leon include “

The Alabama shakes bring something very new to the genre. Their frontwoman, Brittany Howard, sings with a deep, full voice and also plays lead guitar. Their innovative use of guitars and synthesizers make a beautiful combination of vibrant, smooth, and unruly sounds to create heavy blues/Southern-inspired rock. Some of the Alabama Shakes’ most popular songs that truly depict their sound include “Sound & Color,” “Hold On,” and “Always Alright.

Gov’t Mule has an interesting history. The band was formed by The Allman Brothers Band guitarist Warren Haynes and bassist Allen Woody.  Gov’t Mule is a jam band and blues-rock power trio. They take inspiration from The Allman Brothers along with psychedelic 60s power trios like Cream and The Jimi Hendrix Experience. They therefore bring a style of music from the past into the present.  The band works to keep this old sound alive. Some great songs include “Soulshine,” “Life on the Outside,” and “Blind Man in the Dark.”

As society changes and develops so does its music. Southern Rock has evolved with society, capturing the feelings of people and giving them a voice and a sound. This genre is rooted in the American south but is relatable to people all over the world.  Something about the “idea of the south” has a wide appeal. It evokes emotions of simple times, warm weather, youthfulness, and carefree attitudes. This style of rock comes from our recent history, is found in the present and can create the same emotions no matter what generation you are a part of, truly showing music is a great unifier.

By Emma Berg

Anna Lee Skinner December 6, 2016 at 6:12 pm

I really liked the “Idea of the South” part. This article is intelligent but simple and refreshing. It made me think about musically boundaries that I have never really considered before. I also liked that you had specific examples of artists and songs instead of providing a vague idea.

Christian T Smith December 6, 2016 at 4:43 pm

I think that starting this article off with the mention of freebird, and the subsequent anecdote of air guitar did well at instantly captivating me and set the tone for the article quite well. Your writing style suggests a very journalistic approach I feel, and is engaging and relatable. I think it was interesting that southern rock is defined more by themes, than stylistics and this was definitely a fact that I wouldn’t have noticed had you not pointed it out.

Catherine Allen December 6, 2016 at 12:30 pm

I liked how you started out the article by defining what the Southern Rock genre is. Even though I have spent my whole life in the south, I wasn’t really sure of the boundaries of Southern Rock music. I liked how you then started talking about older Southern Rock groups and then moved on to modern groups. This gave the article a sense of progression. I also loved your last paragraph. You really connected your topic to the themes of the course, especially by bringing in “The Idea of the South”.

Kailey Hackett December 6, 2016 at 10:48 am

Personally, I don’t frequently listen to rock music or southern rock music more specifically, I found this article to be very informative and interesting to me. It was really cool to see how you took Glenn Gould’s “Idea of the North” and used it in your own ways by applying the “Idea of the South”. To me, it hit close to home and it made me think about simplicity in society. It was interesting to hear about Lynyrd Skynrd and the Eagles considered in this genre and I actually listened to some of their music after reading this and I really want to listen to more. Overall, I thought this was really well written and insightful and I think the last paragraph was super unique and wrapped up the article very well.

Lea Gilbert December 4, 2016 at 8:22 pm

My favorite section of this article was the last paragraph. I liked how you talk about the “idea of the south” which evokes feelings of comfort, home, and simpler times. I had no idea that some bands that I grew up listening to such as the Eagles and Lynyrd Skynrd (and influenced like Led Zeppelin) were considered southern rock. It was very interesting to read about the ideas that influenced this genre and that the genre is somewhat fluid. There are some open-to-interpretation ideas of what southern rock just as no one really has the same idea of what the entire “South” is.

Sarah Chao December 3, 2016 at 11:56 pm

I don’t know a lot about southern rock so this was very informative! I like how you went back in history and analyzed different bands and what they were known for. It’s interesting how music captures a certain time and allows us to see how we’ve changed and evolved. You did a great job circling back the introduction in your conclusion about music being a unifier.

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