In defense of Free Bird (sort of)

One of the great curses of being a voracious consumer of recorded music lo these many decades is having to relive the hits of the ’70s (and ’80s and ’90s) while my kids play them on commercial radio.

“These are good songs — why do you hate them so much?” one of Warren’s friends asked me the other day in the MomVan/ConcertCamper.  Boston was most likely on the radio. (Hasn’t Boston always been on the radio, for like 30 years!?) “I don’t hate them,” I explained. “It’s just that I have heard them so many times over the decades that every note is ingrained in my brain.”

And let’s face it: that’s way too much for the average Kansas, or Rush, or Styx tune. They just don’t hold up!

I’m always surprised when a stale old hit that should be a caricature still thrills me. I swear I am going to blow my speakers maxing out Bohemian Rhapsody and screaming every line with the kids. Go ahead. Call me a sucker for crescendo.

yes, it's among my vinyl

The biggest surprise, though, is Free Bird. I have driven in circles more than once so we could hear the whole song. And it still sounds great to me. The kids, of course, are rockin’ the van with their air guitar for the full length.

It’s a shame, really, that it’s become a joke, just a redneck anthem. I always thought of it as a tribute to the Allmans. I suppose it’s that “I can’t change” line — oh, combined with the fact that this band defended our Southern honor from Neil Young — that led so many of the rednecks I grew up with to take it to heart.

Or maybe I’m just clueless, as watching this video leads me to believe. Why is the audience so white and so female? How come I didn’t pick up on all this Dixie flag and forever white stuff? Lyta, how could you let me go to Ted Nugent and 38 Special Concerts while you were listening to the B-52s? Oh, my wasted youth …

Go ahead: Watch all glorious 10 minutes of it. You gotta  at least love “Billy Powell on the piano.”



Filed under Tunes

2 responses to “In defense of Free Bird (sort of)

  1. jane

    I understand what you’re writing, but I hated it the first time I heard it. HATED it.

  2. Jeff

    I think good music is the kind you like. My thing about “Freebird” is that the group had so many other great songs……and yet to a large group of people they are only known for playing “Freebird.”

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