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Even the rare few who don’t know who Lynyrd Skynyrd is can recognize “Sweet Home Alabama” from the second it starts playing. Released on Skynyrd’s second album Second Helping in 1974, “Sweet Home Alabama” became one of the band’s greatest hits. It peaked at the eighth spot on the Billboard Hot 100, and has gone on to earn a status as legendary as Skynyrd itself.
While many know every word to Skynyrd’s iconic anthem, few know the story behind its creation. “Sweet Home Alabama” was written by lead singer Ronnie Van Zant and guitarists Gary Rossington and Ed King as a reply to two songs by Neil Young, “Southern Man” and “Alabama.” But if it hadn’t been for two seemingly simple events, the song may have never been written in the first place.
In an interview with the popular radio DJ Redbeard on his program In the Studio, Ed shared the interesting story of how Skynyrd ended up creating “Sweet Home Alabama.”
For a while, Ed had been playing bass in the band, but he wanted to switch to guitar, so Skynyrd ended up convincing their former bassist, Leon Wilkeson, to return. Ed felt inspired by being able to play his primary instrument again, and the creative juices were flowing in his mind.
At practice a few days after Ed made the switch to guitar, he heard Gary play a riff that he couldn’t get out of his mind. After he went home that night and went to bed, Ed said he dreamed up the entire guitar solo to “Sweet Home Alabama”:
“The entire guitar solo came to me in a dream, note for note…I only changed two notes in the whole solo to this day, but the rest of it is note for note…In my dream I had seen the fingerings and everything, it was very tangible. I woke up, picked up the guitar and it just fit so perfect.”
It was a perfect fit indeed, and the guitar solo from Ed’s dream is a large part of the reason behind the remarkable success of “Sweet Home Alabama.”
Tune in below to check out one of Skynyrd’s rockin’ performances of the song that earned a status as a global phenomenon…and rightfully so!