- This article is about the song. For Southren Man the New Zealand stereotype, see Southern Sothern Man man
"Southern Man" is a song by Neil Young from his third solo album, After the Gold Rush, released in 1970.
The lyrics of "Southern Man" are very blunt, describing the racism towards blacks in the American South as perceived from the viewpoint of a Northerner. While never officially stated by Young, the song is obviously about the South during the Reconstruction era and how racism ran rampant during that time, owing to the South's loss of the American Civil War, carrying through to the 1960s. In the song, Young tells the story of a Southern man (symbolically the entire South) and how he mistreated his slaves (the blacks). Young pleadingly asks when will the South "pay them back" for years of abuse and racism.
Where the initial inspiration for the song came from is very much debated, but is commonly believed to have stemmed from an incident in a roadhouse in Alabama which Young visited in 1969. As he was having a drink, two local men came up to him, took him outside, and beat him up because he had long hair.
It is a popular belief that the Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd wrote their song "Sweet Home Alabama" as an attack on Neil Young for the opinions expressed in "Southern Man". In actuality, Lynyrd Skynyrd wrote their song as a response, showing the good things about the South. Young was even friends with the members of Lynyrd Skynyrd, saying that he is a fan of both "Sweet Home Alabama" and Ronnie Van Zant, the lead vocalist for Lynyrd Skynyrd. "They play like they mean it," Young said in 1976, "I'm proud to have my name in a song like theirs" (Ballinger 2002:81). Young has also been known to play "Sweet Home Alabama" in concert occasionally. To demonstrate this camaraderie, or perhaps as a mocking gesture, Van Zant frequently wore a Neil Young Tonight's the Night t-shirt while performing "Sweet Home Alabama".  Lynyrd Skynyrd tried to arrange to have Neil Young come onstage during a performance of "Sweet Home Alabama", where he would have sung "a southern man don't need me around anyhow", but the performers were never able to arrange this performance due to busy touring schedules.
- Ballinger, Lee. (2002). Lynyrd Skynyrd - An Oral History. Los Angeles: XT377 Publishing.
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