I was surfing the web a day or two ago when I found an op/ed piece from the Bloomberg Businessweek, written by David Kiley. (click HERE to read it) He had a rather strong, to say the least, reaction to the use of Lynyrd Skynyrd's Sweet Home Alabama being used for a recent (all things relative) Kentucky Fried Chicken commercial. Remember this? Ya, when hearing it...it DID seeem a bit odd. Kentucky...Alabama. Okay. Sure.
When I saw that someone had devoted so much time to his reaction to music choice in a commercial, I thought, "This guy has too much time on his hands. Wish I got paid for that."
Unfortunately though, Kiley took it further. He said KFC was "...using a song that has long been an anthem for defending the Confederacy to sell fried chicken? Am I the only one squirming and laughing at the same time?" He later ranted, "...using it to sell fried chicken nationally, and ignoring the meaning and intent of the song." This is when I started squirming.
He was attempting to turn this reaction to song choice into a refresher on why this song is so racist. The problem...the major problem...is that his "knowledge" of the subject comes from suggested - not researched - ideas. Postulations based on skimming the surface...and latching onto the controversial. Ideas which can be easily dismissed...IF you dig just a bit. And really, you don't have to dig too far.
Here. Here's step one.
The rumors of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "racism", in all actuality, come from only a few sources; a few of the lines from Sweet Home Alabama, and the use of the rebel flag. Regarding the suspect lines in the song, a google search will take care of that for you. The racism claims are also disputed (quite well) in the comments following the post. Again, HERE'S a link.
Regarding the use of the "stars and bars"? Quite frankly, it was the idea of the record company. They (MCA) were trying to promote Skynyrd with a Southern Rock, Rebel kinda image. Now, the guys that became Lynyrd Skynyrd grew up in the ghetto area of Jacksonville, Florida. This was, according to Ronnie Van Zandt (lead singer and predominate songwriter), one of the few parts of the town that wasn't segregated. They didn't have a problem with anyone's race! They were more likely to fight you if you gave them grief over the length of their hair.
It's been asked, "Then why couldn't they have done away with the flag - knowing what a controversial image it can be"? I found out only recently (I have to admit) that they did stop using the flag as a backdrop, except overseas, where it was a symbol for a rebellious Yankee (American - not Southern American) attitude. Van Zandt, actually, has said that while it (the rebel flag) was handy as a marketing gimmick at first - after a while, it just became an embarassment. They didn't want to be lumped in to the same ol' dumb, redneck, racist, stereo-type.
Add to this that, well - the plane went down VERY shortly into their career. They didn't have much TIME to do do anything about it. That is - to get everybody to stop the association that had been built up so strongly.
My feeling was that David Kiley didn't actually have all that strong of a reaction to the song, or the commercial. Maybe he thought he was informing the public. Maybe he was hoping for some debate amongst his readers - jumping onto the bandwagon of an uber-obviously controversial subect. There wasn't any debate, really. Kiley simply got slammed. Over and over. And deservedly so. One of the most astoundiong things I've found, by the way, is that Kiley hasn't responded (that I can find) to the multitudes of those who corrected him and his lack of research. I welcome his comments (and yours).