From its roots in the post-hippie 1960s, through its ’70s heyday and up until today, Southern Rock may have faded in-and-out of fashion, but it’s never gone away. Why? For fans, it embodies the rebel spirit that mainstream rock-and-roll lost a long time ago. Here are the 15 songs that built Southern Rock.
15-Song Crash Course in Southern Rock:
1. “Ramblin’ Man” | Allman Brothers Band | 1973
This song has seemingly set the bar for every southern rock song and is the most recognizable of all the band’s songs. It is also a mantra for every gypsy soul that’s found it hard to settle down in one place.
2. “Sweet Home Alabama” | Lynard Skynard | 1974
If Birmingham has an anthem, hopefully this is it. Lynyrd Skynyrd, led by the late songwriter Ronnie Van Zant, may have a redneck image but it shouldn’t over-shadow the fact that Van Zant was a real rocker that wrote down to earth lyrics with a rebellious spirit.
3. “Free Bird” | Lynyrd Skynyrd | 1973
This song more than any other defines the southern rock genre. A power ballad with so much irony and pathos, as Ronnie Van Zant asks the immortal question ‘If I leave here tomorrow, would you still remember me?’ Do we remember him? Absolutely.
4. “Midnight Rider” | Gregg Allman | 1973
Hauntingly evocative, it delves into the southern fried soul.
5. “La Grange” | ZZ Top | 1973
Quick to create an interesting image, this Texas band easily mastered their own style of blues-based-boogie-rock.
6. “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” | The Band | 1969
It tells the story of the end of the Civil War from the point of view of a beaten, tired and overtaken southern soldier.
7. “Dixie Chicken” | Little Feat | 1973. It’s the hard luck tale of a wayward southern woman working the patrons in a Memphis hotel. It reads like a native’s guide to the south.
8. “Highway Song” | Blackfoot | 1979
If there were ever the perfect song for a road trip, this one’s it. Featuring an absolutely blistering guitar solo, it has enough adrenaline to keep you awake even on the longest of rides.
9. “Black Betty” | Ram Jam | 1977
A favorite on every sports arena public address system across the South.
10. “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” | Charlie Daniels Band | 1979
The Charlie Daniels Band’s southern rock credentials are without question. Given a slightly more country sound thanks to the vibrant fiddle playing, this song remains an anthem that is a joy to listen to.
11. “Mississippi Queen” | Mountain | 1970
It’s the well timed cowbell that makes this song rise above the rest.
12. “Hold On Loosely” | .38 Special | 1979
This song helped create the mold for a string of easy-going hits .38 Special would craft together with similar chart success. As the song suggests, don’t get nuts, just give her “space to breathe in” and everything will work out just fine.
13. “Can’t Your See” | Marshall Tucker Band | 1973
The song ably brings together southern-rock and country-rock in a very laid-back kind of way, as there is a universal connection of a man running as far away as he can to begin the process of healing himself.
14. “Keep on Smilin'” | Wet Willie | 1974.
Wet Willie managed to rock as hard as Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers, but also infused their southern sound with healthy doses of soul, funk and reggae. Trust me, it works.
15. “Flirtin’ With Disaster” | Molly Hatchet | 1979
This is a song that most anyone can identify with. Besides, what’s not to like about a band that took their name from a 17th century axe murderess?