Graduation Year

2009

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

American Studies

Major Professor

Andrew Berish, Ph.D.

Keywords

The South, Race, Politics, Formations, Genre

Abstract

Southern rock bands of the 1970s were a cultural formation that displayed racially and politically progressive views in the post-civil rights South through the cultural form of southern rock music. Southern rock bands, such as The Allman Brothers Band, and Lynyrd Skynyrd, responded to the political and social changes in the South brought forth by the civil rights movement by reconciling pride for southern heritage with progressive racial views through their music. The southern rock era was essentially between the years of 1969, when The Allman Brothers Band released their first album, until 1977, whe n a tragic airplane crash took the lives of members of Lynyrd Skynyrd, including lead singer Ronnie Van Zant. Southern rock music was both a reflection of, and a response to, the changing way of life for southerners as a result of the civil rights movement.

The political and cultural shift that occurred because of the civil rights movement forced many in the South to reexamine traditions and regional identities. Although many southerners had a strong sense of regional pride, the civil rights movement exposed many of the unfavorable characteristics of the South, and forced southerners to reexamine what it meant to be a "southerner." As those in the South reexamined their southern identities, southern rock bands emerged and offered a way to embrace southern pride, while rejecting traditional racist views, through the cultural form of music. As a cultural formation, southern rock bands not only demonstrated progressive racial views, they also demonstrated progressive political views through the lyrics and subjects of their songs, as well as by actively participating in the 1976 presidential campaign of Jimmy Carter.

The cultural form of southern rock music is political in that many songs address social issues like racial injustice, poverty, gun control, domestic violence, and drug and alcohol abuse. These inclinations towards liberal politics went against the political trend being set by many white southerners who increasingly supported the more conservative Republican Party in the post-civil rights South.

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