While I was born up north (New York), I was proud that these guys were from my newly-adopted part of the country. And I showed that pride in a popular way.
On top of my piano I displayed two miniature flags, one the U.S. stars and stripes and the other the Confederacy 's stars and bars.
“Confederate iconography runs through the Southern rock and outlaw-country movement of the 1970s, and no single act, perhaps, was more associated with it than Skynyrd,” wrote Alison Fensterstock in a recent piece for The Times-Picayune.
I was one of those caught up in that movement, never considering how that historical symbol might be perceived by others.
Even now when I think back about songs like “The Ballad of Curtis Lowe” how could it be racist when Skynyrd’s Ronnie Van Zant sang that this old black man was “the finest picker to ever play the blues?”
The song, written by the late Van Zant and the late guitarist Allen Collins, tells about a young boy’s admiration for the dobro player, to the extent that the defiant kid is willing to endure beating from his mother to hear the man perform. One line in the chorus notes that people thought Curtis was useless, but that they were all fools.
But even proud southern musicians eventually came around to the idea that associating with a confederate symbol may not be the best way to sing the praises of Dixie. Gary Rossington, an original guitarist with the band, reportedly told CNN in recent years that Lynyrd Skynyrd had discontinued using the flag on stage.
There was even some mixed feelings indicated in Skynyrd’s biggest hit, 1974’s “Sweet Home Alabama.” While the lyrics say, “In Birmingham we loved the governor,” – referring to segregationist George Wallace – that line is followed by a chorus of boos.
No one can tell me that my favorite southern rockers and popular country stars had any racist intentions when they displayed the Confederate flag. I’m sure it was used as more a symbol of defiance against the establishment.
But symbols mean different things to different people and the stench of slavery can’t be fumigated from the rebel banner. While everyone in the United States has a constitutional right to express his or her opinions and beliefs, I’ve come to the realization that it is best to keep the confederate flag off the concert stage, as well as away from government facilities.