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Tuesday, August 02, 2011

SONGS I LIKE: Free Bird - Lynyrd Skynyrd

But, if I stayed here with you, girl
Things just couldn't be the same

Free Bird
When my roommate in college was dumped by his absurdly hot girlfriend a few months after driving across the country together to attend there, he drank a lot and listened to this song over and over. I got a little tired of it but we put up with it because he was really hurting, and sometimes music is the best doctor of all.

Free Bird is Lynyrd Skyknyrd's anthem, their big song for every concert. I suspect that almost four decades later they're a bit tired of the song, but I'm sure the crowd's reaction helps them through it. The song is about freedom and love lost, but beneath it there's a deeper layer. The music is soaring and triumphant, it has a powerful, moving rhythm that soars and climbs with the guitars and you are carried along without really paying any attention to what the lyrics really are saying.

Ostensibly its about a man telling a woman he's loved that he's leaving. Sure he says he loves her but he's got to move on because he's a rambling man and can't stay tied down any one place. Sorry baby, I love you but I got to keep moving. Except, the song seems to betray that sentiment, like he's trying harder to convince himself than her.

He keeps repeating how he can't change and has to be free, and how it just wouldn't be the same, and the music is glorious and epic in an anthem of southern rock but somehow it seems as if he just doesn't really want to go so badly, and the argument becomes more a plea, wishing he could change. Ultimately the song is very sad, but the music is uplifting; and maybe it was meant to be about freedom and never being tied down but it seems to me he protests too much.

Or maybe that's just what I'm reading into it.

But any way you look at it... nobody makes music like this any more, and this is one of the most amazing songs ever written, especially that amazing guitar work at the end. There's a reason this is one of the most well known southern rock songs in the world. And its so powerful I bet the girl he wrote it for was hurt a lot less by his abandonment as a result.

If I leave here tomorrow
Would you still remember me?
For I must be traveling on, now
'Cause there's too many places
I've got to see

But, if I stayed here with you, girl
Things just couldn't be the same
'Cause I'm as free as a bird now
And this bird, you'll can not change
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh

And the bird you cannot change
And this bird you cannot change
Lord knows, I can't change
Bye, bye, baby it's been a sweet love

Yeah, yeah
Though this feeling I can't change
But please don't take it so badly
'Cause the Lord knows
I'm to blame

But, if I stayed here with you girl
Things just couldn't be the same
'Cause I'm as free as a bird now
And this bird, you'll can not change
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh

And this bird you cannot change
And this bird you cannot change
Lord knows, I can't change
Lord help me, I can't change
Lord I can't change

Won't you fly high, free bird, yeah?



This is part of the Songs I Like series.

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