A Tough Act To Be

It must be tough to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and still be on the road bringing the music to your fans every night. There are expectations of you and your show, expectations that you have to meet to keep the paying customers happy. People want to hear the familiar tunes.IMG_1804

Musicians though like to play their new music; those are the songs they are most excited about. And when you have been on the road for more than 40 years, like Lynyrd Skynyrd it is tough I am sure to work new songs into the set. The fans want the hits, and there are so many that there is no time in the show for anything else. The fans want to hear the songs that got you elected to the Hall of Fame.

At RBC Ottawa Bluesfest Lynyrd Skynyrd gave the audience what it expected, a steady diet of the familiar. Time has taken its toll on the band, there is only one original member left, several having died in accidents and through natural causes, but the changes have happened over time, so the band still sounds like it did in the early 1970s – delivering meat and potatoes Southern rock. Kind of predictable in a way.IMG_1799

You knew that “Sweet Home Alabama” would be the closing song – it was their biggest hit. The encore had to be “Freebird,” not a single but a staple of FM rock radio in the 1970s and 1980s. (One of the reasons it was so popular was not just the musicianship but that it was slightly more than nine minutes long. Ask any radio disc jockey from that era: there were certain long songs that got a lot of airplay because those were the ones that gave you time to use the bathroom when you were on air. “Freebird” was a favourite.)

Lynyrd Skynyrd’s appearance at Bluesfest generated some controversy. For years the band has used the Confederate flag as part of their show, a tribute to their Southern heritage, they claimed. It was not in evidence on stage at Bluesfest this year, though they did display it on their last appearance n 2009. But that didn’t stop some in the audience from displaying it. Bluesfest organizes had asked people not to bring it, after receiving a complaint about a male wearing shorts patterned after it on a previous day. Supposedly the sight scared at least one person, who complained to the media that such clothing should not be allowed. Sensitivities are heightened after last month’s killings in South Carolina by an alleged racist who according to news reports used a Confederate flag in online postings.

I know that those who display the flag frequently appeal to history and heritage. There are some things in history though that we need to be aware of, while at the same time being very careful not to glorify the bad things they represent. Those who are advocates of the Confederate flag frequently cite a desire to remind people of states’ rights. Too bad they couldn’t find a better symbol for that particular cause.

Yes, the Confederate flag is a symbol of states’ rights. Unfortunately the particular right in question was the right desired by some states to makes slaves of people according to the colour of their skin. Not something I would want to try and justify.

I’m willing to give people the benefit of the doubt. You say you are not racist? Then maybe it is time to re-think whether the Confederate flag belongs anywhere except in a museum.

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