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The 25 Best Songs: Lynyrd Skynyrd

by Michael Buffalo Smith

And now, my choices for the 25 all-time best songs recorded by Lynyrd Skynyrd.

1. Freebird
    Picking the top two Skynyrd songs is a no-brainer. After all, they are both in the Hot Lists of all time best rock and roll songs by most journalists, and while “Freebird” has been driven into the ground by classic rock radio and made into the butt of many a joke, and while yelling “Fee Bird!” at shows by everyone from R.E.M. to The Tommy Talton Band (Tommy had the best response I ever heard. I’ll share it with you sometime.) has become an ongoing joke, the song remains the all-time classic Southern Rock song.

2. Sweet Home Alabama
   The lead track off Skynyrd's second album Second Helping, remains one of the most recognizable songs in Southern rock. Ed King’s opening riff from "Alabama" is instantly recognizable, even if you don’t count the KFC commercial, and it is probably one of the most-covered songs in the world. Everybody knows the Neil Young story, so I will spare you the rehash.

3. That Smell
   A true fan favorite, this anti-addiction song is musically remarkable, with soaring guitar work from Allen Collins and passionate vocals from Ronnie, and let’s not forget the all-important backing vocals of The Honkettes, JoJo Billingsley, Cassie Gaines and Leslie Hawkins.

4. All I Can Do Is Write About It
   It’s all about the lyrics in this Ronnie Van Zant country song that talks about his concern for the urbanization of the rural South and the whole tearing down historic buildings to build a new mall kind of thing. Well sung, from the heart.

5. Saturday Night Special
    Skynyrd’s anti-handgun song off their 1975 LP Nuthin' Fancy doesn’t mince words. “Hand guns were meant for killing, they ain’t no good for nothin’ else.” Ronnie takes a political stance.

6. Tuesday's Gone
Ronnie Van Zant shines as a songwriter, and on this one he positively glows. My personal all-time favorite Skynyrd song, it has been included on numerous soundtracks, including those of Happy Gilmore, Dazed and Confused, My Name is Earl, and  others. No small wonder. It’s just good. Trivia note: Robert Nix of Atlanta Rhythm Section is the drummer on this track.

7. Simple Man
Van Zant's beautiful and inspirational tribute to his grandmother is a a tribute to all mothers. There’s a lot of truth in these lyrics. This is another of Skynyrd’s best loved songs.

8. The Ballad of Curtis Loew
   A timeless tribute to the corner store musicians in Van Zant's old Jacksonville neighborhood, it’s a classic story of loving music, anti-racism and the innocence of childhood.  

9. I Know A Little
   Allen Collins and Gary Rossington rock out sixties-style on the guitars that follow an instantly recognizable high-hat and guitar riff opening segment.

10. Gimmie Back My Bullets
     Ronnie’s shout at the Billboard charts following a slump in Skynyrd’s chart standings. Put .em back where they belong.

11. On The Hunt
     Heavily influenced by British bands like Cream, “On The Hunt” is Skynyrd at their hard rocking best. Turn it up to eleven.

12. Call Me the Breeze
     The band’s cover of this JJ Cale song became another bar band staple during the seventies and remains one today.

13. Whiskey Rock and Roller
      Ronnie took so many songs straight from life. Whatever he was living at that particular moment went into the song. Obviously, he was doing a little drinking at the time. What? Skynyrd drinking? You kiddin’ me?

14. When You Got Good Friends
      This country to the bone track from Legend serves as Ronnie’s tip of the hat to brothers of the road like Charlie Daniels and Marshall Tucker.

15. Double Trouble
     Another one of my personal favorites. One of Ronnie’s ‘bad ass” songs.

16. What's Your Name?
      How to pick up girls, chapter one. Well, first, be a member of one of the hottest rock and roll bands on earth. Second, mix all ingredients together and stir.

17. You Got That Right
     The opener from Street Survivors blew my wig off the first time I played it on my old tube Panasonic stereo. Ronnie trading off vocal licks with Steve Gaines and telling it like it was. “I like to drunk and dance all night/Comes to a fix I ain’t afraid to fight/You got that right.”

18. Don't Ask Me No Questions
      Simple rules when a band is home from the road. What happens in Vegas, or in Cleveland, stays there. Don’t ask me no questions and I won’t tell you no lies. Seems simple enough to me.

19. Swamp Music
     Swampy as a Muscle Shoals fishin’ hole, another Skynyrd signature song. I love it.

20. The Needle and the Spoon
      The anti-heroin song. Another Ronnie masterpiece.

21. The Last Rebel
      The title track from their 1993 album is a really great song and one of only two post-Ronnie songs in my countdown. I have really likes this tune since day one, and Johnny Van Zant sings it well.

22. Red, White and Blue 
      From their Vicious Cycle release of 2003, my second post-Ronnie pick, and a wonderful post-9/11 tribute to America. Makes a fella proud to be an American

23. Honky Tonk Night Time Man
     Written by Merle Haggard and recorded for Street Survivors, this one, I believe, was a foreshadowing of things to come. Had he lived, I believe Ronnie would have eventually “gone country.” He certainly had a love in his heart for all things Haggard, Jones and Waylon, and he could simply sing the hell out of a country song.

24. Comin’ Home
      Ronnie’s story of a road weary traveler who is just plain tired of life on the road and is longing for home. Van Zant’s vocals are in top form. An underrated Skynyrd classic.

25. Gimmie Three Steps
      As a long time honky tonk singer myself, I must have performed this song a million times, but the fans and party crowd never get tired of hearing it. A true bar band classic, the original is still a redneck anthem beyond compare.




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