Lynyrd Skynyrd – Simple Man

This song was on their debut album (Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-erd ) but if it were up to their producer (Al Kooper) it wouldn’t have been recorded.

Kooper didn’t like how the song was sounding and wasn’t crazy about it in the first place. He kept on saying he didn’t want it on the album.

At the studio, Van Zant told him to go somewhere and not come back for a while. He then proceeded to walk Kooper outside and to his car…he opened the door and then waved Kooper goodbye.

They recorded the song while he was away and it stayed on the album. Kooper later overdubbed an organ on the song.  It’s a huge favorite with fans and has been featured in movies and commercials. It’s one of those album songs that has gotten more popular as the years go by.

Van Zant’s grandmother passed away around the same time, so Gary Rossington and Van Zant got together at Van Zant’s apartment to share memories of their grandparents. As they talked, the stories they passed back and forth suddenly began to form into a song. Rossington came up with a chord progression, and Van Zant wrote the lyrics based on advice the women had given them over the years. They wrote it in about an hour.

Rossington was raised by his mother, and Van Zant was like a father figure in his life, even though he was just a few years older than him. Van Zant taught the guitarist how to drive a car or the other things that youngsters needed to learn in their teenage years.

The song was not released as a single but it finally charted in 2021 on Billboard US Hot Rock & Alternative Songs.

Ed King: I really enjoyed working with Al Kooper. I believe, had it not been for Al, no one would’ve heard of Skynyrd. He was the visionary behind the band and how it should be presented to the world. We didn’t always agree with Al, but I certainly enjoyed his presence.
When we drove up to Atlanta to record “Simple Man,” we played the song for Al in the studio. He hadn’t heard it. He didn’t care for it and said “You’re not putting that song on the album.” Ronnie asked Al to step outside. He escorted Al to his Bentley and opened the car door. Al stepped in. Ronnie shut the door and stuck his head in thru the open window. “When we’re done recording it, we’ll call you.”
Al came back a few hours later, added the organ part and it was a keeper. I don’t think any band before or since, making its debut album, could get away with doing that to the record producer. There was a healthy respect happening there…and that is a really funny story that reflects that.

Gary Rossington: “We just put down in a song what our mama or grandma had said to us, they really wrote it, we just played it.”

Al Kooper: Early on I begged Skynyrd to change their name. It looked on paper like it was pronounced “Lie-nerd Sky-nerd.” It didn’t make any sense at first glance, and it certainly didn’t conjure up what their music was about. I tried everything, but to no avail. They would not budge. So, I decided if I was stuck with it, I’d make the best of it.
They were also always getting in fistfights. If they couldn’t find anyone to fight, they’d fight each other. I decided to paint a rough-house image for them. I designed a skull head and spelled their name out in a bones typeface. 

Simple Man

Mama told me when I was young
“Come sit beside me, my only son
And listen closely to what I say
And if you do this it’ll help you some sunny day”

“Oh, take your time, don’t live too fast
Troubles will come and they will pass
You’ll find a woman and you’ll find love
And don’t forget, son, there is someone up above”

“And be a simple kind of man
Oh, be something you love and understand
Baby be a simple kind of man
Oh, won’t you do this for me, son, if you can”

“Forget your lust for the rich man’s gold
All that you need is in your soul
And you can do this, oh baby, if you try
All that I want for you, my son, is to be satisfied”

“And be a simple kind of man
Oh, be something you love and understand
Baby be a simple kind of man
Oh, won’t you do this for me, son, if you can”

Oh yes, I will

“Boy, don’t you worry, you’ll find yourself
Follow your heart and nothing else
And you can do this, oh baby, if you try
All that I want for you, my son, is to be satisfied”

“And be a simple kind of man
Oh, be something you love and understand
Baby be a simple kind of man
Oh, won’t you do this for me, son, if you can”

Baby, be a simple, really simple man
Oh, be something you love and understand
Baby, be a simple, kind of simple man

Lynyrd Skynyrd – I Ain’t The One

I Ain’t the One has a great opening riff and it was written by guitarist Gary Rossington and lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, and was featured as the first track on Skynyrd’s debut album (pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd).

The album was one of the great rock debut albums. When you listen to this album you can hear a little of Cream, Stones, and Free. British rock was a huge influence on Lynyrd Skynyrd.

There is a great version of this song of them playing it  at the Knebworth Festival in England. Although the headliner was The Rolling Stones but Skynyrd was the band that grabbed the notices of that festival.

At a gig in Atlanta in 1972 they were discovered and signed by musician, producer, and founding member of Blood, Sweat, and Tears and The Blues Project, Al Kooper.

After two songs into recording bassist Leon Wilkeson quit so he was replaced by ex-Strawberry Alarm Clock guitarist Ed King who originally wanted to play guitar with the band.

After they finished recording Ronnie Van Zant decided that King, who had added some guitar to the record, would be better on lead guitar so he asked Wilkeson to rejoin.

With Wilkeson back the now seven-man band was complete and would remain that way until Ed King and Bob Burns left the band in 1975. The guitarist Steve Gaines would join in 1976.

I Ain’t The One

Well, I’ll tell you plainly baby
What I plan to do
‘Cause I may be crazy baby
But I ain’t no fool
Your daddy’s rich, mama
You’re overdue
But I ain’t the one, baby
Been messing with you
Got bells in your mind, mama
So won’t you pardon me
I think its time for me to move along
I do believe

Now you’re talking jive, woman
When you say to me
Your daddy’s gonna take us in baby
‘N take care of me
You know and I know, woman
I ain’t the one
I never hurt you sweet heart
I never pulled my gun
Got bells in your mind, baby
So won’t you pardon me?
I think its time for me to move along
I do believe
Time for me to put my boots out in the street baby
Are you ready boots — walk on

All right there missy, let me tell you a thing or two
Now you’re talking jive, woman
When you say to me
Your daddy’s gonna take us in baby
‘N take care of me
When you know and I know, woman
I ain’t the one
That ain’t my idea — uh unh — of having fun
Got rings in your eyes lady
So won’t you pardon me
I think its time for me to move along
I do believe
I must be in the middle of some kind of conspiracy

Lynyrd Skynyrd – Free Bird…Epic Rock Songs Week

There is one more song coming after Free Bird…and we will finish this up.

When I was playing in clubs and bars we played mostly British rock. We didn’t know many Lynyrd Skynyrd songs. There would always be one drunk jackass person in the back that yelled “Free Bird”…it never failed! I have to admit it was funny the first few times. The song is a classic. It is one of rock’s anthems.

Like the others this week it builds up and it does have an electrifying solo to close it out. I’ve heard this live before and it is one of the great live songs you can hear.

The song was usually dedicated to Duane Allman and he died in 1971, two years before “Free Bird” was released. The song was written long before his death. The double guitar solo at the end is the same style as many early Allman Brothers songs.

Free Bird was on their debut album Pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd…They gave it the title because well… they knew people would not be able to pronounce their name. The album was a very solid album and it peaked at #27 in the Billboard Album Chart, #47 in Canada, and #44 in the UK in 1973. They would soon open up for The Who on their Quadrophenia tour and that helped build their audience. 

This song began as a ballad without the guitar solos at the end, and Lynyrd Skynyrd recorded it that way for the first time in 1972. Guitarist Allen Collins had been working on the song on and off for the previous two years. Collins wrote the music long before Ronnie Van Zant came up with lyrics for it. Van Zant finally got inspired one night and had Collins and Gary Rossington play it over and over until he wrote the words. 

At the time of recording, the song was only 7 1/2 minutes long, but throughout the next year, Collins continued to refine the song until it was recorded for the final cut of the Pronounced album in 1973. It ended up 9:08 minutes long.

MCA did not want this on the album. They thought it was too long and that no radio station would play it. Even the band never thought it was going to be a hit.

The song was released as a single in 1974 and peaked at #19 in the Billboard 100 adn #58 in Canada. In 1976, a live version was released from the One More For the Road live album. It peaked at #38 in the Billboard 100 and #48 in Canada. 

 

From Songfacts

Frontman Johnny Van Zant discussed this song in a track-by-track commentary to promote the band’s 2010 CD/DVD Live From Freedom Hall. He said: “For years Skynyrd has always closed the show with that song and the song has different meanings for different people. This kid was telling me that they used it for their graduation song and not too long ago somebody told me that they used it at a funeral. And really it’s a love song, its one of the few that Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ever had. It’s about a guy and a girl. Of course at the end it was dedicated to Duane Allman from the band Allman Brothers because it goes into the guitar part. If you can get through that one you’ve had a good night at a Skynyrd show.”

The lyrics are about a man explaining to a girl why he can’t settle down and make a commitment. The opening lines, “If I leave here tomorrow, would you still remember me?” were inspired by Allen Collins’ girlfriend Kathy, who had asked him this very question during a fight. 

The album version runs 9:08, with the last lyric uttered at 4:55 (“fly high, free bird, yeah”). Those last four minutes comprise perhaps the most famous instrumental passage in rock history. Skynyrd had three guitarists: Allen Collins, Ed King and Gary Rossington, allowing them to jam for extended periods long after most songs would peter out.

After the 1977 plane crash that killed lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, his brother, Johnny, took his place. Performing the song was very emotional for Johnny, and for a while, he wouldn’t sing it – the band played it as an instrumental and the crowd would sing the words.

This is a classic rock anthem. Shouting it out as a request at concerts became a rock and roll joke, and every now and then a musician will actually play it. The 2007 Mitch Myers book The Boy Who Cried Freebird: Rock & Roll Fables and Sonic Storytelling explores this subject in a work of fiction about the first person ever to shout “Free Bird” at a concert.

In places, the high-pitched guitar mimics a bird flying free. This is something Duane Allman did on the 1970 Derek & the Dominos track “Layla,” where at the end he plays the “crying bird.” In that song, it signifies Layla’s untamed spirit. In “Free Bird,” the guy is the elusive one, refusing to be caged by intimacy.

Like “Free Bird,” “Layla” loses most of its mojo when cut down for single release. The full version of that song runs 7:10, with the radio edit truncated to 2:43.

Skynyrd always plays this as the last song at their shows.

In the US, this wasn’t released as a single until a year after the album came out. By that time, “Sweet Home Alabama” had already been released, and the single version of “Free Bird” was edited down. The long version from the album has always been more popular.

This Southern Rock classic was produced by a northerner: Al Kooper, who discovered the band a year earlier when they were playing a gig in Atlanta. Kooper, a founding member of Blood, Sweat & Tears, is from Brooklyn, New York, but he gelled with Skynyrd, crafting their sound for wide appeal without diluting it. He produced their next two albums as well.

Despite having three guitarists, “Free Bird” opens with an organ as the lead instrument, giving the guitars more impact when they arrive. In early versions of the song, this section was done on piano, but Al Kooper convinced the band that organ was the way to go. He played the instrument on the track, credited on the album as “Roosevelt Gook.” Kooper had the bona fides to pull it off: he came up with the organ section on Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone.”

Ronnie Van Zant thought at first that this song “had too many chords to write lyrics for.” Skynyrd guitarist Gary Rossington commented in an interview with Blender magazine, “But after a few months, we were sitting around, and he asked Allen to play those chords again. After about 20 minutes, Ronnie started singing, ‘If I leave here tomorrow,’ and it fit great. It wasn’t anything heavy, just a love song about leavin’ town, time to move on. Al put the organ on the front, which was a very good idea. He also helped me get the sound of the delayed slide guitar that I play – it’s actually me playing the same thing twice, recording one on top of the other, so it sounds kind of slurry, echoey.” 

In 1988, the group Will To Power went to #1 in America with a mellow medley of this song and Peter Frampton’s “Baby, I Love Your Way.” The official title of that track is “Baby, I Love Your Way/Freebird Medley (Free Baby).”

While the lyrics contain the phrase “free as a bird,” the title itself (“Free Bird”) is used just once, right before the guitar solos begin: “Won’t you fly high, free bird.” 

Free Bird

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

But if I stay here with you, girl
Things just couldn’t be the same
‘Cause I’m as free as a bird now
And this bird you cannot change
Oh 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 sweet love, yeah yeah
Though this feelin’ I can’t change
Please don’t take it so badly
‘Cause Lord knows, I’m to blame

If I stay here with you girl
Things just couldn’t be the same
‘Cause I’m as free as a bird now
And this bird you cannot change
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
And the 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