Thirty-two years ago today, Alabama released their number one hit album, Southern Star.
The album produced four singles including “High Cotton,” and “If I Had You.” All four of the album’s singles reached number one on the Hot Country Singles charts. Most notably was “Song of the South,” arguably one of Alabama’s greatest hits.
The song is about the simplicity and struggle of country living during some of America’s most challenging economic times. During the song, the group sings, “Song, song of the south. Sweet potato pie and I shut my mouth. Gone, gone with the wind. There ain’t nobody lookin’ back again.” The song soared to the number one spot on the charts and solidified Alabama’s place as country music superstars.
However, Alabama wasn’t the first group to record the song. In fact, several artists recorded “Song Of The South” before Alabama made the song famous. The song was originally written by Bob McDill. Country musician, Bobby Bare recorded the song first in 1980 for his album, Drunk & Crazy.
Musician Johnny Russel recorded another version in 1981. His version reached number 57 on the US Billboard country chart. A year later, Tom T. Hall and Earl Scruggs recorded the song for their album, Storyteller and the Banjo Man. Their version peaked at number 72 on the charts. It wasn’t until Alabama recorded “Song of the South” that the song hit it big.
Alabama’s Randy Owen Says the Band Was ‘Losing’ Their ‘Soul’ As They Became Famous
The music video for “Song of the South” was just as impactful as the song. During the video, Alabama highlighted the resilience of the American spirit while also authentically depicting what it was like to grow up in the south during some of the most difficult economic challenges in American history.
The video features stock footage of Dust Bowl farmers and out of work Southerners. It even features a quote from Franklin D. Roosevelt. His famous line, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
Both the song and the music video shared important messages of resilience and history. In fact, during an interview, Alabama’s lead singer, Randy Owen shared that staying true to their identity and message was important to the band. So much so, that they reassessed their music when they realized they were straying from their true roots.
“We became more of a commercial band than southern soul gospel country, the people who we really are. And we started coming to the point where I got tired of those songs,” said Owen. “We were losing our soul. And we were losing the reason we got in the music business.”