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Rebel Rock: Lynyrd Skynyrd, Normaal, and Regional Identity

Zwiers, M., 19-Oct-2015, In : Southern Cultures. 21, 3, p. 85-102 18 p.

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  • Rebel Rock Lynyrd Skynyrd, Normaal, and Regional Identity

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This essay examines the construction of regional identity in the music of two rock bands that became popular during the 1970s: Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Dutch formation Normaal. I discuss the similarities and differences between both bands and analyze the most important sites and characters that appear in their songs. One of the central subjects of the essay is the global nature of antipathy in rural regions towards (urban) centers of national power. Skynyrd and Normaal are popular in the countryside, because they formulate recognizable responses to outside critique on a regional way of life. Lynyrd Skynyrd’s number 1 hit “Sweet Home Alabama” was such a response, while singer Bennie Jolink founded Normaal after a disillusioning experience as a young artist in Amsterdam. A regional defense mechanism thus constitutes the basis of both bands. At the same time, they turn around the generally accepted (negative) image of rural people as simple-minded souls and depict them instead as down-to-earth, in touch with nature, and hardworking.

Lynyrd Skynyrd and Normaal also use similar places and characters in their music, such as the honkytonk and the hard-drinking “helluvafella.” Violence is an important theme in their songs, which is strongly connected to notions of masculinity. An important difference between Skynyrd and Normaal is the burden of southern history, the Confederate flag, and its racist implications. Normaal never had to deal with these issues. In the conclusion of the essay, I place the music of Normaal in a wider context of Dutch regional artists, who often use music styles that originated from the American countryside, especially the South.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-102
Number of pages18
JournalSouthern Cultures
Volume21
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 19-Oct-2015

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