For this essay I have selected two different pieces of music from the same time period, the 1970’s. The first is Sweet Home Alabama, by Lynyrd Skynyrd and the second is Margaritaville, by Jimmy Buffet. Both are popular singles of their own accords. Margaritaville was released in 1977 on the album Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Altitudes. It was an instant hit in the United States and reached number eight on the Billboard Hot 100 chart as well as peaking the Easy Listening chart at number one. It is by far Buffet’s highest charting solo single. Sweet Home Alabama was released in 1974 on the album Second Heaping. It was the popular southern rock band’s second hit single as well as a whole half-minute shorter than the recorded version of Margaritaville.
Margaritaville is sung as a peaceful account of the tourist scene that came upon Key West many decades ago and is meant to recount good times and an easy-going mood. It reflects the hazy lifestyle of a vacation beach community and relates heavily to drinking alcohol. The tone is upbeat and the genre is a blend of gulf and country rock. The song is primarily upheld by guitar and lyrical power but also involves a bit of piano in the chorus. Many sources speak of a lost verse that works in rhyming relation to the rest of the song but was removed by the radio stations for song shortening purposes.
Sweet Home Alabama is a song that invokes many controversial themes including racism and slavery. It was written in response to Neil Young’s “Southern Man” and “Alabama”. There are a few different towns referenced in the music including Birmingham, Alabama, which is significant because the city was home to much civil rights activism, as well as Muscle Shoals, Alabama, which was a popular location for recording music during this time period. Sweet Home Alabama also is primarily guitar and lyrically presented. Some sources say the song is foremost a tribute to the studio musicians at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios.
While both Margaritaville and Sweet Home Alabama are popular upbeat singles from the 1970’s, many differences define them. Margaritaville speaks mainly of the simple lifestyle of vacationing tourists during this time period whereas Sweet Home Alabama touches on the deeper issues going on at this time in the south first brought to light by Neil Young.
Both are similar genres and involve mainly guitar and vocal presentation but both also invoke the piano to a point. Margaritaville is much longer as far as lyrics are concerned especially because there are verses that never made it into the radio recording. Both songs are excellent tributes to the power of southern rock during the 1970’s.