Forty years later, we still can’t shake off Lynyrd Skynyrd’s debut album, (Pronounced ‘l?h-‘nérd ‘skin-‘nérd), all thanks to four of its songs: ”Gimme Three Steps”, “Simple Man”, “Tuesday’s Gone”, and “Free Bird”. But really, just “Free Bird”.
The common douche bag practice of screaming “FREE BIRD!” at concerts has been around for what seems like ages. Too many (inebriated) fans think it’s hilarious to yell it from the crowd, and musicians and fellow concertgoers hardly tolerate it anymore. Modest Mouse frontman and grump extraordinaire Isaac Brock was so sick of it that he even included a small rant about it on their live album, Baron von Bullshit Rides Again. And over the years, it’s somehow managed to crossover into other live mediums, like comedy clubs, as you’ll see from Bill Hicks’ historic meltdown on a guy who yelled it during his set:
Regardless of the mayhem that ensues from some John Barleycorn in a backward hat, the song maintains its status as the sweeping rock ‘n’ roll opus it’s always been. Someone like myself, who’s starting to rekindle his passion for extended guitar solos, loves the four-minute, triple harmonic riffing at the end of the song. Hey, I’m not alone, which explains why we’ve all heard some band in some venue at some ungodly hour try to cover it. Oftentimes, it doesn’t work out so well. Other times, it can totally blow your mind.
This dichotomy inspired me to find the very best and worst “Free Bird” covers out there (listed here from worst to best). I’ve also assigned a rating based on their fidelity to the Lynyrd Skynyrd original, as well as given them a grade based on Skynyrd’s Confederate flag logo (aka “the stars and bars”) — a trademark they later denounced but have since brought back as a symbol of their heritage.
So, we must be travelin’ on now. Let the rock begin.