"Southern Man" is a song by Neil Young from his album After the Gold Rush. The album was released in 1970. An extended live version can be heard on the Crosby Stills Nash & Young album 4 Way Street.


The lyrics of "Southern Man" are vivid, describing the racism towards blacks in the American South. In the song, Young tells the story of a white man (symbolically the entire white South) and how he mistreated his slaves. Young pleadingly asks when the South will make amends for the fortunes built through slavery when he sings:


I saw cotton and I saw black,

tall white mansions and little shacks.

Southern Man, when will you pay them back?


Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd wrote their song "Sweet Home Alabama" in response to "Southern Man" and "Alabama" from Young's 1972 album Harvest. Young has said that he is a fan of both "Sweet Home Alabama" and Ronnie Van Zant, the lead vocalist for Lynyrd Skynyrd. "They play like they mean it," Young said in 1976. "I'm proud to have my name in a song like theirs."





Young has also been known to play "Sweet Home Alabama" in concert occasionally. To demonstrate this camaraderie, Van Zant frequently wore a Neil Young Tonight's the Night T-shirt while performing "Sweet Home Alabama". Crazy Horse bassist Billy Talbot can often be seen reciprocating by wearing a Jack Daniel's-styled Lynyrd Skynyrd T-shirt (including at the Live Rust concert).





"Southern Man"


Southern man, better keep your head.

Don't forget what your good book said.

Southern change gonna come at last.

Now your crosses are burning fast.


Southern man.


I saw cotton and I saw black.

Tall white mansions and little shacks.

Southern man, when will you pay them back?


I heard screamin' and bullwhips cracking.

How long? How long?


Southern man, better keep your head.

Don't forget what your good book said.

Southern change gonna come at last.

Now your crosses are burning fast.


Southern man.


Lily Belle, your hair is golden brown.

I've seen your black man comin' round.

Swear by God, I'm gonna cut him down!


I heard screamin' and bullwhips cracking.

How long? How long?