Very soon Texas Stadium will be imploded; but 18 years ago, a twenty-something kid enjoyed Farm Aid 5 and its seven hour marathon of non stop live music. The bands included such nationally lesser-knowns as Austin’s own Asleep at the Wheel, Kinky Friedman, and The Geezinslaws (think Sammy Allred, formerly of 98.1).
Some of the bigger draws included Eddie Rabbit, Johnny Paycheck, the Texas Tornados, Tracy Chapman, and Arlo Guthrie along with bonafide superstars Kris Kristofferson, Merle Haggard, John Mellon Cougarcamp, Paul Simon and, of course, Willie Nelson, the founder of Farm Aid.
But the headliner was Neil Young, and he did not disappoint. (That was left to the Black Crowes, who didn’t show up at all despite being widely touted near the top of the bill, supposedly because the former Mr. Kate Hudson was on another drug and alcohol induced bender.) And when Lynyrd Skynyrd closed the penultimate set with their signature song, Sweet Home Alabama, tens of thousands in the stadium shouted the second verse, at the top of their lungs and in unison:
Well I heard Mister Young sing about her
Well, I heard ole Neil put her down
Well, I hope Neil Young will remember
A Southern man don’t need him around anyhow
The last two lines were probably the loudest thing I’ve ever heard and it was exponentially enjoyable knowing that Young himself would be out next. Predictably, he started with an anthem, it might have been Rockin’ in the Free World (I don’t remember the specifics, except for what happened immediately afterwards). Then, the lights were completely dimmed, the stadium became pitch black, and Neil shouted into the microphone, “It’s great to back in Teeeeeexas!”
It’s a total cliché, the rock star screams out the name of the place he’s temporarily visiting, and the madding crowd roars in response. And we did, in spades. And as the applause began to die down, we heard the strumming of guitars, a familiar tune. 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