Music

Story Behind the Song: Lynyrd Skynyrd's 'Simple Man' Helps Define the Family-Centric Band

AP Photo/Peter Kramer

https://youtu.be/l-5aPNxv-pU

Lynyrd Skynyrd's focus on family, be it blood relatives or brothers and sisters of the road, makes signature song "Simple Man" all the more special.

As the story goes, shortly after both original lead singer Ronnie Van Zant's grandmother and guitarist Gary Rossington's mother died, the bandmates spent time in Van Zant's apartment, reminiscing about the women they'd lost and their words of wisdom.

"Simple Man," a Southern rock masterwork about a mother's common-sense advice to her son, resulted from this hangout session. Although it's never been released as a single, the track from Skynyrd's 1973 debut album, Pronounced 'L?h-'nérd 'Skin-'nérd, ranks up there with "Freebird" and "Sweet Home Alabama" among classic rock radio's most popular songs.

Rossington soars as part of that classic three-guitar battalion alongside Ed King and Allen Collins. Likewise, the organ and keyboard duo of producer Al Kooper and Skynyrd's Billy Powell play a huge role in making "Simple Man" a song imitated (but never duplicated) by bands the quality of Shinedown and the Deftones.

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Of course, Ronnie Van Zant wasn't the only son from one of Florida's most musical families. His siblings include .38 Special's Donnie Van Zant and Johnny Van Zant, the current lead singer of Skynyrd.

"Well that's a great song and something that I think we all live by," Johnny said of "Simple Man" in a track-by-track commentary for  2010 CD/DVD Live From Freedom Hall. "I think anybody out there needs to respect their mother, and the words of their mother. It's mama talking to you in that song and I think it's probably one of my favorite's if not my favorite to do live. It's just a great song and that one stays in the set and the crowd always goes crazy on that one."

"Simple Man" Lyrics

Mama told me when I was young
"Come sit beside me, my only son
And listen closely to what I say
And if you do this it'll help you some sunny day"

"Oh, take your time, don't live too fast
Troubles will come and they will pass
You'll find a woman and you'll find love
And don't forget, son, there is someone up above"

"And be a simple kind of man
Be something you love and understand
Baby, be a simple kind of man
Oh, won't you do this for me, son, if you can"

"Forget your lust for the rich man's gold
All that you need is in your soul
And you can do this, oh baby, if you try
All that I want for you, my son, is to be satisfied"

"And be a simple kind of man
Oh, be something you love and understand
Baby, be a simple kind of man
Oh, won't you do this for me, son, if you can"

Oh, yes, I will

"Boy, don't you worry, you'll find yourself
Follow your heart and nothing else
And you can do this, oh baby, if you try
All that I want for you, my son, is to be satisfied"

"And be a simple kind of man
Oh, be something you love and understand
Baby, be a simple kind of man
Oh, won't you do this for me, son, if you can?"

"Baby, be a simple, be a simple man
Oh, be something you love and understand
Baby, be a simple kind of simple man
Oh, won't you do this for me, son, if you can?"

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Story Behind the Song: Lynyrd Skynyrd's 'Simple Man' Helps Define the Family-Centric Band