I read through a number of movie reviews of The Devil's Rejects while I was working on yesterday's post, and it struck me that a lot of them went out of their way to take a swipe at Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird". I know the song has become kind of a punchline, but do pop culture buffs really not like it? My guess is that the negative reaction to "Free Bird" - like the one to "Stairway to Heaven" and "Hotel California" - has less to do with the song itself and more to do with what it represents: white guy classic rock that has worn out its welcome.
Maybe it's just because I'm young enough to have missed their FM dominance (or maybe it's just because my taste in rock is fairly mainstream), but I've always liked these three songs, even though their status as near-jokes makes it hard to talk about them seriously. "Free Bird" is, I think, the best of them, and, I'd argue, it's just about as good as rock gets. I find it achingly beautiful and moving: a song about rootlessness from a band whose music has always emphasized their roots (although maybe this take on it just shows I've been listening too much to the Drive-by Truckers and reading too much Daniel Larison).