Southern man, better keep your head
Don't forget what your good book says
Southern change gonna come at last
Now your crosses are burnin' 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 crackin'
How long? How long? How?

Southern man, better keep your head
Don't forget what your good book says
Southern change gonna come at last
Now your crosses are burnin' 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 crackin'
How long? How long? How?

Lyrics submitted by H-bomb

Southern Man Lyrics as written by Neil Young

Lyrics © Broken Arrow Music, WORDS & MUSIC A DIV OF BIG DEAL MUSIC LLC

Lyrics powered by LyricFind

Southern Man song meanings
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  • +8
    General CommentOther areas aren't immune to racism, but the South is by far the most racist part of the country. You bunch of dipshits still fly confederate flags over some of your stadiums, proud of a hate-fueled banner which was the symbol of a pathetic loss aren't ya guys?
    BuckWilderon December 08, 2004   Link
  • +6
    General Commentfirst of all musicfan17, neil young is bloody amazing. im from britain, and i can tell you, he is very underated here, it amazes me how many people here have never even heard of him, never mind heard his music. There is no doubt that neil young is one of the most talented musicians ever produced. His ability to produce music of all styles with deeply personal, skilful lyrics is nothing short of genius. He is up there with Bob Dylan and The Beatles in my opinion.
    I'm not from the south and I'm not an expert on history. But what I do know is that the way blacks were treated in America, particularly in the south, was appalling. I understand your point about whites having black friends, I'm sure Martin Luther King had white friends but it was still the case that they had to go to separate schools, they still had to use separate bars, they still had to give up seats on buses for whites. There is no excuse for that behaviour. One of the reasons people fled to America when it was first founded was that they were being persecuted in their own lands, mainly Europe. America was supposed to be the land of the free, a haven for people of all colours. Yet, the very same country was (some may argue still is) guilty of persecuting blacks.
    musicfan - a poor choice of name since you cannot be a true music fan if your so bitterly opposed to the beauty of neil young's music - your statement was quite ironic. You tried to make a reasoned argument, but you still betrayed a bitterness, the exact same bitterness neil young is discussing in this song! Your intolerance is shown when you cannot accept Neil Young living in your country because he's Canadian. You make fun of Canada, but I didn't see them joining you and my country in our little adventure into Iraq. They, at least, don't have blood on their hands.
    Whether you like this song or not, I personally think its an amazing song, its certainly gets people talking, at least neil young is prepared to tackle issues others are too scared to tackle, and I agree with the sentiments of this song, that racism is utterly abhorrent and I can't understand how we can't all agree with that
    Mr_Soulon July 31, 2007   Link
  • +5
    General CommentAll the hating going on in these comments just defies everything Neil was singing about here. Stop the hating.
    Oh My Gawd!!!on February 03, 2008   Link
  • +2
    General Commentit shows the racism and social injustice in the south of whites toward their black brothers
    redwolf369on April 24, 2002   Link
  • +2
    General CommentIt's so nice to now that racism exists only below the Mason Dixon line. I'm glad the rest of the world is immune to such ignorance.
    Cornbreadon October 31, 2004   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThe civil war was over states rights, and that included slavery. Saying the civil war wasn't about slavery is about as ignorant as saying the civil war was only about slavery. Of course, I'm not from the south, and I think a certain historical bias exists in terms of what students are taught.

    I also find confederate flags to be tasteless in general, but people will be people I suppose.

    This song mentions the good book which is an interesting point since slavery was often justified using religion. I enjoy the song, it's quite powerful and inflammatory, and look- it even sparked a debate!
    yossarianismeon January 29, 2005   Link
  • +2
    General Comment"It's just most often black people like to make big scenes." you must not be racist at all.

    dumbshit stereotyping
    dustpan86on April 11, 2005   Link
  • +2
    General Commentfirst off neil young is not a yankee he is Canadian. Second of all the song is about racism in general, not just in the south. It uses the South as an example because racism occuring there at the time was much more obvious than in other parts of the US. Also, the song was mostly going to be heard in the US, and thus used an example that Americans can relate to. It is not saying that all southerners are racist or that they are the only ones who are racist. It would be a pretty rediculour hippocrtical song if it did. Neil Young is brilliant and was writing to let people know that this was still going on. Obviously the song is not as simple as some of you say it is. Stop fighting about such meaningless shit.
    bobdylaniscoolon January 25, 2006   Link
  • +2
    General CommentAs a Canadian myself, and a recent Neil Young enthusiast, maybe I could add some insight if I may :P.

    Neil Young is an awesome musician but he is very stubborn too, as he has shown in many live shows for example, he often did hours of feedback noises at to get back at concert promoters who pissed him off. This song isn't complicated like "bobdylaniscool" has stated, it's about what it states which is how the south treated blacks and asking how the south is going to pay them back. Neil Young was just stating his opinion, calm down kiddies.

    As for taking sides on this matter, let me take mine: "dasquien!" you sound more prejudice than anyone i've hear on this forum. "hami" I believe you're right on the ball but your too forward. "stoolhardy" and "Rojj" you couldn't be more off topic and ignorant. "saturninerocks" you should do alittle more research about this band ur sticking up for. "ndo" your observations are witty. And "vexy5260", I think your the biggest idiot here.

    My opinion is every location has something in their passed that their ashamed of, forgive and forget and move on.
    ZeroZenon February 27, 2006   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI don't think the meaning of this song could be any more clear to anyone with even a small understanding of American history and society. It's about racism and the unjust way African-Americans were treated in the Southern U.S. for many years going back to slavery, and are still today. Yes, it's true that not everyone in the South is racist and there are plenty of racist people elsewhere, but it's undeniable that the majority of prejudice, oppression and segregation towards African-Americans took place in the Southern U.S. from Reconstruction through the 20th Century. The song bears many references to this fact. The references to cotton, mansions, shacks and bullwhips all, of course, refer to slavery. "Now your crosses are burning fast" is a reference to the Ku Klux Klan, a group of radical southern white supremacists who dressed up in white cloaks and went on "night rides" to hunt, lynch and oppress African-Americans and other minorities. One of the hallmarks and symbols of the KKK was to set crosses on fire during these "night rides." The line "Don't forget what your good book says" calls the mostly-Christian South out on their hypocrisy based on the supposedly loving, peaceful nature of their religion. The final verse, "Lily Belle, your hair is golden brown. I've seen your black man comin' 'round. Swear by God I'm gonna cut him down!" is sung from the perspective of one of these ignorant southerners who, on discovering a white woman's affair with a black man, vows to kill him. Sadly enough, this is what actually happened in such a situation for a very long time, and probably still happens in some areas of the South.
    HyperBullyon February 05, 2011   Link

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