Taking on the topic of racism by evoking images of burning crosses, cotton fields, and colonial estates in the American South, Young was in for a surprise when Southern rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd retaliated to "Southern Man" with their song "Sweet Home Alabama." In it they railed, "I hope Neil Young will remember, the Southern man don't need him around anymore." In truth, the bands were mutual admirers and a "reply song" is about the highest compliment one performer can pay to another. But Young's song also portended the bashing pre-grunge style for which he would become known on and off during his career with Crazy Horse. Nils Lofgren's persistent banging of the piano keys and Young's frantic guitar are the elements that send "Southern Man" into the rock & roll stratosphere, particularly during its long middle break and fade, which are the heart and soul of the song. The verse acts more like a hymn which rests in stark contrast to the instrumental goings-on; that's where the action is -- in the sound of what happens when people rise up and claim what is rightfully theirs.