Simple Man

LegendbyLynyrd Skynyrd

Released in 2000 / 4 tracks, 5 mins 56 sec

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Official Music Videos

"Simple Man"

To fans of Southern Rock, there is no bigger holy grail of songwriting potential in all of Rock history than the band Lynyrd Skynyrd, the crown jewel of southern pride & the benchmark by which all other Jam Bands, Blues Rockers & Alternative Country groups are judged. Their magnum opus, then, would be “Simple Man,” the band’s most iconic tune next to their depressive yet uplifting 9-minute journey through the grief “Free Bird,” a song so famous for its length & repetition that it has been banned from being performed in many venues across the United States. Fairly lengthy in its own right, “Simple Man” is a tale of motherly wisdom told through the contemplative trudging of a Rock ballad, every word delivered with patience & respect as if to outline the utter importance of the mother’s message, hitting audiences with a track that’s not only emotional in tone but which asks them to take a good long look at themselves & question if they’ve grown up to be the person they thought they would. As the narrator, she goes on to explain to her son – presumably vocalist Ronnie Van Zant – that he must live his life for himself instead of trying to achieve the fame & fortune he sees around him, disregarding material desires in favour of interpersonal bonds & an appreciation of his fellow man, his understanding of his own worth being enough to satisfy his purpose as a person, thus allowing him to become a “simple man.” Through humility & grace – as conveyed by the line “don’t forget son, there is someone up above,” a clear reference to some sort of god – she believes he’ll be able to live a truly peaceful life, free to prosper in that which he loves by holding no ill-will towards those who have more than him or that which he cannot possess.
Now, this may come as a surprise to most, especially given the supreme fame of Skynyrd’s most prolific song, but the positive qualities of “Simple Man” end once you transition from the brightness of its lyrics to the way it’s actually performed – Although this simple message for a simple man sounds like solid advice to anyone who’s looking to increase their quality of life, Zant’s aggressive singing completely undercuts the narratives impact, his aggressive vocalizations & intermittent rhythmic lyricism turning each line into a disjointed mess that destroys the endearing nature of his mother’s words. The vocals are accompanied by an overwhelmingly busy Blues ballad structure underneath, the instrumentation broken into a cyclical pattern of soft verse followed by sudden loudness over & over ad nauseum, the natural progression between the two volume levels being virtually non-existent & tonally unhinged, like they just decided “welp, it’s the chorus so we have to play loud, right?” This is cheapened even more by the basic beat the band follows, a four bar pattern where the first note of each bar is heavily-emphasized by a cymbal hit on the downbeat; Were it counter-balanced by an additional strike on the third beat of each measure there’d at least be a consistent sense of momentum driving the song forward, giving the illusion of personal growth & a strong will throughout, but instead the heavy frontend just throws a roadblock in front of each section, causing the entire song to drag as your brain tries to decipher why the dynamic accentuations are in the wrong place – Even the most rudimentary knowledge of music theory dictates that your emphasis should be towards the back of a beat, as it’s the grooviest & most aurally-pleasing position in music. But, if the structure of “Simple Man” is so unappealing, why – you may ask – is it so beloved? Well, it all comes down to attitude; This song portrays such a loving, respectful tale through the deeply-rooted passion of southern pride that listeners find themselves comforted by its seemingly heavy-handed instrumentation, the strict structure & masculine tone supporting the barebones simplicity of southern ways, cutting out the filler & just telling it like it is without any fussy extras attached – Whatever the reason may be, it takes a lot of arrogance to claim “Simple Man” is in any way auditorily pleasing in regard to music theory.

Written by @camjameson from Extraneous Routes


"Simple Man"

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
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"

"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 man

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"Simple Man"

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"Simple Man"

Song Info

"Simple Man"


Lynyrd Skynyrd


  • Sounds of the South


  • Al Kooper


"Simple Man" is the last track on side one of Lynyrd Skynyrd's debut album (Pronounced 'Lĕh-'nérd 'Skin-'nérd).
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