"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

And I Don’t Care If The Money’s No Good

This was the song I didn’t want to listen to yesterday. Thought it would make me too sad. But then I did listen to it and I played it again and again and marveled at its power. A friend of mine said, “It doesn’t convert you to the Confederacy or anything, but it kinda makes you understand the Confederacy, which is a bold thing.” Amen.

And here is a great version from “The Last Waltz.”

Rest in Peace, Levon.


1 Sliced Bread   ~  Apr 20, 2012 8:20 am

That really is a great song, and performance by Levon.

re: understanding the Confederacy: Neil Young's Powderfinger has the same result, but a very different kind of power. Come to think of it, that would have been a great one for Levon to cover (if he hadn't).

2 rbj   ~  Apr 20, 2012 8:51 am

Levon was from The South.
After having lived in Columbia, SC for 5 years, I've come to understand that they just view the Civil War differently. Even those who say the South deserved to lose, slavery was wrong*, will have a "but, still. . . " They may have lost an ancestor, or ancestral home due to the war.

*And there are actually apologists for slavery, claiming that it was "Christian slavery" and wasn't so bad because it brought so many to Christ. Which is sheer and utter fucking bullshit.

Heck, Lynyrd Skynryd uses a "Confederate Battle Flag" (which isn't, really) background, and I seriously doubt they're racists.

3 Matt Blankman   ~  Apr 20, 2012 9:00 am

The song doesn't work without Levon's vocal. Joan Baez' cover always came off as bizarre to me.

4 Bama Yankee   ~  Apr 20, 2012 11:54 am

Understanding the Confederacy is not very difficult if you spend much time in the South. Southerners are a gracious, proud, hard-working bunch of folks. As is usually the case, wars are started by politicians for one reason and fought by soldiers for a different reason.

While the Confederacy was on the wrong side of history, the soldiers were brave men who fought (outnumbered, undersupplied and undernourished) for a cause they certainly believed in (which, often times, the least of which was slavery). Sometimes, it seems, historians like to paint the "Confederacy" with a broad brush but in reality the people in the South were not so easily defined.

I read where the writer of that song said he had heard Southerners say "Don't worry, the South is going to rise again" and he wrote the song because he was touched by the pain and sadness he saw in his visits to the South. Again, people in the South are a proud bunch and the years after the Civil War were not easy (Reconstruction and the poverty that followed was hell for most people). And while the politicians might have made the decisions that caused the war, the people certainly are the ones who paid the price for those decisions.

Being a huge sports fan (especially collge football) I've heard people say that the biggest reason college football is almost like a religion in the South is because the success of Southern teams (Alabama was the first Southern team to win the Rose Bowl back in the 20's) gave the folks something to be proud of again. People still talk about how the boys from Bama went out to California and "whupped those Yankees" and people all over the South chant "SEC, SEC, SEC" as teams from the Southeastern Conference have won the last six National Championships.

So, I guess, success on the football field has allowed the South (even if in only a small way) to "rise again". And there is nothing wrong with that I suppose...

5 Mr OK Jazz Tokyo   ~  Apr 20, 2012 6:31 pm

[4] With all respect Bama..I do not understand that at all. The Civil War ended 150 years ago and people still have a complex about it? Reconstruction was hell? Imagine you were a victim of Jim Crow 100 yeras AFTER reconstruction..maybe I need to do some traveling in the South as I fear I view the whole region almost exclusively through racial politics...and it's odd cause the South is the source of the world's greatest music!

6 Mr OK Jazz Tokyo   ~  Apr 20, 2012 6:32 pm

[4] Need coffee, am too unclear. Basically what I am saying is..when I see a Confederate flag, I think of "treason, succession, slavery defenders". It creeps me out BIG TIME. Perhaps an excessive reaction.

7 MDF   ~  Apr 21, 2012 12:21 am

The Night They Drove Ol' Dixie Down is indeed a great song, and Levon Helm was a great musician and a wonderful man. But if you want to understand the Confederacy, read the "Cornerstone Speech" by CSA Vice President Alexander Stephens:

"Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas [of the United States Constitution]; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and moral condition."


8 Bama Yankee   ~  Apr 21, 2012 6:59 pm

Wow. I didn't realize the perception of the South was that bad. Seriously, we are not all racist rednecks with rebel flags and gun racks in the back windows of our pickup trucks.

My point was just that the war might have been started by rich politicians for the reasons you've read in your history books, but it was fought by brave men for mostly other reasons. And to lump every Southerner into the same group is unfair.

9 Mr OK Jazz Tokyo   ~  Apr 22, 2012 7:56 am

[8] It's a difficult topic..certainly I agree with your last point that it's unfair to lump every one into the same group. But your point in [4] that they were "brave men who fought for what they believed in"..well, this leads to VERY difficult territory..the same argument could be used for those poor souls in solitary confinement in Guantanomo..but I suppose I should stop here and adhere to Banter rules.

I think MDF is right in [7] though. Pretty cut and dried what the Confederacy was all about.

10 Mr OK Jazz Tokyo   ~  Apr 22, 2012 8:00 am

[8] Bama Yankee, this being an older thread we can keep the civil (no pun intended!) discourse going if you like. Interested to hear more about contemporary Southern life..from what you are saying I would guess the Flag-Flying Yankee Hating pick-up drivers is really the minority, an outdated stereotype? A few lingering bad apples in a vastly changed region?

People here often have the same outdated image of NYC. When I say I'm from Brooklyn they immediately think I grew up in a scene from "The Warriors"..

11 Bama Yankee   ~  Apr 22, 2012 2:27 pm

[9] My point in [4] was supposed to be the same as the one in [8]. ;-)

I guess what I was trying to say was that if you want to understand the Confederacy (as was the original idea of Alex's topic involvind the "Dixie Down" song) you have to understand the PEOPLE who made up the Confederacy more than the POLITICS that made up the Confederacy. Of course, as you say, the whole thing is a difficult topic (and is certainly not something that gets fully explored in your average US history class).

I just wanted to add to the comments Alex posted about how his friend said that song helped him "understand" the Confederacy. Like I said, people here in the South are a proud bunch. We take pride in our religion, our family, our country and heck, even silly things like our football teams (unfortunately, some people put this one at the top of their list). In reality, this is probably not a trait that is exclusive to the South, but that is the region we are talking about.

So, with this knowledge, it is not hard to understand that a group of brave men (hyped up by a zealous lot of politicians) would sign up to fight for their new "country". What has always been difficult for some to understand (and even difficult for the Northern leaders to fathom at the time), was why those same brave men would continue the struggle (against impossible odds) for so long. All I can say is that I understand it because I've lived here all my life. And, it would probably be hard for someone to fully understand unless you spent some serious time in the South.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that just because a group of wrong-headed rich leaders started the war for political reasons, you shouldn't immediately condemn those poor, mostly-uneducated, brave men who actually paid the price in battle. Sure, they could have said, "We ain't fightin' in no stinkin' war" (and to be sure, there were some who did say that). But, that's not the way most people were raised and they fought for the country in which they lived. Not necessarily out of a sense that the politicians were "right" but mostly out of a sense of the fact that it was their "duty" to their country.

Lastly, the part about Reconstruction is best summed up in the following article:

Thanks for giving me a chance to explain myself. I hope I have made it more clear. Again, I'm not trying to defend the politics of Confederacy, I'm just trying to help some understand the people of the South a little better. Stereotypes are usually the only view some people have of folks they don't know very well and I was hoping to help people get past some of the negative views of a region that (for years) has been lumped together into a conglomeration of racist individuals. As you have said, no region or group likes to be painted with a broad brush and just as I've learned a lot about people from New York by hanging around this site, I hope to help educated people about those of us down here in the South.

12 Mr OK Jazz Tokyo   ~  Apr 22, 2012 9:39 pm

[11] Bama, thanks for the reply, very interesting. I can understand what you are saying but still have many questions..what exactly do people mean when they say "The South will rise again!". Is it just a meaningless catch phrase to express regional pride, or something more sinister? How do southern blacks feel about that, knowing the history? From my perspective, to be honest, I find it a little troubling..am I way off base?

I think for me personally, I am just put off by any call to "duty" that ignores one's personal morality. For exmaple, Robert E.Lee was actually AGAINST slavery..yet fought to defend the South's right to contiue the practice. This seems crazy to me, and not something I would defend at all. Living in Japan I've learned a lot about what happens when a population gets caught up in that sort of thinking..it led to national destruction here, 100% total defeat in WWII..

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver