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The Unwinnable Argument

By Scott Smith in Arts & Entertainment on Mar 31, 2005 5:12PM

2005_03_31_rawk.jpgWith all the Lollapalooza hullabaloo yesterday (the Sun-Times and the Trib pick up the story today), we missed the chance to put our two cents into an argument that Richard Roeper started. It’s an argument guaranteed to inflame any barroom in the city when you include just three little words: “...of all time.”

Confusing popularity with quality, Roeper argues that “Sweet Home Alabama” is the “greatest rock and roll song of all time.” His anecdotal proof: its inclusion in a NASCAR video game; its use in a concert by the Duff sisters and a recent movie trailer; and the joy it brings to drunken barroom patrons. What? No mention of its status as a top karaoke pick?

To be fair, Roeper also cites Skynyrd’s “killer” guitar work and ballsy vocals (no argument there) as well as its catchy chorus (so does this make “Since U Been Gone” the 2nd greatest rock song?). But then it’s back to the movies with Roeper alleging the song’s cultural weight can be confirmed because it was in...Con Air! If countless appearances in the cultural zeitgeist make a song great then ladies and gentlemen, we’d like to nominate James Brown’s “I Feel Good.”

*crickets chirping*

Yeah, that’s what we thought.

We generally worship the ground Roeper walks on (his column this week on jerky behavior in bathrooms had guys all over Chicago nodding their heads in agreement) but Chicagoist thinks he’s got it wrong here. Does “Sweet Home Alabama” kick ass? Hell yeah it does. Does that make it the greatest rock song of all time? Well, no. There are plenty of songs that can get a room full of drunks singing in full voice but it’s going to be a while before you see Journey or REO Speedwagon getting a call from the Hall of Fame.

But Roeper’s right: The Greatest Rock and Roll Song Of All Time should kick ass. It should have universality to it as well. All people should be able to rally behind its lyrics which have survived time and tide and stand apart from politics or current events. It should be perfect for any occasion be it live concert, baseball game or bar mitzvah.

And that is why AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long” is the Greatest Rock and Roll Song Of All Time.