There was an interesting but overheated discussion at “Edge of the West” of a beloved piece of classic rock, The Band’s “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” There was contextualizin’ and politicizin’ a-plenty, and I made the following remarks way, way down in the comments:
Sorry I saw this late. I love “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” dearly, and hearing the Band’s searing, lumpy original version after growing up with the dopey, slick Joan Baez sing-along on AM radio was a formative musical experience for me: it just illustrated the difference between original popular art and dumbed-down music industry pablum. (Also, the correct lyrics actually told a story that made sense.)
That said, Robbie Robertson’s lyrics for that song and several of the others on “The Band” and “Stage Fright” partook of a fairly naive infatuation with Confederate/white southern Americana that was common in the counter culture and its offshoots circa 1969 (and after). Whilst heading back to nature and making laid-back country-rock, they loved them their doomed outlaws and rebels back in those days, and with less historical insight than we might like, the hippie songwriters and screenwriters tended to think they identified with the poor Confederate soldier, especially if he turned “social bandit” after the war. Even in the dark, revisionist westerns they turned out, the good guys were almost always ex-Confederates, just like John Wayne and Randolph Scott had always been. Blue uniforms were only seen sacking Indian villages and southern farms.
I would say it is to Robbie Robertson’s credit that, unlike a number of left-wing historians of that day, he wrote his elegiac ballad about Confederate cannon fodder rather than, say, a revanchist thug like Jesse James.