Turn it up, Alabama

August 24, 2019


Often glossed over, the first three words in the classic “Sweet Home Alabama” could certainly become a second state motto. The beloved Lynyrd Skynyrd song begins with, “Turn it up,” probably referring to the music, but the phrase could also be a motto for how the people of our state live.

Big wheels keep on turning. 

Alabamians seem to treasure the blessings of life more than others, so we “turn them up.”  We push the mundane to magical and elevate loves into passions. 

Singing songs about the South-land.

Are you cooking dinner? We’ll do it on a big grill. Do you like this big grill? We’ll get another one even bigger that needs to be pulled with a truck. Do you like the truck? We’ll make it into a monster. Do you want to play a game? We’ll build a stadium to hold thousands of people to cheer for you. 

I miss ‘ole ‘bamy once again.

Do you love Jesus? We have a gospel choir, dinner on the grounds, 28 mission teams, a social media team and golf carts to get you across the enormous parking lot and a passion play that will bring tears to your eyes and make you wish you’d named your little girl Lottie Moon. 

Lord, I’m coming home to you.

Speaking of little girls, we “turn it up” by decorating them with big bows, hand-smocked-frocks, monograms, multiple first names and curls because they are cherished and loved just like their mothers. And speaking of the mamas, ladies in Alabama are “turned up” as far as the dial will go. (You’re welcome).  

They pick me up when I’m feeling blue. 

We turn it up when we publicly sing the national anthem in four- part harmony, soprano descant, punctuated by fireworks and an Air Force paratrooper trailing red, white and blue smoke who lands neatly on target.  And even though we belt it out, you can barely hear “and the home of the brave” because by then, singers from all political parties are reduced to lump-in-the-throat, whimpering emotions. We turn America up, all the way. 

Now how ‘bout you?

20 bridesmaids in one wedding isn’t unusual, our front porch ferns are the size of Shetland ponies and our car dealers fly flags larger than the entire downtown. We always want one more song, one more dance, one more round and granny always wants, “just one more hug.”

Where the skies are so blue. 

“Turning it up” can also be a nod to our strong sense of responsibility.  We were taught to work hard until the job was done. Grandparents plowed fields while begging God for rain, operated stores, sewed for neighbors and worked in lumber mills. They taught by example how to “turn up” the effort and remain strong in times of strife. 

And the Governor’s true.

 We “turn it up” so we can be sure to savor every note in life and feel every beat. We want to sing through the years and dance through the days while holding those we love. Whether they meant to or not, Lynyrd Skynyrd summed up our lifestyle in those first three words. 

Turn it up, Alabama. 

This story first appeared on AL.com sites, The Mobile Press Register, The Birmingham News and The Huntsville Times.

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