Freebird: That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore

Lord knows, I can't change.You wait for it at every show. You know it’s going to happen and it’s just a matter of time. It’s the never-ending joke with no punchline. Finally, when the band has that awkward space in their set between songs—maybe they’re switching instruments or tuning their guitars—it comes like a knife through the air.


Yep. They did it again. It has become the most annoying aspect of live performance and one that never dies. The yelling of the name of a Lynyrd Skynyrd song has become so ingrained in our culture that it is assumed someone will yell it at some point during a show—any show. But what is the origin of this banal hollering? Why do the culprits keep it up? And is there anything we, the good people of rock and roll, can do about it? I went to the ranks to try and sort out the why’s and how’s and came back with some odd ideas.

Like most traditions, the origins of this one are cloudy. As a teenager going to concerts, I thought it was just the natural extension of yelling for requests. An extension that was well past its relevancy some 10 and 15 years after half of Skynyrd was wiped out in a plane crash, but an extension nonetheless. Most bands have a go-to cover that they can pull out to win over an audience. In the late 70s, two songs in particular were most prevalent: Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” and Skynyrd’s “Freebird.”

Odd choices if you ask me since they’re both pseudo-ballads that jar the unsuspecting slow dancer into a weird funk as they both crescendo into 70s rock guitar bliss. But who am I to question the masses? These are the two songs that EVERY guitar player in the world can play (to varying degrees of success). Both songs do have immediately identifiable chord progressions that are sure to raise the Bud-filled glasses of roughnecks throughout the nation and are therefore perfect as lubrication for a hostile audience. But in the end, “Freebird” wins out as the Grande Dame of cover songs. Why? And why do some dopes still call for it from bands who have no business covering Southern Rock? Does anyone really expect indie rockers to bust out some Steve Gaines licks?

The answer may be in another theory of the tradition’s origin. During a break on Skynyrd’s One More From the Road live album, Ronnie Van Zant asks the crowd what they want to hear. The overwhelming answer is “Freebird,” a response which some believe this now all-too-lame tradition is paying homage to. Now, Zeppelin would NEVER beseech the crowd for requests. They never cared what you wanted to hear. As one Tom Clark from this long forgotten listserv conversation put it:

You see, Skynyrd was a much more egalitarian band. They encouraged the fans express themselves freely, no matter the personal disgrace. This is obvious to anyone who’s ever been to a Skynyrd show, and, to a lesser extent, an Outlaws show.

Zeppelin, on the other hand, were an entity unto themselves. There was never any “How can we please you” chatter from Mr. Plant – the Mighty Ones were just going to pummel you with the Hammer Of The Gods(tm) and you were gonna like it.

So we may have some understanding as to why “Freebird” won out as cover song favorite, but why, all these years later, does the tradition of yelling for it persist and can anything be done about it? After all, it’s now a joke, not an actual request. Right?

Again looking to the people who care about these things, I approached a couple of music bulletin boards and known culprits and asked the participants to fess up to being “that guy.” I also asked them why they continue to engage in an action that is so far beyond entertaining. It’s like the guy who still gets the mullet hair cut even though he knows it’s the butt of all jokes muttered when he walks into a bar.

GLONO’s own Jeff Sabatini has made a name for himself as the last of the posse to partake in this most offensive action. For years, he’s been that guy and he happens to be blessed with the loudest voice in recorded history. It’s impossible to ignore his howling at shows. I emailed the old boy to get to the root of this obnoxious behavior:

DP: Why do you still yell “Freebird” at shows? I am curious. Please tell me your reason, I might need it for an article.

Sab: I don’t yell it anymore. You made me quit, remember? The reasons I used to yell it pretty much all revolve around irritating/mocking the performer. And I like the song and wouldn’t mind hearing more bands play it. How’s that?

DP: Have you really quit? Irritating/mocking the performer? You’ve yelled it at every one of my shows. You mocking me? Why I outta…

Sab: With you it was just irritating. You know I ache with jealousy since I’ve never been able to fulfill my dreams of being a rock star.

DP: I know how you feel…

So Sabu is actively trying to antagonize the band. End of story? One responder to my posts on bulletin boards said she does it just to be an ass. Not really trying to irritate anyone in particular; just everyone there.

“I have done it (only once or twice) and not just at shows (basketball games, class presentations) because it’s so unexpected and crazy,” said Kimberly Mays who responded to my inquiry on the CMJ Board. “If something moves me to just be an ass, I too yell, ‘FREEBIRD!!!!'”

Mays wasn’t even inspired by the aforementioned Skynyrd album.

“At the end of a Lunachicks cd (I think Pretty Ugly) some guy is clapping and is like, ‘shit… c’mon… Freebird!'” said Mays. “I lost it! I thought it was the most hilarious thing.”

Christ! Does that mean we’re in for another generation of lunkheads yelling out for “Freebird?” Are we such a humorless society that we can’t see that this joke has more than run its course? Or am I just a lame-ass who can’t see the ironic humor in a joke that was never funny to begin with?

No, I’m right. It’s annoying and obnoxious. It’s a line mostly thrown around by people who still bust out their Beavis and Butthead impressions at the mention of the words “duty” or “penal.” Are we doomed to this wretched fate or can we fight back? Some bands already are.

Phil Ajjarapu, from the Chicago-based band Dry County said his band simply played the song every, single time someone yelled out for it—no matter how many times that may be in a night. Ajjarapu said that it usually wasn’t long before mob justice took care of the situation.

“I can only remember once that we played ‘Freebird’ like 3 times in one set and it didn’t take long for the crowd to take the offending party off the premises where we presumed that he was picked up by cops or something,” he said.

But like all weapons, the Freebird Tactical Response must be handled with care lest you invite retaliation and, therefore, escalation.

“We also played ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ every time that was requested, and of the two, ‘Sweet Home’ was the more requested song,” said Ajjarapu. “Playing redneck music will introduce you to a lot of colorful people though, that’s for sure. But that’s a different crowd, the whole place will dance to Skynyrd and when you’re in a band, isn’t that what you want?”

Perhaps. But what I think all good, thinking people the world around can agree that this senseless act must be stopped. This aggression will not stand!

There’s also the pre-emptive strike. Indie darlings Clem Snide whipped out a blistering version of Skynyrd’s “Simple Man” to close out their fantastic Chicago show two years ago, seemingly before the obligatory utterance could even leave one’s lips. This particular cover was so good it was at once an acknowledgement of the absurd request and a stake in the heart of the would-be heckler. All requests—real or otherwise—stopped on a dime.

In 9th grade, I had a teacher named Jim Rex who told us that a joke was only funny the first and third time you hear it; only the first and third and never again. If only everyone could be as wise as Mr. Rex.

UPDATE: A nice southern girl named Emily sent us a response to this article, showing us that to her and her father, the song is more than just a lame gag uttered from the lips of drunken dopes: One More From the Road.

80 thoughts on “Freebird: That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore”

  1. Great article Derek! But I think how funny the act of yelling “Freebird” can be is inversely proportional to how much the style of the band resembles Skynyrd’s. In other words, if you were to yell it at a Jackyl show it wouldn’t be funny at all, because they had it slotted for later in the set anyway – after the chainsaw solo of course. But if you yelled it at an Interpol show, instant hilarity.

    1. I was told that people used to request Whipping Post before Freebird took the mantle. On Frank Zappa’s 2nd volume of YCDTOSA series (recorded in Helsinki in ’74) the band gets a request for Whipping Post but Zappa’s band didn’t know it. So the next time the band went to Helsinki they played Whipping Post. I’ve played a show where some dude was holding out a folded up piece of paper for an entire song trying to get me to take it. As a bass player. you can’t stop playing in the middle of a song so at the end I took the paper, unfolded it only to read the word “Freebird”. We don’t play it. Another band I saw kept having a guy yell Free bird ’til the singer finally told him “That’s my favorite song too” – the guy stopped yelling for it after that,

  2. I’m afraid we’re stuck with the Freebird gag for some time. It’s become one of those ubiquitous things people do without thinking, like yelling ‘Moo’ at a herd of cows.

    I’m sure that far in the future it will still be tradition to yell ‘Freebird’ even though no one will remember Skynyrd.

  3. I have a story about the Chgo band Fig Dish which ties into this. For their album release party at the Double Door (this was ’95, I wanna say), I requested a song of theirs (with genuine good intentions) that was their first single (and also included on aforementioned album). The lead singer fixed a steely gaze on me and testily replied, “We don’t do that one anymore.” Ooooooh, without even trying, I’d ruffled this guy’s feathers. Rising to the challenge, I squawked out, “Play Surrender!!” I mean, everyone asks for Free Bird; why not give it a new twist? The joke was on me; turns out they were fans of Cheap Trick (they had just covered the song “Downed” for an EP). But sadly no, they did not oblige me with a chorus of “Mommy’s alright, Daddy’s alright…”

  4. Requesting anything – “Freebird” or otherwise, real or for yuks – is the lamest. It’s one of the points on the Live Music Faux Pas List. In fact, when some guy IS yelling out requests, he’s often the same nitwit who wears the T shirt of the band he’s seeing to the show. His defeaning cries of “Play ‘The Dutchman!'” or “What about ‘Hokey Pot Holiday’?” are usually designed to broadcast his old-school cred factor to the rest of the crowd.

    The only time it’s not lame to talk to the band is when they’re openly asking you to, like Van Zant did in Derek’s article, or like when Shellac holds a question-and-answer session midway through their set. All other times – totally lame.


  5. Having been to almost no real live shows, besides Raffi and all that other stuff for the kiddles, I find this hilarious. Like repeating it at shows myself hilarious. Guess what? You just passed the ‘Freebird’ virus on to the next generation.

  6. Lets just love “Freebird” for what it is – Rock n’ Roll’s own self-referential joke at itself.

    Its funny that this article was just written, because I was just at a show this weekend (the Wrens at Maxwell’s in Hoboken, NJ) and someone yelled for it when the band asked for requests. I was so surprised – I too had thought the joke was dead. I remember thinking it funny to shout 10+ years ago in High School.

    But I guess its just reached a status of “post irony” – its not yelled in sincerity, nor is it yelled to be ironically funny – its yelled just because thats what people have yelled for at Rock n’ Roll shows since the 70s.

    Lets keep it alive. With all the strict rules we indie rock snobs set for ourselves and each other, we’ve just gotta keep something alive.

    Lets embrace “Freebird.” Is it really that annoying to put up with?

  7. Cool story! I agree with Shecky when he said the “Freebird” gag is “one of those ubiquitous things people do without thinking, like yelling ‘Moo’ at a herd of cows.”

    I actually called ‘Moo’ to some cows today… before I read your story. The shame!

  8. I moo at cows every time I see them. I also laugh whenever someone says “penal” or “Putin.” Heh heh. But the “Freebird” thing isn’t funny. Everytime I hear it I think, that guy’s either an idiot or an ass. Take your pick.

  9. Yelling “Freebird” = “Hey, pay attention to me! It’s all about me! Hey, look at me! Me!” Some people can’t stand to let someone else have the spotlight – even the band they paid good money to see.

  10. Great piece! I loved it.

    If we were to look for parallel phenomena, we could link it to the guy at the party who can ONLY make jokes using lines from “Caddyshack,” “Fletch,” “Stripes,” and the like. Not the occasional bust-out of a favorite quote, but the predictable, gag-after-gag “reliving” of a movie, ultimately, pathetically, substituting someone else’s sense of humor for his own in a desperate attempt to connect with…anyone.

    It is basically an announcement that a person has accepted his or her lameness–and STILL wants attention.

    As such, for some it must be an odd catharsis, a wallowing in one’s own lameness that somehow liberates them.

    “Hey, that’s cool, barabajagal, I’m willing to accept my inner lameness–”

    STOP RIGHT THERE! If I could I’d give you a bracing bitch slap–yes, dammit! For your own sake! Have some self-respect! You are not lame! You are a valuable, interesting, dynamic, creative! So what if you have your foibles and faults? Your down times? That’s not being lame! It’s being human.

    Don’t give in, people! As the man says, “This aggression will not stand!”

  11. What no one has said yet is that there are those who still find this funny. Not just people who yell it that find it funny, but others in the audience. I think that has something to do with it too–as long as someone’s laughing, there’s going to be a jokester to take the laughs.

    By the way, Johnny, is it more or less uncool to wear the concert T from ’88 or the one you bought in the lobby that night before the show? And how about drinking the brand of beer that’s emblazoned across your chest? On another note, does this mean people *shouldn’t* wear their GloNo T-shirts to the big shindig on the 20th?

  12. Sab brings up a good point. When I hear someone yell “Freebird” at a show, I do laugh. AT the moron who yelled it, not with him. But I still laugh. Or at least smirk and shake my head. Because it still amazes me that people still do this.

    And Anonymous, it’s been passe’ for about twenty years already. At least 10, for sure.

  13. As far as I’m concerned, the “Freebird” should be part of the rock and roll tradition, it should be yelled at every show, and not just by one person! And as someone who enjoys crowd interaction, I L-O-V-E when a band gets a red ass over someone yelling “Freebird.” Any band who can’t handle a “Freebird” doesn’t understand what rock is about. A band should take a “Freebird” as nothing more than a gentle reminder of a crowd’s existence… it’s like, there’s a crowd here, remember? Concerts are not and should never be a one-way street from band to audience. That is just way too fascistic for my tastes!

    Maybe it’s a Lansing thing. More people in Lansing are gonna yell “Freebird” and no one’s gonna be upset. Maybe in Chicago they’re too smart for that or something. Whatever!

    To borrow a phrase my girlfriend uses to describe live theatre, rock and roll happens in the space between the band and the audience. Some of the best live performers around make crowd interaction a part of their show- I’m thinking of Alex Chilton, the Frogs (who also answered a “Freebird” by playing “Freebird” in their live CBGayB set), the guys from Fortune and Maltese…

  14. I was at an American Analog Set show, and someone in the crowd yelled out “SLAYER!!!!!”, which I thought was pretty funny, and the band seemed to enjoy it.

  15. the real origins of yelling freebird, and i was there when it started, is this. at a certain point in the 70’s there were two camps of fans. you were either into straight ahead rock like skynyrd or black sabbath, or yes and jethro tull etc. guys in the latter camp, me included, yelled out freebird to mock the slower less discriminating fan in the former camp. true story.

  16. Mike Doughty has requested that every time you get the urge to yell “Freebird” at a concert, you should yell “It’s Raining Men” instead, from this day forward and for the rest of your life. Make “It’s Raining Men” the new “Freebird.” After making this request, somebody in the crowd yells out “It’s Raining Men!” Doughty’s response, “I can not play “It’s Raining Men.” If I could, though, I would. You have my word as a gentleman.” But I think I’m gonna go with “Free Willy.” That is funny.

    I also think it’s funny that people who have no idea who Lynyrd Skynyrd is, and maybe have never even heard the song, yell it out anyway. I mean, I have that live Skynyrd album from whence this moronic tradition started, so I guess I “get it.” Why would you yell for a song you’ve never heard? That I don’t get.

  17. Surely, Jed MUST have had his “former” and “latter” switched around. But what an honor to hear from the guy who invented Freebird! Jed, you rock!

  18. Confession time. In the middle of a Matthew Sweet show in 2000 at St. Andrews Hall, after he and his band ripped through one of their numbers, I did yell “rock out with your cock out!” After which Mr. Sweet did grin and grab his nuts, and after some tuning, announced, “This next song is a quiet, sedate, ballad.”

  19. Hmmm…”some joker who gets it”…”rock and roll tradition”…various other defenses of supposedly popular or mass celebration…

    Now, Ryan’s inner joy at the perturbed band pelted with “freebird”s, however, is one I can entertain. (And he’s absolutely right about people being smarter in Chicago, too).

    I know the “miffed band getting huffy” can be a good–even great–time, but I’d rather they be miffed for any other reason (such as the given example of the Figdish guy huffily announcing the retirement of their first “single”–hee hee!) Being passe like “Freebird” for at least 20 years does not lend any sort of cache to the enterprise.

    And I say this as one who has known and loved many “Freebird”ers. And (God help me) the song. Still.

  20. you should delete all comments except for ryan’s. it doesn’t matter if it is funny or dumb, whether the person is trying to be ironic or is trying to be ironic but is passe. it is a social sign and we are all part of it.

  21. thanks for liking my post… kinda weird to talk about deleting others’ comments if you are a true fan of “crowd interaction” though. everyone has a place in the discussion. i agree, it is fun to be a part of the “freebird” phenomenon. screw being “ironic”, screw being “passe.” screw any rock and roll band that thinks that their crowd should be anything other than a rock and roll crowd. time to let the bird fly free!!!

    that onion article is awesome!!!

  22. Bye, bye, it’s been a sweet love.

    Though this feeling I can’t change.

    But please don’t take it badly,

    Cause lord knows I’m to blame.

    But, if I stayed here with you girl,

    Things just couldn’t be the same.

    Cause I’m as free as a bird now,

    And this bird you’ll never change.

    And this bird you cannot change.

    Lord knows, I can’t change.

  23. i think “freebird” is the passe joke we all have to live with, like the ticketmaster surcharge. at two concerts i went to (built to spill and aimee mann), the obligatory freebird yell occurred and the bands didn’t bat an eyelash, jumping right into it. built played it all the way through, aimee mann stopped after the intro and said “um, no”. both were in the moment, prett funny.

  24. looking back at my 15 years or so of going to shows, i’ll have to admit that on a couple of occasions the guy yelling freebird was me… altho in my defense, the bands i was seeing were probably friends of mine… on a related note, a friend of mine had a tradition of his own in yelling “TEXAS!” whenever attending a Low show… after 4 or 5 times of him doing this, MiMi stopped down, scanned the crowd with icy eyes, and said “why does someone yell that every time we play here?” at the end of the show, my friend approached them and took responsibility for his actions and promised not to do it again… (i’ve since taken it upon myself to yell “TEXAS!” loud and proud whenever they happen thru town, and i urge you to do the same. i like low, but dammit those kids need to lighten up… i’ll never forget arriving late to a Low show and being “shushed” by the doorman so as not to disrupt the ROCK AND ROLL BAND playing onstage).

  25. Actually, I think the Built to Spill “moment” was part of the setlist. Same thing happened when I saw them in Houston about two years ago, and a friend confirmed it at his Austin show a few nights later. Not trying to rain on your parade or anything — I don’t like the song, but they did play it dead on.

  26. i think one thing people should keep in mind is that a joke isn’t funny only the first and third time.

    has anyone seen the ‘bizarro’ episode of sealab?

    at a certain point it’s funny that someone has the audacity to push it even further.

    another important point is, once the people who have an ironic sense of humour get annoyed with something being ‘passe’, it becomes even more ironically funny, because even the ironic audience doesn’t find it ironically funny anymore. it’s the old double switch.

    so, in conclusion, it’s your own damn fault, derek.

  27. also, noodles, great point.

    “once the people who have an ironic sense of humour get annoyed with something being ‘passe’, it becomes even more ironically funny, because even the ironic audience doesn’t find it ironically funny anymore.”

  28. I teach first and second grade special education students and whenever a joke gets a laugh it is natural for a kid to repeat it until the laughs are gone, but sooner or later it goes too far and one of the other kids says “that’s not funny anymore”. I usaully don’t hear the joke again in class, unless it is fart. Ah, the fart, the only repeated joke that never loses its luster. Whenever you get the urge to yell “Freebird” just fart I guarantee I will laugh.

  29. STILL FUNNY: George Carlin ,

    “Honk if you think I’m Jesus” bumper stickers

    Aerosmith on “Wayne’s World” , and, yes, farts and FREEBIRD!!

  30. once upon a time I played in a band. It was the jammy kind…one of those ones that all the dirty hippie kids dug on. every so often some jackass would yell out the f-word, to be irritating or funny or whatever, but what usually followed was great. we would play the song until the club owner pulled the plug. It is, after all, a guitar-wanker’s wet dream, and is actually fun to play. But goddamn it could go on forever – we were clocked at just over 2 hrs. one night.

    a coo coo coo, come on flash!

  31. Being one of the sound guys at the sister of a chicago club institution, I never get tired of the freebird. Sometimes, I’m even the culprit. Sometimes, it’s a joke between me and a band I know. Sometimes, it’s a gesture of contempt, a signal that they shold play something even THEY couldn’t screw up. I think that this tradition should remain, because it gives a sense of tradition to the rock and roll.

    Always one to put more cowbell in your mix,



  32. Hi everyone. Jay here. I was the front man/guitarist for the afformentioned (and no longer) band, Dry County. Phil was our bassist (Hi Phil). Amazing how this stuff gets back to you as a buddy of mine from down in Alabama must read this site and shared the article with me.

    Just wanted to say that I just spoke to the other former members of the band…and none of us seem to recall the “Freebird Incident” from above. Consensus is that it never happened. In fact, we collectively decided that we never actually ever played “Freebird” on stage.

    However, we did do our best to keep our fanbase happy.

    As an Alabama native, I’ve spent most of my life avoiding, but eventually “playing Skynyrd”. It’s just one of those things we as Southern Rock/Country acts must face along the course of our careers.

    However, we try to keep our fans happy because our style of music is very much affected by fan support…maybe moreso than in any other genre. Country fans are VERY attatched to the acts. They feel like they’re a part of it all…so I always felt a responsibility to encourage that.

    I have, and will always respect my “fans”. In fact, I don’t consider them rednecks…but then again, what do I know?

    …I’m from Alabama.

  33. freebird is an ubiquitous paean to hesherdom and shall never die. it is never introduced with the expectation that the song will be played, nor that anyone would enoy said playing. it serves as both a humorous, self-deprecating innuendo and a simple source of levity during awkward pauses. not confined to the ‘rock n roll ‘ arena, a stalwart cry of ‘freebird’ can really spice up a house party or a particularly long wait in a bank line. used sparingly it retains far more panachè but belies the spirit of its use.

  34. New rule: From now on, everybody must yell out “Mooooo!” at a rock concert and “Freebird!” when passing a bunch of cows.

  35. reminds me of the shitflake that dared to heckle the late Bill Hicks with a call for Freebird at a chicagoland radio sponsored SHOW, Bill just cut him to the quick and simply questioned the need for “the mantra of the moron” FREEBIRDFREEBIRDFREEBIRDFREEBIRD

  36. This isn’t a matter of debate or opinion. Its like wearing the t-shirt of the band you’re going to see; its just fucking lame. There’s always going to be that guy with the band t-shirt and there’s always going to be the lame ass that yells, “Freebird!”. Don’t be that guy. Don’t be that fucking lame. I hate feeling embarassed for someone else more than just about anything else. Don’t embarass me and don’t embarass yourself. It isn’t funny, it isn’t ironic, its Just. Fucking. Lame. End of story.

  37. I do remember once runnin’ across 38 Special at a county fair…, Cheap Trick opened…., safe to say we went to see Cheap Trick! They were excellent, however, nothing could match the fun I had as my friend and I screamed, (no shrieked) for “Ironman” during 38 Specials set. Really pissed off some monster truck rolling hillbilly’s!!!….. Ah growing up in Alpena was such a bitch!

  38. Two stories I have heard about how bands react to the Freebird phenomenon:

    Probably urban legend, but I heard of one band who replied to the heckler by giving them the finger and saying “Here’s your free bird, on the house!”

    And the second story I’ve heard was attributed to Camper Van Beethoven, or maybe Cracker, but David Lowery at any rate, who replied, “Trust me, two minutes in, you’d be begging us to stop.”

  39. Here’s and even better story.

    In the spring of 1992, I found myself at the Wrocklage (RIP!) in Lexington, KY listening to of all things a grateful dead cover band, (I was young, a hot older lady said she would meet me there, little did I know she also told my friend Brian the same thing!).

    Anyway, the band was just god awful, their name was Born Cross-Eyed, I was bored with them, but I had paid my cover and was not ready to leave, so I yelled “Whippin’ Post” instead of the typical “Freebird”. Some old redneck lookin’ dude with a greasy truckers hat looks at me with a warm glow in his eyes, like a long lost brother, and says “I yell fer that ev’ry time and they never play it!” So now, when I want to get under a performer’s skin instead of “Freebird” I yell….

  40. Ace article! I googled my way here searching for an explanation of the freebird phenomenon after hearing a heckler yell it to Bill Hicks on a bootleg recording of his standup. I never knew about this before and that is where i first heard it. Concerts in Europe are still blissfully freebird-free.

  41. Hey dude, you dont get it do you? no you have to go around and piss all over everyones fun huh? I will yell “Freebird” till the day i die and you want to kno why? because it one of the hardest songs to play and one of the most awesome, i am not unitelligent although i make spelling mistakes, but look here, its a joke too but if a band plays freebird that means they have conqured one of the hardest songs in history and should be proud of his or herself. Also on another note that I can listen to “freebird” 10000000 timess in a row and never get tired of it, the reason we keep saying that is because this song is timeless. timeless.

  42. Get on the trolley, boys. Yelling Freebird has went the way of the boy band, replaced by barbaric yalps for “Black Diamond”. Spread the word.

  43. Haha, this article was great. I decided to search up this Freebird phenomenon after it was yelled by one of the rusty cars in the movie “Cars.” I was watching the movie with my boyfriend and he didn’t get why the car yelled Freebird. He had of course heard the song numerous times, but was never aware of the cultural background involved in the yelling of it during awkward silence.

    Which is one of the glories, in my opinion. It’s a tradition. Perhaps a silly one, but aren’t those the best kinds of traditions? But I have to admit, if you’re going to yell it, you better damn well know the song, regardless of if you actually want to hear it.

    If I were to yell it, I wouldn’t be doing it to piss off the band, or even to hear the song, but more to make light of the awkward silence, thereby making it less awkward, and more of a joke, if only a lame one. Like saying, “so how about those dolphins?”

    While I don’t think I will ever be a Freebird yeller, I will always laugh when I hear it.

  44. Anyone who dislikes this doesnt deserve to listen to rock and roll.

    I like it, I think its funny. Its funny to annoy the performer, but its most funny to see the looks on everyones faces. Its part disgust and you definitely get the impression that the person thinks they are better than you because what? They have a better sense of humor? Since I already know I am funnier than them this gives me “epic lulz”.

    Some other great things to yell are: of course Whippin Post, Livin on A Prayer, Black Water (Doobie Brothers). One time this guy was tooling around with a harmonica and an acoustic, I yelled out Piano Man and he started to play it. Then he stopped at which point I yelled Free Bird. He was really cool about it, but of course didn’t play it.

  45. I’m one of the next gen teens and i have to say,I love it. Ever since hearing about it, I get a laugh thinking about people actually making an ass of themselves in a crowded place by shouting “freebird!”. For best results I say shouting it at a crappy concert to liven things up (that’s how i heard how it got started). there’s nothing really wrong with this, kinda like going “pwn’d” or “BOOM, Headshot” after a kill in Counterstrike, or just laughing at someones expense with a nelson style “ha ha”,It’s just a funny saying someone started and others just do it to get a laugh by being a jerk or ass, but that doesn’t have to mean everyone will be laughing.

  46. IF I’ve ever actually yelled “Freebird” during or after a concert -it was because I actually wanted to hear it AND I thought the band was actually good enough to play it. I’m showing respect for a band when, uh, I mean IF I yell it.

    I admit to having used “freebird” as a dorky cliche during awkward silences in totally inappropriate places. (I hadn’t thought of a bank line… that’s awesome!) But in the context of live southern rock cover band music in a club setting, I REALLY want to hear the song.

    On a side note, we were blowing off some steam one day at work with Guitar Hero II (a video game that allows you to “play” songs (including freebird) using a guitar-shaped controller) when one of our co-workers asked “What song is this?”

    I damn near cracked the guitar over his head. What an idiot.

  47. I’m one of the guys that have yelled “Freebird” at a musician. Yes, you can blame me. Now the question is why I did it. And that is a hard one to answer. I yelled it once at a Beatles tribute band, the reason why I couldn’t tell you. For whatever reason when there is a break in the music, someone has to yell it. What concert would be complete without you hearing “FreeBird”? Do we actually want to hear the band try to play the song? No, I think it comes down to the song being so great on so many levels. And lets be honest, everyone chuckles when they hear it. So sorry all, I may be the person yelling it at your next show…

  48. i’ve yelled freebird myself. i’ve been at gigs where it’s been yelled…the best being Moby! yes, moby…after doing some dance songs with a full band he brought out a guitar, saying he was taking lessons and asked for requests freebird was yelled out and moby played it!

    i’m an american who lives in the u.k. now. yelling out freebird is not a tradition here. so when it is yelled out by me or another american in the crowd it’s still funny. the ‘what the fuck’ look on the brits faces is priceless!

    it’s fun to shout out wonderwall over here too…

  49. but seriously folks..

    I’ve been to lots of shows where this ubitquious (?) phenomenon rears its ugly head, and it’s usually my date that does it. Now, she’s a real music lover , not some true bone head, so I’ve got to cut her some slack for that, but I think that she does it partly to remind the band not to be too full of themselves. In other words, lighten up people-it’s only rock and roll, but I like it.

    Congrats, Derek-you’ve obviously touched a raw nerve, which is why

    I come to this site in the first place.

  50. I had neighbors who would get stoned, and then yell ‘freebird’ out the window. We all thought it was funny. And just a week ago, at the conclusion of the 4th of July fireworks, there were cries of ‘freebird’. I’m still living for the day when I hear it yelled out at a classical music concert.

  51. Johnny Van Zant, lead singer of Lynyrd Skynyrd since 1987, once yelled FREEBIRD at a CHER show!!


  52. Yeah, we used to yell “Whipping Post!” because of the guy who yells it on the Live at the Fillmore Album just before the Allman’s play it.

  53. I’m reading down these responses thinking how incredibly lame yelling “FREEBIRD!” is, and then I get to the post where the guy says he yelled it at a Beatles cover band and I bust out laughing. So apparently in the right context it’s still funny…

  54. Irony? Today’s date is January 15th 2013 and I just came across the Freebird phenomenon today on a Facebook post. I have been to concerts and have probably heard this call but I never noticed (I guess now that I am in on the joke I’ll notice it forever). I googled the term and came across this post. After reading the first few comments, I realized that the article was written 9 years ago!! This article is titled, “That joke isn’t funny anymore” and I’m reading it 9 years later…now that’s irony!

  55. After 36 years of concerts, I have never heard one person yell free bird. Dharma’s burnt out hippie dad says it on Dharma & Greg. I had to look it up LOL. Where does this guy live? – NYC

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