Fun fact: .38 Special lead singer Donnie Van Zant is the brother of Lynyrd Skynyrd singer and Florida-born Alabama icon Ronnie Van Zant. A third Van Zant brother, Johnny, who rebelliously decided to spell his rhyming first name with a "y" instead of an "ie," now tours with the reunited Skynyrd. The Van Zants are to Southern rock singers as the Molinas are to major-league-baseball catchers. OK then! Now that everyone has lost interest, let's get started!
You see it all around you / Good lovin' gone bad / And usually it's too late when you realize what you had
Pretty standard stuff about lost love ... nothing to see here. Move along.
And my mind goes back to a girl I left some years ago
Note that Mr. Van Zant here acknowledges that he is the one who left.
Who told me, just hold on loosely, but don't let go / If you cling too tightly, you're gonna lose control
There's a lot going on here in the chorus. First of all, holding on loosely without actually letting go seems like a fine line to walk. (As, perhaps, is a relationship?) Clearly, the message is that we shouldn't smother our significant others. This is fine, but I have trouble reconciling this cautionary statement about clinging too tightly with the previous statement that he left. Did he accidentally hold on too loosely and ended up letting go? I'm kind of confused.
Your baby needs someone to believe in / And a whole lot of space to breathe in
Set a shining example for your partner through your actions, while also ignoring her to a large extent. Check.
It's so damn easy, when your feelings are such / To overprotect her, to love her too much ... Don't let her slip away / Sentimental fool / Don't let your heart get in her way
More mixed messages. Overprotection and "lov(ing) her too much" seem like consequences of clinging too tightly, while "let(ting) her slip away" would seemingly happen if one held on too loosely. "Don't let your heart get in her way" could be read any number of different ways. Damn you, Donnie Van Zant! Because you are a certified Rock and Roll Lyricist, I have naturally turned to you for relationship advice and instead have become entangled in some hellish cobweb of contradictory platitudes. I am tempted to tell you that your father, Lonnie Van Zant, never liked you and always preferred your brothers, Ronnie and Johnny.
And now, my impression of Donnie Van Zant teaching his daughter, little Bonnie Van Zant, how to fly a kite.
DVZ: OK, so the key to flying a kite is to hold on loosely.
BVZ: Thanks, Daddy!
DVZ: Here we go ... no, you're clinging too tightly. Hold on loosely. No, too loose! You're going to let her slip away! No, too tight again!! You're overprotecting the kite and loving it too much! Give it some space to breathe in! What in the Sweet Home Alabama are you ....
Anyhoo, "Hold on Loosely" is a fantastic song. Try to keep it out of your head. I dare you.