March 29, 2023

By Erik Pedersen, Patrick Hipes March 5, 2023 6:15pm
original story link at DEADLINE:

Gary Rossington onstage in 2014 Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Stagecoach

Guitarist and songwriter Gary Rossington, the last original member of Lynyrd Skynyrd, who survived their 1977 plane crash and played with the band until this year, died Sunday. He was 71.

“It is with our deepest sympathy and sadness that we have to advise, that we lost our brother, friend, family member, songwriter and guitarist, Gary Rossington, today,” the band wrote on its official Facebook page. “Gary is now with his Skynyrd brothers and family in heaven and playing it pretty, like he always does.”

No other details were provided.

Rossington was badly injured in the 1977 plane crash that killed four members of the legendary Southern rock band including frontman Ronnie Van Zant. Rossington broke both of his legs, arms and ankles and his pelvis. He rejoined the band when Van Zant’s brother Johnny reformed the group in 1987, and the band had been recording and touring ever since.

Rossington, who co-penned many of the band’s best-known songs including “Free Bird,” had emergency heart surgery in 2021 but recovered and rejoined the band. News of his death comes as the band was revving to go on a 22-city North American tour with ZZ Top beginning in June.

“The last of the Free Birds has flown home,” the estate of his late friend Charlie Daniels wrote in tribute today on Twitter.

Lynyrd Skynyrd’s original lineup included Rossington, lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarists Allen Collins and Larry Junstrom and drummer Bob Burns. They formed in 1964 in Jacksonville, FL with the name My Backyard. The group’s self-titled 1973 debut LP, subtitled (Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd), was a hit and featured such classics tracks as “Gimme Three Steps,” “Tuesday’s Gone” and “Simple Man” and “Free Bird,” a Top 20 pop single that would become one of rock’s most popular and enduring songs. The album hit No. 27 on the Billboard 200 and went double platinum.

Skynyrd — which took its name from Leonard Skinner, a hated gym teacher at their high scool — would make four more studio albums and a live album before the plane crash.

Lynyrd Skynyrd in early 1975, from left: Ed King, Leon Wilkeson, Artimus Pyle, Billy Powell, Allen Collins, Ronnie Van Zant and Gary Rossington (Getty Images)

The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006.

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