The flight of one other Free Bird is over.
Gary Rossington, the final surviving unique member of Lynyrd Skynyrd, died Sunday, practically 4 months earlier than the band was planning to set out on its subsequent tour. He was 71.
No explanation for dying was given, although the guitarist had been coping with well being points over the previous couple of many years and significantly for the reason that mid-2010s, when coronary heart illnesses sometimes sidelined Rossington and the band.
In an official assertion, Lynyrd Skynyrd wrote that, “It is without deepest sympathy and sadness that we have to advise, that we lost our brother, friend, family member, songwriter and guitarist, Gary Rossington today. Gary is now with his Skynyrd brothers and family in heaven and playing it pretty, like he always does. Please keep Dale, Mary and Annie and the entire Rossington family in your prayers and respect the family’s privacy at this time.”
During a 2016 interview with Billboard, selling his Take It on Faith album with spouse Dale Krantz-Rossington — who’s additionally a Skynyrd back-up singer — Rossington stated that regardless of his well being battles he’d decided to go on taking part in and die along with his proverbial boots on.
“It’s just in my blood, y’know?” he defined. “I’m just an old guitar player, and we’ve spent our whole loves and the 10,000 hours of working to understand how to play and do it. So I think once you’ve got something going for yourself you should keep it up and keep your craft going. When you retire, what’s next? I like to fish, but how much of that can you do, right? So I want to keep doing what I do now.”
Rossington was the final man standing in a band that fashioned throughout 1964 in Jacksonville, Fla., beginning with bassist Larry Junstrom and drummer Bob Burns in a trio known as Me, You, and Him. Signer Ronnie Van Zant, who performed on a rival baseball group, jammed with the group after one in every of their video games, taking part in the Rolling Stones’ “Time Is on My Side,” and the remainder was historical past.
Skynyrd settled on its identify round 1970, taking it from Leonard Skinner, the strict bodily schooling trainer at Robert E. Lee High School; Skinner was significantly exhausting on boys who had lengthy hair, which led Rossington to drop out of faculty.
After working the native and regional scene, Skynyrd was found by Al Kooper, founding father of Blood, Sweat & Tears, who signed the band to his Sounds of the South label. “We were a little bit of everything, really,” Rossington stated of the burgeoning band’s method. “We loved all the British invasion stuff and, of course, the Allman Brothers and Stax and that stuff. There were just a lot of things we stirred together.”
The band’s debut album, (Pronounced Len-‘nerd ‘Skin-‘nerd) was released on Aug. 13, 1973, and featured the lengthy anthem “Free Bird,” which would become Skynyrd’s signature track. The group continued to construct a following by exhausting touring and tracks reminiscent of “Sweet Home Alabama” — its reply to Neil Young’s “Southern Man.” Rossington co-wrote that observe in addition to different Skynyrd favorites reminiscent of “I Ain’t the One,” “Things Goin’ On,” “Don’t Ask Me No Questions,” “Gimme Back My Bullets” and “What’s Your Name.”
The first section of Skynyrd ended on Oct. 20, 1977, when a Convair CV-240 carrying the band from Greenville, S.C. to Baton Rouge, La., crashed close to Gillsburg, Miss., killing three band members (Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines and his older sister, backup singer Cassie Gaines), assistant street supervisor Dean Kilpatrick and each pilots. Rossington and different suffered extreme accidents and put the group on maintain instantly after.
“We couldn’t imagine going on after something like that,” he stated. “We were a brotherhood, and when you lose your brothers you can’t just go on.” He and guitarist Allen Rossington fashioned the Rossington Collins Band, which lasted practically 4 years and two albums earlier than breaking apart in 1982. Skynyrd, in the meantime reformed in 1987, ostensibly to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the airplane crash; the band has continued ever since, recording 9 extra studio albums and going by quite a few variety of lineup modifications.
Rossington — who’s a part of a guitarist core that included Collins (who handed away throughout 1977), Ed King (who died in 2018), Hughie Thomasson (who died in 2007), Rickey Medlocke and others — was the one Skynyrd member to seem on all of its albums.
Rossington stated that regardless of the wholesome points, he was motivated to proceed as a way to pay tribute to his fallen bandmates — together with longtime bassist Leon Wilkeson and keyboardist Billy Powell. “These guys created so much great music that people still love today,” Rossington famous. “I’m the last one here, so to be able to tell their story and make sure they’re remembered, I’m blessed to be able to do that. It’s, like, my responsibility.” He had, nonetheless, missed some reveals and solely performed parts of others in recent times.
In 2016, Krantz-Rossington famous that she and her husband had agreed that persevering with to play music was the perfect factor for him. “He said to me, ‘I would much rather go out kickin’ than sitting here in my chair, and that was the last time we talked about it,” she stated. “After that we just decided to ask for God’s mercy and do it til we drop.”
Tributes to Rossington started hitting social media instantly after the band’s announcement. Longtime good friend Charlie Daniels wrote, “the last of the Free birds has flown home. RIP Gary Rossington, God Bless the Lynyrd @Skynyrd band. Prayers to Dale and the rest of his family.”
Skynyrd is, in reality, planning to affix forces with ZZ Top for The Sharp Dressed Simple Man Tour beginning July 21 in West Palm Beach, Fla. it’s anticipated to go on, regardless that Johnny Van Zant — youthful brother of Ronnie Van Zant and Skynyrd’s frontman since 1977 — has stated that, “I don’t think you can have Lynyrd Skynyrd without Gary Rossington.”
In addition to Krantz-Rossington, the guitarist is survived by their two daughters and several other grandchildren. No funeral or memorial info has been introduced.
This story first appeared on Billboard.com.