Gary Rossington, Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist and founding member, dies aged 71
Rossington, the only living original member of Lynyrd Skynyrd, died Sunday. He was 71. The only member of the US rock band to appear on all of its albums, Rossington survived the 1977 plane crash that killed several of his bandmates
A native of Jacksonville, Florida, Rossington lived for more than 25 years in the Atlanta suburb of Alpharetta and also spent time in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
The guitarist endured heart problems for decades, including quintuple bypass surgery in 2003, a serious heart attack in 2015, the implantation of a pacemaker, a heart valve replacement in 2019 and, most recently, emergency heart surgery in June 2021, which forced him from the band’s “Last of the Street Survivors Farewell Tour.”
Rossington formed what would become a Southern rock behemoth in 1964 with singer Ronnie Van Zant – who died in the plane crash following a concert in Greenville, South Carolina – guitarist Allen Collins, bassist Larry Junstrom and drummer Bob Burns.
Of Rossington’s innumerable contributions to Lynyrd Skynyrd, his slide guitar work in the everlasting opus “Free Bird” underscores his importance to the band’s sound. The musician also co-wrote “Sweet Home Alabama” and “What’s Your Name” and partly inspired Ronnie Van Zant to pen “That Smell," a song written about the band's reckless behaviors, including Rossington crashing his car into a tree in Jacksonville following a night of heavy drug and alcohol use.
Lynyrd Skynyrd - Freebird Recorded Live: 7/2/1977 - Oakland Coliseum Stadium - Oakland, CA
Just three and a half months before the fateful plane crash that killed Skynyrd members Steve Gaines, his sister, backing vocalist Cassie Gaines (of the Honkettes), and lead vocalist Ronnie Van Zandt, Lynyrd Skynyrd played this 4th of July weekend program in Oakland.