Tuesday, March 21, 2023
March 21, 2023

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Rossington death marks end of era

Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist was last original member


Gary Rossington, the longtime Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist who played critical roles on the timeless Southern rock anthems “Free Bird” and “Sweet Home Alabama,” has died, the band announced. He was 71.

A cause of death wasn’t released for Rossington, the final surviving member from the band’s original lineup.

“Gary is now with his Skynyrd brothers and family in heaven and playing it pretty, like he always does,” reads the Facebook announcement shared late Sunday by Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Originally named My Backyard, the group debuted out of Jacksonville, Fla., in 1964 with Rossington and Allen Collins on guitar, Ronnie Van Zant singing lead vocals, Larry Junstrom on bass and Bob Burns on the drums.

The band skyrocketed to fame nearly a decade later with the release of its first album, 1973’s “Pronounced ‘L h-’nérd ‘Skin-’nérd,” which included the hits “Free Bird,” “Gimme Three Steps” and “Simple Man.”

Rossington played rhythm and slide guitar on “Free Bird,” which began as a slow ballad before evolving into a nine-minute sensation, he told Guitar World in 2019.

“Ronnie said, ‘Why don’t you do something at the end of that so that I can take a break for a few minutes.’ So I came up with the ending chord progression and Allen played over them, then I soloed and then he soloed — it all evolved out of a single jam we had one night,” Rossington said.

Lynyrd Skynyrd’s second album, 1974’s “Second Helping,” featured “Sweet Home Alabama,” the band’s lone Top 10 single.

“I had this little riff,” Rossington told Garden & Gun in 2018, describing the origin of the song. “It’s the little picking part and I kept playing it over and over when we were waiting on everyone to arrive for rehearsal. Ronnie and I were sitting there, and he kept saying, play that again. Then Ronnie wrote the lyrics and Ed (King) and I wrote the music.”

Rossington survived a 1977 plane crash that killed six, including Van Zant. Many within the music industry paid tribute after Rossington’s death, including Peter Frampton, who tweeted Monday, “This cannot be!”

“We have been friends since first touring together in the 70s,” Frampton wrote. “We will miss you my friend.”