Gary Rossington, founding guitarist of Lynyrd Skynyrd, dies at 71

Meat puppets: our 1986 interview

Gary Rossington, guitarist of the legendary Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, died at the age of 71. The group released a statement confirming Rossington’s death on their verified Facebook account, although they did not specify the cause of death. Rossington was the last surviving original member of Lynyrd Skynyrd and had been active in the band until his death.

“It is with our deepest sympathy and sadness that we have to inform you that we have lost our brother, friend, family member, songwriter and guitarist, Gary Rossington, today,” the statement read. “Gary is now with his Skynyrd brothers and family in heaven and he is playing beautifully as he always does. Please keep Dale, Mary, Annie and the entire Rossington family in your prayers and respect the privacy of the family at this time. difficult.

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Born on December 4, 1951, Rossington formed the band with Ronnie Van Zant, Allen Collins, Larry Junstrom and Bob Burns in his hometown of Jacksonville, Florida. Originally called My Backyard, the group changed their name to Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1969 as a reference to their physical education teacher, Leonard Skinner, and a character from the 1963 song “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh”.

Skynyrd’s debut in 1973, Pronounced Len-‘nerd ‘Skin-‘nerdfeatured future rock classics such as “Simple Man” and “Free Bird” and set the band on a trajectory that has to date included 14 total studio albums, 60 million units sold and a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2006.

Rossington played lead and rhythm guitar to help shape Skynyrd’s southern boogie sound. In particular, his playing on ‘Simple Man’, ‘Tuesday’s Gone’ and slide guitar on ‘Free Bird’ have become iconic rock moments. He also co-wrote iconic Skynyrd songs such as “Sweet Home Alabama” and “What’s Your Name.”

He was one of 20 survivors of the October 20, 1977 plane crash in Mississippi where Lynyrd Skynyrd teammates Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines, Cassie Gaines and three others died. Rossington walked out with serious injuries that required the implantation of several steel rods into his body.

When bassist Larry Junstrom died in 2019, Rossington became the last surviving original member and also the oldest. That title now goes to Johnny Van Zant, who took over vocals from his late brother Ronnie in 1987 when the band reformed after a hiatus. During this down time, Rossington had formed the Rossington Collins Band with Allen Collins.

Rossington has overcome a number of heart health battles in recent years, including a quintuple bypass in 2003 and a heart attack in 2015. In the summer of 2021, he also underwent emergency heart surgery, resulting in several rescheduled dates on Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Last of The Street Survivors Farewell Tour.

Intended to be Skynyrd’s final jaunt, the tour eventually turned into a 50th anniversary celebration, for which Rossington was announced as being able to make select appearances. The group has dates scheduled as early as March 12, plus a summer tour with ZZ Top, but it’s not yet known if they will be postponed or cancelled. Lynyrd Skynyrd’s latest album, The last of a dying breedcame out in 2012.

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