Lynyrd Skynyrd, perhaps the most successful and influential Southern Rock band in history, lost their last surviving member, Gary Rossington. His death signals the end of an era for the famous band that survived tragedy over the course of their career.
Lynyrd Skynyrd, named for some of the original band members’ high school gym teacher, overcame numerous tragedies early in their career to remain a top-drawing concert act, filling stadiums and amphitheaters with hits like “Freebird” and “Simple Man”. Breitbart reports:
Gary Rossington, legendary guitarist and the last surviving founding member of Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, has passed according to an announcement made on the group’s official Facebook page Sunday evening. Rossington 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,” their statement said.
In an era where some rock bands continue to tour well past their prime, 71 seems young. The Who, The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney all still tour regularly despite having years on Rossington. However, the late rocker had battled a number of health scares and accidents over the years. Breitbart continues:
“Gary is now with his Skynyrd brothers and family in heaven and playing it pretty, like he always does. Please keep Dale, Mary, Annie and the entire Rossington family in your prayers and respect the family’s privacy at this difficult time,” the statement continued.
Saddened to hear about the passing of the great Gary Rossington of Lynyrd Skynyrd. The last surviving original member of the legendary band. Rest in Peace, Gary. pic.twitter.com/rcN2cUFh6k
— Dave Mustaine (@DaveMustaine) March 6, 2023
Considering what Rossington went through in his years with Lynyrd Skynyrd, it is fair to say he was a cat down to his last life. In fact, Rossington cheated certain death more than once.
He survived a car accident in 1976 in which he drove his Ford Torino into a tree, inspiring the band’s cautionary song “That Smell.” Breitbart also said:
A year later, he emerged from the 1977 plane crash that killed singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, and backing vocalist Cassie Gaines, with two broken arms, a broken leg, and a punctured stomach and liver.
“It was a devastating thing,” he told Rolling Stone in 2006. “You can’t just talk about it real casual and not have feelings about it.”
AP reports in later years, Rossington underwent quintuple bypass surgery in 2003, suffered a heart attack in 2015, and had numerous subsequent heart surgeries, most recently leaving Lynyrd Skynyrd in July 2021 to recover from another procedure.
At recent shows, Rossington would perform portions of the concert and sometimes sat out full gigs.
A plane crash and a car crash, both in an age where vehicular and air safety weren’t exactly state of the art, should have killed Rossington twice. He walked away both times bloody and battered, but would recover to continue entertaining Southern Rock fans for decades.
Many people considered the band doomed, yet after losing numerous members to the plane crash they regrouped quite literally and still tour now. Alas, as with many famous bands, they will be nothing more than a cover band with the loss of the last founding member. Breitbart concludes:
Rossington told Rolling Stone he never considered Skynyrd to be a tragic band, despite all the band’s drama and death.“I don’t think of it as tragedy — I think of it as life,” he said upon the group’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction in 2006. “I think the good outweighs the bad.”
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