Monday, March 6, 2023

Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Gary Rossington dead at 71

Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Gary Rossington died on March 5 at the age of 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,” shared the band on social media. “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.”

Rossington was the last surviving original member of Lynyrd Skynyrd, whose first incarnation formed in Jacksonville, FL in 1964; the band’s rhythm section changed and more members were added by the time the group released their 1973 debut album, “Pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd.”

The story of a car accident the guitarist had in 1976 became the basis for the band’s 1977 “Street Survivors” track, “That Smell”; just three days after the release of the album, the Florida outfit were on tour when their chartered plane ran out of fuel and crashed outside of Gillsburg, MS as the pilots attempted an emergency landing.

The October 20, 1977 incident claimed the lives of Lynyrd Skynyrd founder and lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, backup singer Cassie Gaines, assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, pilot Walter McCreary and co-pilot William Gray.

The group disbanded following the incident as surviving members spent years recovering from the tragedy, with some joining Gary in the Rossington Collins Band and its later version, The Rossington Band.

Lynyrd Skynyrd would reform in 1987 with a mix of original and new members and Ronnie Van Zant’s brother, Johnny, on lead vocals.

While the Southern Rock icons continued to tour and release new material through the years, Rossington faced a number of health issues: he suffered a heart attack in 2015 and underwent heart surgeries in 2016 and the summer of 2017, and was sidelined with an unreleased health issue in the fall of that year before a third heart surgery in 2019 and an emergency heart surgery in 2021.

In 2018, Lynyrd Skynyrd launched the Last of the Street Survivors Farewell Tour – which was sidelined along the way due to the pandemic – and most recently announced a summer 2023 North American tour with ZZ Top.

No further information regarding Rossington’s cause of death has been released at this time.

Pick up your copy of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “All Time Greatest Hits” package here.

See also:

ZZ Top and Lynyrd Skynyrd announce North American tour
Lynyrd Skynyrd announce 2022 US tour
Lynyrd Skynyrd cancel upstate New York concert due to Covid-19 issues
Lynyrd Skynyrd postpone shows as guitarist tests positive for COVID-19
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