Lynyrd Skynyrd Guitarist Gary Rossington Dead at 71

Gary Rossington, the final remaining authentic member of Lynyrd Skynyrd, has died of unspecified causes on the age of 71. The guitarist had overcome a number of well being battles lately.

“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,” the band wrote in an official assertion. “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.”

It’s unclear if Lynyrd Skynyrd will proceed with out the guitarist. Their longest-tenured member is now Johnny Van Zant, who started singing instead of his late brother Ronnie Van Zant in 1987. Rickey Medlocke, with Lynyrd Skynyrd once more since 1996, additionally had a short stint with the group in 1971–72.

Rossington handed after having endured an unspeakable tragedy when Skynyrd’s airplane went down, then his personal well being points – which traced again greater than a decade. Still, he remained a part of each band lineup relationship again to 1964. In truth, the setbacks solely appeared to deepen his ardour for music, and for all times.

“I just thank the Lord every day for letting me live some more on this great planet, living and seeing things going on around me,” Rossington advised Swampland in 2003, not lengthy after having one in all a number of coronary heart procedures. “I’ve got a little pond out in my back yard, and every time I catch a little fish, or see my daughters, or have a good meal, or watch the sun set out there on the lake, I just thank God for it. Every little thing you just appreciate, you know?”

Rossington initially teamed with associates Ronnie Van Zant and Allen Collins in 1964 to kind My Backyard of their hometown of Jacksonville, Fla., and the trio – joined at first by Bob Burns and Larry Junstrom – helped begin Lynyrd Skynyrd on a journey towards multi-platinum Southern rock success. Their large break got here in 1974, when the band have been invited to open for the Who.

“Man, that was so great,” Rossington as soon as advised Music Radar. “That was the first time we got exposed to a lot of people up North and in the West. Up till then, we were just playing for folks in little teen dens and smaller shows around the South. We hadn’t played a lot of big gigs at all. When we got on the Who tour, it was unbelievable. There were anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 people at every show. That blew our minds.”

Soon, with the addition of Leon Wilkeson, Billy Powell, Ed King, Artimus Pyle after which Steve Gaines, Lynyrd Skynyrd have been skyrocketing to stardom on the power of songs like “Gimme Three Steps,” “Sweet Home Alabama” and, after all, “Free Bird,” making good on a dirt-poor little boy’s dream. “We didn’t have much money when I was younger,” Rossington advised Guitar World in 2012, “so I had to collect Coke bottles and cash them in and get a paper route to afford a guitar.”

Watch Lynyrd Skynyrd Perform ‘Gimme Three Steps’ in 1976

Then, tragedy struck. Van Zant and Gaines have been amongst these killed when Skynyrd’s chartered flight went down between gigs in 1977. The remainder of the group was gravely injured – together with Rossington, who needed to have metal rods inserted after breaking each legs, each arms, each wrists and his pelvis. Still, he pressed on, later re-emerging with Collins within the Rossington Collins Band, earlier than soar beginning Lynyrd Skynyrd once more within the late ’80s – initially with different classic-era survivors together with Powell, Wilkeson, Pyle and King. That’s when Johnny Van Zant took over as frontman.

“It got taken away so fast, and tragically, but the music lives on through all of it,” Rossington advised Classic Rock Revisited. “We just love playing the music and being a part of it.”

In time, he’d be the final one standing, because the 2009 dying of Powell left Lynyrd Skynyrd with out every other pre-crash members. By then, nonetheless, Rossington’s well being was faltering, too. He suffered a coronary heart assault in October 2015, forcing Lynyrd Skynyrd to cancel the remainder of that 12 months’s live performance dates. At the time, daughter Mary Elizabeth mentioned medical doctors had already “saved his life several times now. We were very close to losing him this time and just pray that they will develop even better techniques soon to deal with heart disease.”

Rossington’s newer remedy had included including or repairing stents inserted throughout earlier surgical procedures, amongst them the quintuple bypass he underwent in 2003. But Rossington, who was additionally hospitalized with an belly an infection in 2015, as soon as once more vowed to return – and did. Skynyrd have been again on the street by January 2016, not lengthy after Rossington’s sixty fourth birthday. “It’s gonna take more than a lil ole heart attack to keep me down,” he mentioned again then. More surgical procedures adopted in 2017, 2019 and, most lately, in 2021.

The band launched 9 post-’70s studio tasks underneath Rossington’s management, the ultimate two of which have been Top 20 Billboard hits – 2009’s God & Guns and 2012’s Last of a Dyin’ Breed. Lynyrd Skynyrd hadn’t had an album chart that top since 1977’s multi-platinum Street Survivors, the final with Ronnie Van Zant and Allen Collins. In 2016, Rossington launched Take It on Faith, an album that featured the guitarist working alongside his spouse Dale.

Music, Rossington admitted, was his solely calling. “We have a joke about how this is all we know how to do,” he advised Guitar World. “Picking strawberries or picking cotton or something — I don’t know what I’d be doing.”

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