The last surviving original member of the band Lynyrd Skynyrd, guitarist and songwriter Gary Rossington, died Sunday.
The band created legendary hits including “Sweet Home Alabama,” “Free Bird,” “Simple Man” and “Tuesday’s Gone.”
“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’s website wrote on Facebook. “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 survived a 1976 car accident in which he drove his Ford Torino into a tree, before surviving the horrific 1977 plane crash in which six people on board were killed, including lead vocalist and founding member Ronnie van Zant, guitarist and vocalist Steve Gaines, backing vocalist Cassie Gaines, assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, and the two pilots. Rossington suffered two broken legs, arms, ankles, and a shattered pelvis. In 2003, Rossington had quintuple bypass surgery and then a critical heart attack in 2015.
“One day we had everything, the next day there was nothing. We were on top of the world, and we were thrown down,” Rossington told People in 1980 of the plane crash, which occurred as the hugely successful band had just released their fifth record.
The band was recreated ten years after the crash. Johnny Van Zant took over the frontman role. “Anything’s good to carry on if it’s done properly,” he told Rolling Stone. “Look at Ford Motor Company. Guys started it out a long time ago. Somebody went in there going, ‘OK, we got something here. Let’s carry it on.’ You know, I wouldn’t have a Ford Raptor right now in my driveway if it weren’t for that.”
Rossington chimed in, “Me, Allen [Collins] and Ronnie started this band with a dream of making it big, and that dream came true. They’d love it if their music was still being played when they’re gone.”
In 2006, when the band was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Rossington said of the plane crash, “I don’t think of it as tragedy — I think of it as life. I think the good outweighs the bad.”
“It’s a tribute band right now, and everybody knows it’s not the original,” Rossington said in 2022. “Everybody who comes to see us is told that during the show, and probably knows before they even get there. But people still come to hear it live. In a couple of years it’s supposed to possibly stop, and maybe it won’t. I just don’t know, because who can predict the future? We’ll decide then what’s really going to happen.”