Gary Rossington, the last original member of rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, died on Sunday, aged 71. Rossington had previously survived a 1976 car crash in which he drove his Ford Torino into a tree, and the following year was involved in the 1977 plane crash that killed three of his fellow band members.
The band wrote on Facebook on Sunday: “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.
“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 met Bob Burns and Larry Junstrom in the 1960s, they bonded over their love of baseball and music, and formed a band in 1964 - they were joined by Allen Collins and Ronnie Van Zant.
They named the band Lynyrd Skynyrd in reference to a sports coach at Rossington’s high school and to a character in the 1963 novelty hit Hello Muddah. Their music was a collection of country-tinged blues-rock and Southern soul, their debut album, (Pronounced ‘Lĕh-’nérd ‘Skin-’nérd), included now-classics like Tuesday’s Gone, Simple Man and Gimme Three Steps.
It was the closing track, the nearly 10-minute Free Bird, that became the group’s calling card, due in no small part to Rossington’s evocative slide playing on his Gibson SG.
Who was Gary Rossington?
Gary Rossington was an American musician born in Jacksonville, Florida - he is best known as a founding member of Southern Rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd which formed in 1964.
Following the devastating plane crash which brought a halt to the band’s success, he formed the Rossington Collins Band with former Lynyrd Skynyrd members Allen Collins, Billy Powell and Leon Wilkeson. Rossington married Dale Krantz in 1982 and the couple had two daughters together.
How did Gary Rossington die?
Rossington’s cause of death has not yet been confirmed. He suffered from health issues in later life - he had a heart attack in 2015, and in 2021 he underwent emergency heart surgery.
Who are the other members of Lynyrd Skynyrd?
The original members of Lynyrd Skynyrd were:
- Gary Rossington (died 2023)
- Ronnie Van Zant (died 1977)
- Allen Collins (died 1990)
- Bob Burns (died 2015)
- Larry Junstrom (died 2019)
What was the Lynyrd Skynyrd plane crash?
In October 1977 at the height of the band’s success, disaster struck when the group’s chartered plane crashed in Mississippi. Van Zant, Steve Gaines, and backup singer Cassie Gaines were killed and the rest of the band were seriously injured. Rossington suffered two broken arms, a broken leg, and a punctured stomach and liver.
The group disbanded after the crash - in 1987 the band reunited, with Rossington, King, Wilkeson, Pyle and Powell joined by new members Johnny Van Zant (Ronnie’s brother), and Randall Hall.
This was originally planned as a one-off reunion however, the band continued to tour for decades, with more member changes due to health issues of some members. The band launched its farewell tour in 2018, though they continue to perform today.