Gary Rossington, guitarist and last surviving founding member of the seminal southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, died on Sunday at the age of 71. A cause of death has yet to be revealed.
Gary Rossington, last surviving original member of Lynyrd Skynyrd dies
Gary Rossington, one of the three founding members of the southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, who played lead and rhythm guitar and was a cowriter of many of the group’s hits, has died at age 71. He is the last original surviving member of the band.
“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,” Lynyrd Skynyrd wrote on its official Facebook page. “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.”
A cause of death for Rossington was not initially revealed. However, he has had a history of cardiac problems in recent years. In 2015, he suffered a heart attack which led to the cancellation of two Lynyrd Skynyrd concerts. In July 2021, he underwent emergency heart surgery. Rossington also underwent quintuple bypass surgery in 2003, Variety reported.
Who is carrying on the Lynyrd Skynyrd legacy?
Lynyrd Skynyrd is now fronted by Johnny Van Zant, the younger brother of original singer Ronnie. Lead guitarist Ricky Medlocke is also in the group and was an early member of the band, playing drums, writing, singing, and recording with the band from 1971 to 1972. He fronted southern rock band Blackfoot for many years and rejoined Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1996.
A legacy of southern rock
Although the Allman Brothers band would be the first band tagged with the phrase “southern rock,” Lynyrd Skynyrd would be the first to incorporate a harder rock edge to the formula.
Gary Rossington was known for his distinctive slide guitar playing, a quintessential element of the band’s most well-known hit and classic rock epic, “Free Bird.” He also cowrote the group’s other anthemic hit, “Sweet Home Alabama.”
Rossington, along with Ronnie Van Zant and Bob Burns, would first form a group in 1964 called “The Noble Five,” adding guitarist Alan Collins and bassist Larry Junstrom that would eventually become Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1969. They issued their first album on MCA in 1973 entitled “Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd.”
Rossington Collins Band
In 1979, Rossington and Skynyrd guitarist Albert Collins formed the Rossington Collins Band. The southern rock duo released a pair of albums: Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere (1980), which reached No. 13 on Billboard 200 albums and was certified gold. It was followed up by This Is the Way (1981), which reached No. 24 on the Billboard 200. The group broke up following the death of Collins’ wife Kathy in 1982.
1977 plane crash
In 1977, at the peak of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s popularity, the group was involved in a plane crash that killed singer Ronnie Van Zant, lead guitarist Steve Gaines and his sister, backup singer Cassie Gaines, as well as the band’s assistant road manager, pilot, and copilot.
Rossington, guitarist Alan Collins, bassist Lynn Wilkinson, drummer Artemis Pyle, keyboardist Billy Powell, and backup singer Leslie Hawkins survived, although with some serious injuries. Rossington required steel rods in his right arm and right leg and developed a heavy dependence on pain medication.