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Last surviving band member Lynyrd Skynyrd passed away

Gary Rossington at a concert in 2019

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Guitarist Gary Rossington, the last remaining original band member of the rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, has passed away at the age of 71. The band announced this via social media. Rossington’s death has not been disclosed.

“We are deeply saddened to have lost our brother, friend, relative, songwriter and guitarist, Gary Rossington, today,” the band writes. “Gary is now with his Skynyrd brothers and family in heaven and playing nicely there, as he always does.”

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Rossington started a band in 1964 at the age of 12 with other band members Ronnie Van Zant, Allen Collins, Larry Junstrom and Bob Burns. Later a number of members joined, including Steve Gaines. After forming, the band had several names, but in 1970 they settled on Lynyrd Skynyrd, after their high school gym teacher. This Leonard Skinner is said to have expelled some of the band members for having too long hair.

Lynyrd Skynyrd’s most famous song is Sweet Home Alabama. It was written in response to Southern Man of Neil Young calling Alabama and other southern states racist. Lead singer Ronnie Van Zant explicitly lashes out at Young: “I hope Neil Young remembers, a southern man doesn’t need him.”

Here’s the band Sweet Home Alabama playing live in concert in the summer of 1977:

Rossington was one of the few survivors of the October 1977 plane crash that ended the band. Van Zant, Steve Gaines, his sister, the manager and both pilots were killed. Rossington was left with two broken arms, a broken leg, and a punctured abdomen and liver.

It wasn’t the first time Rossington had escaped death: in 1976 he survived a head-on collision with a tree, which inspired the song That Smell. In later years, Rossington suffered a heart attack and underwent quintuple bypass surgery and other heart surgeries.

Since 1987, Rossington has been part of the Lynyrd Skynyrd relaunch, along with Van Zant’s younger brother. For example, they performed when the original line-up was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Rossington told music magazine Rolling Stone at the time that he did not want to call the band tragic. “I don’t see it as tragic, I see it as life. All good outweighs all bad in my eyes.”

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