Founding Guitarist and Last Surviving Member of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Gary Rossington, Dead at 71

Founding Guitarist and Last Surviving Member of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Gary Rossington, Dead at 71

The founding guitarist and last surviving member of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Gary Rossington, has died. He was 71 years old.

“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 announced on their official Facebook page Sunday evening. “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.”

No cause of death was given, but it was known Rossington battled with several heart problems and had an emergency heart surgery in 2021 during Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Big Wheels Keep on Turnin’ Tour. Following the surgery, he left the band since traveling was negatively impacting his blood oxygen levels.

Famously, after a 1976 car accident that inspired the song “That Smell,” Rossington also survived the plane crash that killed his band members Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines, Gaines’ sister Cassie Gaines” and a road manager in 1977, just three days after the release of their fifth studio LP “Street Survivors.”

Rossington was born on Dec. 4, 1951, in Jacksonville, Florida, and raised by his mother following the death of his father. In the summer of 1964, teenaged Rossington, Van Zant and Bob Burns met while competing on Rival baseball teams and were later joined by Allen Collins and Larry Junstrom. They performed under several names before calling themselves Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1969.

Rossington was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2006 for his work with the band and contributed to some of their most iconic songs, including “Free Bird” and “Sweet Home Alabama.” On the former, Rossington’s iconic slide guitar lead playing can be heard over its nine minutes.

His death comes just five months before Lynyrd Skynyrd was set to set out on their The Sharp Dressed Simple Man Tour with ZZ Top on July 21.

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