Gary Rossington, Lynyrd Skynyrd's last original member, dies at 71
Gary Rossington, the last surviving original member of rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, died Sunday from undisclosed causes. He was 71.
The band shared a statement with fans on their official Facebook page.
"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 statement read. "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 other details were provided at the time. However, Rossington suffered heart problems in the past, including an emergency heart surgery in 2021 during Lynyrd Skynyrd's Big Wheels Keep on Turnin' Tour.
Rossington's death comes five months before the band's planned Sharp Dressed Simple Man Tour with ZZ Top, which kicks off July 21.
Rossington, a guitarist, founded the band that would become Lynyrd Skynyrd with lead singer Ronnie Van Zant and drummer Bob Burns as teenagers in Jacksonville, Fla. in 1964. They later added guitarists Allen Collins and Larry Junstrom to the mix.
Back then, they were calling themselves My Backyard. It wasn't until 1969, after a couple more name changes, that they finally settled on Lynyrd Skynyrd, which was partially inspired by a P.E. teacher at their high school.
Rossington contributed to many of the band's songs, including "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Free Bird." In a nod to the 1973 song, the estate of Rossington's late friend Charlie Daniels tweeted, "The last of the Free Birds has flown home."
Rossington survived the infamous 1977 plane crash that killed Van Zant, Steve Gaines, Steve's sister and back-up singer Cassie Gaines, and road manager Dean Kilpatrick. Rossington broke multiple limbs, including his legs, arms, ankles, and pelvis.
Lynyrd Skynyrd disbanded after the incident, but Van Zant's brother would reform the group a decade later in 1987. Rossington rejoined at that time.
Rossington also separately formed the Rossington Collins Band with Collins in 1980, releasing two albums. They disbanded two years later over the death of Collins' wife, Kathy. Rossington would then form the Rossington Band with wife Dale Krantz-Rossington and release two more albums starting in 1986.
Rossington still played with Lynyrd Skynyrd and, in 2006, the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.