Lynyrd Skynyrd Founding Member Gary Rossington Dead at 71

Lynyrd Skynyrd Founding Member Gary Rossington Dead at 71

( – Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd was the soundtrack of the 1970s. Songs like “Free Bird” played on radios across the country as Americans lived their best lives. Now, the US has lost one of the most iconic guitar players in history.

On Sunday, March 5, 71-year-old Gary Rossington died, according to a post on the band’s social media page. The Jacksonville, Florida, native was a founding member of Lynyrd Skynyrd. His guitar riffs helped define the band’s sound and skyrocket them to fame. Rossington, drummer Bob Burns, and bassist Larry Junstrom formed the group in the mid-’60s. They later convinced Ronnie Van Zant to join, as well.

In 1969, the group named themselves “Lynyrd Skynyrd.” The name mocked a man named Leonard Skinner, who was a teacher at their high school in Jacksonville and was known for enforcing the dress code rule prohibiting boys from having long hair. Rossington co-wrote “Sweet Home Alabama,” one of the band’s most well-known songs. His guitar solo on “Free Bird” is iconic.

In 1977, a plane crashed, killing bandmates Van Zant, the guitarist Steve Gaines, and his sister, a backup singer, Cassie Gaines. Rossington survived. The chartered flight they’d been on ran out of fuel and crashed into the woods in Mississippi. After the accident, Rossington and guitarist Allen Collins formed the Rossington Collins Band and hired Dale Krantz as the singer. Rossington later married Krantz, and they went on to have two daughters together. A decade after the plane crash, Lynyrd Skynyrd formed again with Van Zant’s brother, Johnny, taking over as lead singer.

The music community posted tributes to Rossington on Twitter. Megadeth Founder Dave Mustaine said he was “saddened” to hear of the rocker’s death.

The band was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2006. They are currently still touring and expected to play at the Florida Strawberry Festival in Plant City, on March 12, despite Rossington’s death.

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