Gary Rossington, Founding Lynyrd Skynyrd Guitarist, Dies Aged 71
Gary Rossington, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s last surviving original member, has died aged 71. The co-founding member of the legendary Florida rock band, who had cheated death a number of times in past, passed away on Sunday, 5 March. No cause of death has been released as yet.
The group announced in a Facebook statement: “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. 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.”
Rossington was fortunate to survive a car accident in 1976, which saw him drive his Ford Torino into a tree.
In 1977, a plane crash killed the band’s singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, and backing vocalist Cassie Gaines, however, Gary survived with two broken arms, a broken leg, and a punctured stomach and liver. He also battled with drug and alcohol addictions and heart-related issues.
In 2019, the lead and rhythm guitarist underwent emergency heart surgery and was forced to skip the band’s US shows.
A statement read at the time: “Our thoughts and prayers are with Gary Rossington as he recovers from emergency heart surgery. Gary is home resting and recovering with his family at home. He wants everyone to know he is doing good and expects a full recovery.”
The guitarist had undergone quintuple bypass surgery in 2003, before suffering a heart attack in 2015.
Gary gave up his baseball dreams to pursue music after being inspired The Rolling Stones. The band came about after He and his bandmates Ronnie and Bob Burns met while playing on rival Jacksonville baseball teams.
They would jam together and were later joined by guitarist Allen Collins and bassist Larry Junstrom. They went through several band name changes before arriving at Lynyrd Skynyrd, the same name as Gary’s high school sports coach and the character in the novelty tune Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh.
The band’s debut album was released in 1973, and featured the nine-minute track Free Bird, which became one of Skynyrd’s most famous songs. Rossington co-wrote Sweet Home Alabama, a hit from their second album, as well as several other Skynyrd tracks, including I Ain’t The One, Things Goin’ On, Don’t Ask Me No Questions and Gimme Back My Bullets.
The group has released 14 studio albums, the last being 2012’s Last of a Dyin’ Breed.