Last original Lynyrd Skynyrd member Gary Rossington, dead at 71

Gary Rossington of Southern rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd died Sunday, March 5. 

He was 71.

Gary Rossington is a songwriter-guitarist and is one of the founding members of Lynyrd Skynyrd. He has co-written many of the band's most famous songs, including the epic rock ballad "Free Bird,” one of the band's most famous songs, which features Rossington's signature slide guitar lick that opens the song.

Rossington also co-wrote the classic rock staple “Sweet Home Alabama" with fellow bandmates Ronnie Van Zant and Ed King.

“Gimme Three Steps” and “The Ballad of Curtis Loew” was also co-written by Rossington with Van Zant.

He also wrote the melancholic “Tuesday’s Gone” with fellow guitarist Allen Collins.

Lynyrd Skynyrd was formed in 1964 as My Backyard in Jacksonville, Florida.

In 1973, the band changed their name to Lynyrd Skynyrd after their high school gym teacher Leonard Skinner.

The same year, the band released its self-titled debut that included the classic anthem “Free Bird.” 

In 1974, their follow-up album “Second Helping” included “Sweet Home Alabama” that eventually cemented their status as the flag bearers of the southern rock genre.

In 1977 a plane crash took the lives of Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines and backing vocalist Cassie Gaines. The band’s assistant road manager and the plane’s pilot and co-pilot also perished in the crash. 

Lynyrd Skynyrd has forged on and has since become a legacy rock act.

“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 wrote on its official Facebook page.

“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 described as a stoic figure “who preferred to let his guitar do the talking.”

Prior to the plane crash, Rossington also survived a car accident in 1976. Over the years Rossington had undergone quintuple bypass surgery in 2003, a heart attack in 2015 and other subsequent heart procedures.

Rossington was born December 4th, 1951 in  Jacksonville, Florida.

Lynyrd Skynyrd was inducted to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2006.