The last surviving member of Lynyrd Skynyrd has died. Guitarist Gary Rossington passed away Sunday at the age of 71.
Gary was that final thread who kept us connected to the original lineup all these years. One after another we'd lose another member but Gary was still standing. Still on stage exuding Southern cool, tearing it up on his guitar. But that thread had become frayed and fragile in recent years. Gary suffered a heart attack in October of 2015. In July of 2021 he underwent emergency heart surgery.
While the cause of his death hasn't been officially reported, Gary's death doesn't come as a complete shock but, man, it still stings. Another dose of reality for us classic rock fans. We've lost yet another from a bygone era.
Looking at the album cover photo for the band's 1973 debut Pronounced 'Lĕh-'nérd 'Skin-'nérd above, it's still hard to believe that every guy in that photo is gone. From left to right is bassist Leon Wilkeson (seated), pianist Billy Powell (seated), singer Ronnie Van Zant, Gary Rossington (seated), drummer Bob Burns, guitarist Allen Collins and bassist Ed King. All gone.
Gary Rossington (1951-2023)
I've been around to see quite a few members of Lynyrd Skynyrd pass since becoming a fan in the mid to late 90s but this feels different. This feels final. Ronnie's brother Johnny Van Zant and long-time member Rickey Medlocke (whose first stint with the band dates back to 1971) will be the ones to make the call as to whether the band will go on. Regardless, Gary's not there anymore and he will be missed.
While his slide guitar work on "Free Bird" is his most notable performance, there is so much more. Below is the song co-written by Gary and Ronnie - "One More Time" from 1977's Street Survivors album. Gary's guitar work on this song is among his finest. Just listen to that solo...