Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Last Original Member Gary Rossington Dies at 71

Lynyrd Skynyrd’s last original member, Gary Rossington, died on Sunday (March 5). He was 71. The cause of his death has yet to be given, though he did suffer from heart ailments. A founding member of the legendary Southern rock band, Rossington also survived plane and car crashes.

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The band announced the news of Rossington’s death on Facebook. “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.”

Born in Jacksonville, Florida, on December 4, 1951, the slide guitar player boasted the longest tenure in the band. He became the last surviving original member in 2009, following the death of keyboardist Billy Powell. He was also part of The Rossington Band and The Rossington Collins Band.

Rossington’s slide playing is featured prominently on many Lynyrd Skynyrd songs, including “Free Bird.” The musician famously survived a car accident in 1976 after driving his Ford into a tree. The incident reportedly inspired the band’s song, “That Smell.” A year later, Rossington survived a plane crash that took the lives of several band members, including singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines and backing vocalist Cassie Gaines. Rossington walked away with a few broken limbs and a punctured stomach and liver.

Speaking about the crash to Rolling Stone in 2006, Rossington said, “I’ve talked about it here and there, but I don’t like to. It was a devastating thing. You can’t just talk about it real casual and not have feelings about it.”

In 2015, the guitar player endured a heart attack, which caused Lynyrd Skynyrd concerts to be canceled. In 2021, he underwent emergency heart surgery.

“I don’t get enough oxygen in my blood to keep up and keep going like normal,” he told Rolling Stone in 2022. “But I can still play good. It’s just the travel. It’s so hard on me, especially when you got heart trouble. It’s just really hard traveling and getting by with that stuff.”

Rossington is survived by his two daughters, Mary and Annie, and wife, singer Dale Krantz-Rossington.

(Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)

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