Top 10 Songs by Lynyrd Skynyrd

Lynyrd Skynyrd is arguably one of the most iconic rock bands of all time. Founded in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1966, its original formation featured lead vocalist Ronnie Van Zant, Gary Rossington and Allen Collins on guitar, Larry Junstrom on bass guitar and drummer Bob Burns.

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Rossington died on Sunday (March 5), making him the last original member of Lynyrd Skynyrd to pass away. Below, we look at 10 of the iconic band’s greatest hits.

1.) “Free Bird”

Rock music wouldn’t be the same without the existence of “Free Bird.” Co-written by Van Zant and Collins, the song was inspired by a question Collins’ girlfriend at the time had asked, which led them to write a song about freedom, using a bird as the symbol.

The song peaked inside the top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1974, with Rossington responsible for the signature slide guitar effect. “Free Bird” is included in one of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s permanent exhibits, 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.

But if I stay here with you, girl
Things just couldn’t be the same
‘Cause I’m as free as a bird now
And this bird you cannot change
Oh, oh, oh, oh
And the bird you cannot change
And this bird, you cannot change
Lord knows, I can’t change

2.) “Sweet Home Alabama”

Like “Free Bird,” it’s hard to imagine the rock genre without the existence of “Sweet Home Alabama.” Serving as a reply to Neil Young’s “Southern Man,” which calls out racism in the South, born Southerners Van Zant and Rossington teamed up with then-Lynyrd Skynyrd bassist Ed King to write the track that would soon become the band’s signature song.

Rossington is responsible for the song’s signature guitar riff that led to the creation of the song. “I had this little riff,” he recalled in a 2015 interview with Garden & Gun. “It’s the little picking part and I kept playing it over and over when we were waiting on everyone to arrive for rehearsal. Ronnie and I were sitting there, and he kept saying, ‘Play that again.’ Then Ronnie wrote the lyrics and Ed [King] and I wrote the music.”

Sweet home Alabama
Where the skies are so blue
Sweet home Alabama
Lord I’m comin’ home to you

3.) “That Smell”

That Smell” was particularly personal for Rossington. Bandmates Van Zant and Collins were inspired to write it after Rossington got into a serious car accident while under the influence of drugs and alcohol, with Van Zant writing it as a cautionary tale for substance abuse. “I had a creepy feeling things were going against us, so I thought I’d blow lines, slam some [heroin] and write a morbid song,” Van Zant is quoted as saying in Tim Morse’s book, Classic Rock Stories.

Ooh that smell
Can’t you smell that smell
Ooh that smell
The smell of death surrounds you

4.) “Call Me the Breeze”

Call Me the Breeze” was originally written and recorded by J.J. Cale and released in 1972. Lynyrd Skynyrd made this song their own when they cut it on their album, Second Helping. Despite being a cover, “Call Me the Breeze” is one of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s signature songs.

“I suppose the biggest compliment a songwriter can receive is when somebody else sings your songs,” Cale shared in an interview with Performing Songwriter. “I’m more proud of the long list of people who have done my songs than, say, the money or the records I’ve made. When someone cuts your song—whether it’s good or bad—you feel great.”

Call me the breeze
I keep blowin’ down the road
Well now, they call me the breeze
I keep blowin’ down the road

5.) “Saturday Night Special”

Lynyrd Skynyrd was ahead of their time, and that rings true with “Saturday Night Special.” Released in 1975, the song was written by Van Zant and King about the hot button issue of gun control. Despite Van Zant stating that he was a gun owner, the song argues that the weapons ain’t good for nothin’
but puttin’ men six feet in a hole
. The song reached the top 30 on the Billboard Hot 100 and can be heard in media ranging from the soundtrack to the Richard Pryor-led 1978 film, Blue Collar, to the video game, Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned.

Mister Saturday Night Special
Got a barrel that’s blue and cold
That ain’t good for nothin’
But puttin’ men six feet in a hole

6.) “What’s Your Name”

The opening track on their 1977 album Street Survivors also became another one of the band’s top 20 hits. Written by Van Zant and Rossington, the song is inspired by a true story. The song details when one of their crew members on tour got into a fight at a bar that caused them all to be kicked out. They made the most of it by creating their own fun by going to another bar and ordering a bottle of champagne. The song resonated with fans, hitting No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100.

What’s your name, little girl?
What’s your name?
Shootin’ you straight, little girl?
Won’t you do the same?

7.) “Don’t Ask Me No Questions”

Despite not making an impression on the charts, “Questions” is certainly a noteworthy song in Lynyrd Skynyrd’s catalog. Co-written by Van Zant and Rossington, the song serves as a response to the people who didn’t believe in the band until they became famous. But I don’t ask you about your business, don’t ask me about mine, Van Zant sings in the pointed lyrics. The song is featured on the band’s second album, Second Helping, which hit No. 12 on the Billboard 200.

So don’t ask me no questions
And I won’t tell you no lies
So don’t ask me about my business
And I won’t tell you goodbye

8.) “Simple Man”

Though not released as an official single, “Simple Man” struck a chord with fans–so much so that it reached No. 13 on the Billboard Hot Rock & Alternative Songs chart. A deep cut on the band’s debut album that launched them into superstardom, (Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd), the song was written in the wake of the death of Van Zant’s grandmother. As the title implies, it features such tender lyrics as oh, take your time, don’t live too fast / Troubles will come and they will pass, with Rossington performing the guitar solo.

And be a simple kind of man
Oh, be something you love and understand
Baby, be a simple kind of man
Oh, won’t you do this for me son, if you can?

9.) “Red, White & Blue (Love It or Leave It)”

Lynyrd Skynyrd get patriotic with “Red, White & Blue.” Written in the wake of the September 11 attacks, the song almost sounds like the band’s personal mission statement, extending a hand to people of all different backgrounds, professing in the lyrics, we’ve always been here / Just trying to sing the truth to you. The song reached the top 30 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart in 2003.

Well, my hair’s turning white
My neck’s always been red
My collar’s still blue
We’ve always been here
Just trying to sing the truth to you
Guess you could say, we’ve always been red, white and blue

10.) “Good Lovin’s Hard to Find”

It’s hard not to get a pep in one’s step when this jazzy number comes on. Released in 1993 as the opening track on the band’s album, The Last Rebel, Rossington leads with his exuberant guitar playing. Van Zant’s younger brother Johnny Van Zant, who took over as lead vocalist in 1987 a decade after Ronnie’s death in the 1977 plane crash, croons, good lovin’ so hard to find / Could this be the right place, at the right time. The song danced its way up the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart where it landed at No. 6.

Good lovin’ so hard to find
Could this be the right place, at the right time
Good lovin’, feels so fine
I just can’t get enough
Cause good lovin’s hard to find, so hard to find

Photo Credit: Doltyn Snedden / EB Media PR

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