LYNYRD SKYNYRD guitarist GARY ROSSINGTON dead at 71
LYNYRD SKYNYRD guitarist Gary Rossington has died. The 71-year-old musician’s passing was announced by his surviving bandmates yesterday (Sunday, March 5). They wrote on social media:
“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.”
The sole remaining original member of LYNYRD SKYNYRD, Rossington has dealt with a number of health issues in recent years. Back in July 2021, he underwent emergency heart surgery. Six years earlier, he suffered a heart attack, prompting several of the band’s concerts to be canceled. He also underwent quintuple bypass surgery back in 2003 due to coronary artery disease. In 2019, he had an operation to fix a leaky heart valve.
Five years ago, Rossington told the Tampa Bay Times his doctors had urged him for years to quit touring. “I’ve had heart attacks on stage,” he said. “That’s why I was calling it a farewell tour. I don’t know if I’ll be here much longer. I don’t want to just say, ‘Well, we’re never going to end,’ because I don’t want to die and then it end that way — which is a heavy thing to talk about, but I have to.”
Rossington survived the 1977 plane crash that killed singer Ronnie Van Zant and guitarist Steve Gaines. The band reunited with Ronnie’s brother Johnny Van Zant as singer in 1987 and has been on the road ever since.
Last December, Rossington told Rolling Stone magazine about LYNYRD SKYNYRD’s enduring relevance: “It’s a tribute band right now, and everybody knows it’s not the original. Everybody who comes to see us is told that during the show, and probably knows before they even get there. But people still come to hear it live.”
Rossington, whose health woes had forced him to miss many of LYNYRD SKYNYRD’s recent shows, with Damon Johnson filling in for him, admitted he went through “a lot of different emotions” watching LYNYRD SKYNYRD from the side of the stage. “The notes are the same, and the songs are the same. It sounds good to me. It sounds like our band,” he explained. “I look out and don’t see the original band — it’s strange. And then I look out and see a replacement for me, which is strange. Just hearing the songs without me playing on ’em live is very strange.”
Despite “101 strange things happening,” Rossington said that he was happy to know that LYNYRD SKYNYRD’s music is still connecting with people. “To see the younger people enjoying it makes your heart warm.”
Rossington went on to say that his former bandmates would be equally satisfied with LYNYRD SKYNYRD’s continued presence on the touring circuit. “Me, Allen (Collins) and Ronnie (Van Zant) started this band with a dream of making it big, and that dream came true,” he said. “They’d love it if their music was still being played when they’re gone.”