Gary Rossington, Last Original Member of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Dead at 71

    Gary Rossington, the last surviving original member of Lynyrd Skynyrd, has died at the age of 71. No cause of death was provided, though the guitarist had been dealing with health issues over the past couple of decades, including a heart attack in 2015 and emergency heart surgery in 2021.

    “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 Facebook. “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.”

    In a 2016 interview with Billboard, Rossington talked about his decision to keep playing despite his health struggles. “It’s just in my blood, y’know?,” he said. “I’m just an old guitar player, and we’ve spent our whole loves and the 10,000 hours of working to understand how to play and do it. So I think once you’ve got something going for yourself you should keep it up and keep your craft going. When you retire, what’s next? I like to fish, but how much of that can you do, right? So I want to keep doing what I do now.”

    Born in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1951, Rossington was a member of the band when it was a trio named Me, You, and Him, alongside bassist Larry Junstrom and drummer Bob Burns. After competing on rival baseball teams, they met singer Ronnie Van Zant and jammed together, forming a cover band called My Backyard. In 1969, the band became Lynyrd Skynyrd, whose debut album (Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd) came out on MCA Records in 1973. It included the hits ‘Gimme Three Steps’, ‘Simple Man’, and ‘Tuesday’s Gone’, though Rossington’s most famous contribution was the slide guitar on the nearly-10 minute ‘Free Bird’. He also co-wrote classics such as ‘Sweet Home Alabama’, as well as ‘I Ain’t the One’, ‘Things Goin’ On’, ‘Don’t Ask Me No Questions’, and ‘Gimme Back My Bullets’.

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

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