Gary Rossington, the Last Original Member of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Dies at 71

Gary Rossington in 2015

Gary Rossington in 2015 (Mark Horton/WireImage)

Gary Rossington, the Last Original Member of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Dies at 71

The guitarist, who provided the slide guitar lead of “Free Bird,” was hospitalized due to heart problems in recent years

Gary Rossington, the founding guitarist of Lynyrd Skynyrd, has died, the band announced. Rossington was the last surviving original member of the Southern rock band—a mainstay amid decades of lineup changes. He was 71.

“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 announced 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.”

After surviving a 1976 car accident that inspired “That Smell,” Rossington survived the 1977 plane crash that killed Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines, and Cassie Gaines. Rossington has been hospitalized multiple times due to heart problems in recent years, and in 2021, left the band, citing how travel was negatively impacting his blood oxygen levels.

While the band’s debut album (Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd) featured multiple hits—“Tuesday’s Gone,” “Gimme Three Steps,” and “Simple Man”—Rossington’s most famous contribution to the band’s discography was the slide guitar lead on their ubiquitous nine-minute track “Free Bird.”


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