Gary Rossington, the founding guitarist of Lynyrd Skynyrd, has died, the band announced. Rossington is the last surviving original member of the Southern rock band—a staple amid decades of lineup changes. He is 71 years old.
“It is with our deepest sympathies and sadness that we must advise, that we have 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 beautifully, as he always does. Please keep Dale, Mary, Annie and the entire Rossington family in your prayers and respect the privacy of family during 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 several times due to heart problems in recent years, and in 2021, left the band, citing how traveling negatively affected his blood oxygen levels.
While the band’s debut album (Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd) featuring several 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.”