Gary Rossington, Original Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist, Dead at 71
Written by Logan Phillips on March 6, 2023
Gary Rossington, the last remaining original member of Lynyrd Skynyrd, has died of unspecified causes at the age of 71. The guitarist had overcome several health battles in recent years.
“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 in an official statement. “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 October 1977, Gary was one of more than a dozen passengers who survived a plane crash in Mississippi that killed Lynyrd Skynyrd lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, siblings Steve Gaines and Cassie Gaines, and three others. The crash also claimed the lives of assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, pilot Walter McCreary, and co-pilot William Gray. Rossington broke both of his legs, arms, ankles, and pelvis when the airplane ran out of fuel and crashed into a field.
A decade after the incident, Gary rejoined the band when Ronnie’s brother, Johnny Van Zant, reformed the group. The band released nine post-’70s studio albums under Rossington’s leadership, the final two of which were Top 20 Billboard hits – 2009’s God & Guns and 2012’s Last of a Dyin’ Breed. Lynyrd Skynyrd hadn’t had an album chart that high since 1977’s multi-platinum Street Survivors, the last with Ronnie Van Zant and Allen Collins. In 2016, Rossington released Take It on Faith, an album that featured the guitarist working alongside his wife Dale.
It’s unclear if Lynyrd Skynyrd will continue without the guitarist. Their longest-tenured member is now Johnny Van Zant, who began singing in place of his late brother Ronnie Van Zant in 1987. Rickey Medlocke, with Lynyrd Skynyrd again since 1996, also had a brief stint with the group in 1971–72.