Gary Rossington, the guitarist for legendary Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, died at 71. The band posted a statement confirming Rossington’s death on its verified Facebook account. Rossington was the last surviving original Lynyrd Skynyrd member.
“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 statement said. “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.”
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Born on Dec. 4, 1951, Rossington formed the band with Ronnie Van Zant, Allen Collins, Larry Junstrom and Bob Burns in Jacksonville. Originally called My Backyard, the band changed its name in 1969 to Lynyrd Skynyrd as a reference to their physical education teacher, Leonard Skinner and to a character in the 1963 song “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh.”
Rossington played lead and rhythm guitar, which played a major role in shaping the band’s sound. In particular, his playing on “Simple Man,” “Tuesday’s Gone” and handling slide guitar on “Free Bird” became signature moments in rock.
He was one of 20 survivors of the Oct. 20, 1977 plane crash in Mississippi where Lynyrd Skynyrd bandmates Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines, Cassie Gaines, and three others died.
When bassist Larry Junstrom died in 2019, Rossington became the last surviving original member.
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