Gary Rossington, Lynyrd Skynyrd's Founder and Last Surviving Member, Dead at 71

The guitarist has had a history of heart problems in the past.

Lynyrd Skynyrd's founder and the last surviving guitarist, Gary Rossington, has died. He was 71.

The band shared the news on their Facebook page Sunday morning.

"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.

"Gary is now with his Skynyrd brothers and family in heaven and playing it pretty, like he always does," they added. "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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A cause of death has yet to be revealed, though Rossington had a history of various heart problems in the past, including emergency heart surgery in 2021.

According to Rolling Stone, the "Free Bird" guitar player cheated death more than once, including when he survived an intense car crash in 1976 after driving his Ford Torino into a tree, inspiring the band's song "That Smell."

A year later, Rossington survived a plane crash in 1977 that killed fellow band members, singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, and backing vocalist Cassie Gaines

“I’ve talked about it here and there, but I don’t like to,” Rossington told Rolling Stone in 2006, noting “It was a devastating thing. You can’t just talk about it real casual and not have feelings about it.”

According to the band's website, Lynyrd Skynyrd was formed in 1964 in Jacksonville, Florida where Rossington, Zant, and Bob Burns met while competing on rival baseball teams.

Rossington was a contributor to many of the band's most famous hits, including "Free Bird" and "Sweet Home Alabama." He was also inducted into the Rock & roll Hall of Fame in 2006. 

His death comes just five months before Lynyrd Skynyrd's scheduled tour is set to begin alongside ZZ Top in July.