31 Years, 31 Days, 31 Bands: Lynyrd Skynyrd

INDIO, CA - APRIL 25: Musicians Rickey Medlocke, Johnny Van Zant and Gary Rossington of Lynyrd Skynyrd perform onstage during day 1 of 2014 Stagecoach: California's Country Music Festival at the Empire Polo Club on April 25, 2014 in Indio, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Stagecoach)

I’ve been listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd ever since I was a little girl. Both of my parents are from North Carolina, and they were fans of the band. I can remember singing “Sweet Home Alabama” at the top of my lungs as a child, and the song has followed me. It’s a song that will make you stop drinking and start dancing. Every bar in America plays it late at night to get people pumped up. Once I got older, I decided to dig into Lynyrd Skynyrd’s category a little more. That’s when I learned about the plane crash that killedLead vocalist/founding member Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist/vocalist Steve Gaines, backing vocalist Cassie Gaines (Steve’s older sister), assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, pilot Walter McCreary, and co-pilot William Gray. I was heartbroken. Here I was, learning about the crash 15ish years later, and it still upset me. I felt like I had lost a member of my own family. I grew up thinking they were all still alive and well, touring and kicking ass. I don’t know why it upset me so much; maybe it was the first time I found out a person I enjoyed listening to had died, but I think it was just how tragic the whole thing was. I became obsessed with the band and their music. “Free Bird” still haunts me to this day.

They deserve to be on our list of the 31 Greatest Rock Bands of all time because they triumphed over tragedy, and this year, they are calling their career quits. I never got to see them in concert, but I truly wish I had, but to REALLY see them in concert, I would need a time machine. Because as great as the band is now, the real magic died in 1977.

Here’s a wonderful article written by Rolling Stone in 2017, 40 years after the crash. I highly recommend reading it.





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