Gary Rossington, the founding guitarist of Lynyrd Skynyrd, has died at the age of 71.

He was the last surviving original member of the rock band.

The band made the announcement on Facebook: “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.”


Rossington has had many health scares, including a car accident in 1976 that inspired the song “That Smell” and a plane crash in 1977 that killed singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines and backing vocalist Cassie Gaines.

In recent years, Rossington has had a series of heart problems, undergoing quintuple bypass surgery in 2003, suffering a heart attack in 2015 and having several heart surgeries as a result. He left the band in 2021 to recover from a procedure.

In a later interview, the guitarist said that he didn’t have enough oxygen in his blood to keep touring. At his last shows, he would often perform only portions of the concert.

Rossington was perhaps best known for his slide guitar on the hit, “Free Bird,” a nearly 10-minute song that became the band’s signature song.

When talking about “Free Bird” in an interview with Guitar World, Rossington said that nobody believed they would ever be able to play the song live – singles at the time were only two or three minutes at most.

Although the Lynyrd Skynyrd lineup changed often, Rossington remained a constant presence as the band became arguably the most popular Southern rock act in the 1970s. In addition to “Free Bird,” Rossington co-wrote some of the band’s biggest songs, including “Simple Man,” “Sweet Home Alabama” and “What’s Your Name.”

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