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Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist and songwriter Gary Rossington has died at the age of 71, the band said in a Facebook post

‘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 group said.

The statement continued: ‘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.’

It was not immediately clear what the musician’s cause of death was. (He had underwent emergency surgery on his heart in July of 2021.

Rossington initially met Ronnie Van Zant and Bob Burns when they were all teenagers playing baseball in Jacksonville, Florida in 1964, according to a biography on the band’s website

RIP: Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist and songwriter Gary Rossington has died at the age of 71, the band said in a Facebook post. Pictured in April of 2019 in Indio, California

RIP: Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist and songwriter Gary Rossington has died at the age of 71, the band said in a Facebook post. Pictured in April of 2019 in Indio, California 

The original Lynyrd Skynyrd lineup was pictured in 1976: (L-R) Billy Powell, Allen Collins, Artimus Pyle, Leon Wilkeson, Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines and Gary Rossington

The original Lynyrd Skynyrd lineup was pictured in 1976: (L-R) Billy Powell, Allen Collins, Artimus Pyle, Leon Wilkeson, Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines and Gary Rossington 

‘An impromptu afternoon jam session in the carport of Burns’ parents’ house inspired the trio to form a band,’ the bio continued. ‘Before long, guitarist Allen Collins and bassist Larry Junstrom were added to the mix, and the band began entertaining Jacksonville audiences – first as My Backyard, then as The Noble Five, then as The One Percent, before finally arriving on the name Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1969.’

Rossington in 2019 became the last surviving original member of the group when Junstrom died at the age of 70 in October of 2019.

The iconic rock band, who had stalwart tracks such as Sweet Home Alabama, Free Bird, Simple Man and Tuesday’s Gone.

The band is closely associated with the tragic 1977 plane which killed Van Zant and bandmate Steve Gaines, as well as Gaines’ sister Cassie Gaines, the group’s road manager Dean Kilpatrick, and both of the pilots.

In the 1977 plane crash, both of Rossington’s arms were broken, as well as his leg, while his stomach and liver were punctured in the disaster.

Rossington had been in a number of other scary incidents in his life, including a 1976 car accident in which his Ford Torino careened into a tree, providing creative inspiration for the band’s track That Smell. 

Rossington called the accident ‘a devastating thing’ in a 2006 interview with Rolling Stone, adding, ‘You can’t just talk about it real casual and not have feelings about it.’

He said of the band’s history in the 2006 interview, ‘I don’t think of it as tragedy – I think of it as life. I think the good outweighs the bad.’ 

The band did not play together for a decade in the wake of the October 20, 1977 tragedy. The country-rock staple in 2006 was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The band announced the sad news in a Facebook post on Sunday evening

The band announced the sad news in a Facebook post on Sunday evening 

Rossington was seen playing in November of 2012 in the Classic Rock Roll of Honour at the Roundhouse in London

Rossington was seen playing in November of 2012 in the Classic Rock Roll of Honour at the Roundhouse in London 

Rossington was pictured at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago on October 2, 1987

Rossington was pictured at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago on October 2, 1987

The musician was snapped in April of 1977, six months before he was in the plane crash that claimed the lives of six people and left him with numerous injuries

The musician was snapped in April of 1977, six months before he was in the plane crash that claimed the lives of six people and left him with numerous injuries 

Rossington was seen onstage at The Bottom Line on April 11, 1976 in New York City

Rossington was seen onstage at The Bottom Line on April 11, 1976 in New York City 

Band members Rossington, Johnny Van Zant and Rickey Medlocke were pictured at the 2018 iHeartRadio Music Festival at T-Mobile Arena on September 22, 2018 in Las Vegas

Band members Rossington, Johnny Van Zant and Rickey Medlocke were pictured at the 2018 iHeartRadio Music Festival at T-Mobile Arena on September 22, 2018 in Las Vegas 

He also dealt with health issues including a 2003 quintuple bypass surgery; a 2015 heart attack; and multiple heart surgeries, the most recent in July of 2021. In recent years, Rossington would play portions of music in his concerts.

The veteran musician was fondly remembered in the wake of his passing on social media.

‘I just learned that my dear friend, Gary Rossington passed away today,’ country music artist Travis Tritt, 60, said in a tweet. ‘I’m heartbroken! Gary was not only a friend, but a collaborator that wrote songs with me and played guitar with me in studio recordings and onstage so many times. My heart goes out to Dale and the girls. RIP.’ 

A tweet from the estate of late musical artist Charlie Daniels read: ‘”It’s all right now, keep on singin’ loud. It’s all right now, heaven should be proud”‘ – Charlie Daniels 1979.

‘The last of the Free Birds has flown home. RIP Gary Rossington, God Bless the Lynyrd @Skynyrd band. Prayers to Dale and the rest of his family. – CD, Jr. & Hazel Daniels.’ 

Radio personality Mark Madden said, ‘I consider @Skynyrd to be one of America’s three greatest rock bands ever and a Southern rock-style Led Zeppelin. Gary Rossington’s influence and talent was a huge part of that. His place in music history should not be underestimated. Gary Rossington, RIP.’ 

Said one user: ‘Gary Rossington. Prince Charming they called him. The purest tone. RIP. “That smell” his guitar sounded like it was crying or dying. “Simple Man” it sounded calloused and rough. He never missed. The last piece of the greatest rock n roll band of all time is gone. Fly on.’

The band has a number of tour dates on tap in the forthcoming months, and it was not immediately clear how Rossington’s death would impact their future. They have a show slated for March 12 in Plant City, Florida, and are also slated to join fellow rock icons ZZ Top on their The Sharp Dressed Simple Man Tour this July.

Rossington is survived by his wife Dale Krantz-Rollington, two children, and grandchildren.

The veteran musician was fondly remembered in the wake of his passing on social media

The veteran musician was fondly remembered in the wake of his passing on social media 

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