Guitarist Gary Rossington, the last surviving founding member of Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, has died, the band announced on their official Facebook page Sunday evening. He was 71.
“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,” their 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,” the statement continued.
No cause of death was given. The guitarist had battled a number of heart problems, including an emergency heart surgery in 2021 during the band’s Big Wheels Keep on Turnin’ Tour.
The guitarist’s death falls just five months before Lynyrd Skynyrd was set to begin its The Sharp Dressed Simple Man Tour alongside ZZ Top on July 21.
Rossington survived a 1977 plane crash that killed band members Ronnie Van Zant and Steve Gaines, as well as backup singer Cassie Gaines, Steve Gaines’ sister, and a road manager, just three days after the release of their fifth studio album, “Street Survivors,” according to the band’s website.
Rossington was among the Lynyrd Skynyrd band members inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006 and contributed to many of the group’s most iconic songs, including “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Free Bird.”
The band was formed in Jacksonville, Florida, in the summer of 1964 when teenaged Rossington, Van Zant and Bob Burns met while competing on rival baseball teams, the band’s website says. Soon, the trio was joined by guitarist Allen Collins and bassist Larry Junstrom, and the crew performed under a handful of names before landing on Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1969.