R.I.P. Gary Rossington

“Whiskey bottle. Brand new car. Oak tree you’re in my way.”

Gary Rossington, the last surviving original member of Lynyrd Skynyrd, died on March 5, 2023. No cause of death was given, although Rossington had battled several heart problems, including emergency heart surgery in 2021. He is survived by his wife Dale, and two daughters.

Rossington, 1976

I was a teenager in South Carolina during the 1970s and Skynyrd was a major part of the soundtrack of those years. Their music was blasting from every car 8-track player in our small town. Now, at age 63, after attending more than 200 live concerts in 50 years, I can safely say Skynyrd was the greatest live band I ever saw, and the greatest concert I ever attended was in 1976, The Outlaws & Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Gary Rossington with wife, Dale Krantz-Rossington

Rossington’s death of what most would call “natural causes” was something of a miracle for a man who lived a successful, turbulent, and somewhat charmed rock star life. Labor Day weekend 1976, while under the influence of alcohol and drugs, he crashed his new Ford Torino into a tree, which led to their song, “That Smell.”

Rossington’s Ford Torino which he rammed into a tree.

Thirteen months later, Rossington survived the 1977 plane crash that killed band members Ronnie Van Zant and Steve Gaines, as well as backup singer Cassie Gaines, a road manager and the pilots.

Despite breaking both arms, legs, wrists, and ankles, as well as his pelvis, Rossington recovered from his injuries. He battled serious drug addiction throughout the next several years, largely the result of his heavy dependence on pain medication taken during his recovery from the plane crash.

Skynyrd plane wreckage, 1977.

In 1980, Rossington co-founded the Rossington Collins Band with fellow Skynyrd guitarist, Allen Collins. During that time Rossington married fellow band member, Dale Krantz. The band released two albums but disbanded in 1982 after the death of Collins’ wife, Kathy.

If I leave here tomorrow
Would you still remember me?
For I must be traveling on now
‘Cause there’s too many places I’ve got to see.

Gary Rossington and Allen Collins.